New Zealand's FM Murray McCully wityh PM Netanyahu.
(photo credit: CHAIM TZACH)
New Zealand’s efforts to bring a Mideast resolution to the UN Security Council is not getting Jerusalem too worked up, since it believes the plan is simply not going anywhere.
The resolution, which New Zealand officials have been talking about for months – but which took on a greater urgency in recent weeks because of the spike in violence – is considerably different from a French resolution that was being considered earlier this year.
The New Zealand document bewails the current stalemate in the Israeli- Palestinian negotiations and calls on both sides to “rebuild confidence and prepare for the resumption of negotiations,” assisted by the Security Council and Mideast Quartet: the US, EU, Russia and UN.
It calls on Israel not to expand the settlements, and the Palestinian Authority to refrain from taking Israel to the International Criminal Court because those acts harm mutual confidence. It calls for both sides to avoid provocative actions and statements, to maintain the status quo on the Temple Mount, and to get back to talks.
In short, it’s a pretty bland, declarative resolution: Both sides need to take actions, both sides need to tone things down, both sides need to talk to each other.
It’s motherhood and apple pie.
And it is a far cry from a resolution the French were discussing a few months ago. That resolution was not declarative, but prescriptive, saying what needs to bedone. A deadline needs to be set for the end of the talks, a Palestinian state needs to be established along the pre-1967 lines, with east Jerusalem as its capital, and there needs to be mutual land swaps.
That wasn’t motherhood and apple pie, that was the French imposing a solution on the sides. And for that reason Israel was adamantly opposed. But why oppose the parve New Zealand proposal? One reason is because of Israel’s traditional antipathy to involving other actors – especially the UN – in the conflict.
If the Palestinians have been trying for years to get more actors involved, to get the international community to step in, have a say and dictate a solution, Israel has for years been trying to push back against that trend.
Secondly, this type of resolution is like a Christmas tree, which means that New Zealand will put the tree out there – present its drafts – but then everyone else will start hanging their own ornaments on it. Venezuela, which like New Zealand is a temporary member of the Security Council, will add its ideas, as will Malaysia and Jordan and Chad. And in the end the tree – from Israel’s perspective – will have morphed into a monster.
And it is not only Israel that is not thrilled about the idea.
Neither are the Palestinians, the French or – apparently – the Americans.
The Palestinians are not enthusiastic because it doesn’t give them anything. It doesn’t dictate what the future borders of the state should look like, or set up a definite timeline.
And it also calls for a return to negotiations without giving them a prize (such as a settlement freeze, or prisoner release) for a willingness to talk.
The French don’t like it because it undercuts their efforts. The French see themselves as a major player and stakeholder in the Middle East, and whenever there is a vacuum – such as when Washington backs off a bit – Paris moves into the breach. From their position as well, the resolution really doesn’t do anything new.
The US, as well, is unlikely to embrace the proposal because it doesn’t break any new ground. US policy currently seems to be to push small steps to tamp down the tension and try to rebuild some kind of confidence between the two sides, rather than to back any major new diplomatic initiative at a time when the sides are not interested.
And then there is an additional component in the US administration’s thinking. It is unlikely that Washington, following the bruising battle with Jerusalem over the Iran deal – and on the cusp of the upcoming presidential elections – will want to go headto- head with Israel over this issue.
And even if the administration, or more likely certain elements inside the State Department, might be interested, Democratic senators who backed US President Barack Obama on the Iran deal, and who might now be facing a backlash from pro-Israel donors or voters because of that, are not at this time going to want to see yet another high profile disagreement between Jerusalem and Washington.
Especially over a UN resolution that, as one diplomatic official put it, “really doesn’t do anything significant to advance the ball.”