US blocks McCully's showpiece

:  Foreign Minister Murray McCully with Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem last year
 

The Middle East  showpiece peace plan much promoted last year by Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, appears to have been blocked by the United States.

The plan was to have been a centre-piece of New Zealand’s time on the Security Council.

But the US, holding its veto powers in reserve, has been able to persuade other Council members not to support McCully’s plan.

New Zealand was originally supported by France but lost their support after they decided to push for a Ministerial conference rather than a Security Council resolution.

New Zealand diplomats in New York are optimistic that New Zealand might still in its remaining four months on the Council be able to do something.

But other sources say that the challenge all along has been to get the support of the U.S  which can use its veto to stop anything on the Council that it does not like.

The U.S is a vigorous protector of Israel's interests, and was never comfortable with McCully’s proposal.

Sources in New York say that Israel is wary of anything involving the UN because of the history of the organisation "beating up" on it and would, therefore, be unlikely to want to see the Security Council involved in any deal with Palestine.

In June last year, McCully told Parliament’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee that he expected a plan proposed by  French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, to move Israel and the Palestinian Authority back to talks with the eventual intention of creating a Palestinian state would gather momentum over the next months.

But he said New Zealand had a “text” available to put before the Security Council if Mr Fabius’ plan failed.

“We will remain ready to bring forward an initiative of our own if we think it will be the most constructive way of bringing the parties together in a room,” he told the Committee.

The Minister said that following his recent trip to the region he was mildly optimistic about success.

“Whatever difficulties there might be today, the reality is that those difficulties will simply get bigger if we allow too much time to elapse,” he said.

In a speech a few days later, opening the Otago Foreign Policy School he gave a hint of what New Zealand was proposing.

“We have long called for a two-state solution,” he said.

But that speech, with the advantage of hindsight, now appears to have also signalled the problems that New Zealand would ultimately face.

“US leadership in the Peace Process is indispensable- but is not sufficient by itself.  Stronger international support needs to be marshalled behind this process, and the UNSC is the right place to start,” he said.

“Indeed, with its “primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security”, if the Council doesn’t have a role in the current circumstances, it’s hard to envisage when it might have a role.”

As part of his planning for the Security Council resolution, McCully had visited Israel and Palestine shortly before he appeared in front of the Committee.

“The Times of Israel” in a commentary critical of that visit, called New Zealand a diplomatic bantamweight and said Wellington had been considered a close friend of Jerusalem, especially under the center-right government of Prime Minister John Key, who was Jewish.

“And yet, it is currently convinced that the peace process needs to be advanced, if necessary by forcing a solution on the parties," it said.

“Israel vehemently rejects using multilateral organs such as the UN to coerce it into any sort of action vis-à-vis the Palestinians, arguing that progress can only be achieved through direct bilateral negotiations."

It noted that in late December 2014 a Security Council resolution in the peace process failed to get the necessary nine yes votes and “even then, the US would likely have used its veto to block the motion.”

IIt concluded by saying: “It is not too late for Jerusalem to try to convince Wellington that the UN route doesn’t help but rather hardens the Palestinians’ position and therefore makes peace more difficult to achieve, the official said.

“But given the country’s determination to make a splash on the international stage, it seems like mission impossible.”

Therefore United States opposition was inevitable, and it appears that is what has sunk the proposal.

Interestingly, though, New Zealand apparently received some encouragement from Russia on the proposal.

The French had warned McCully of the likelihood of an American veto and tried to persuade him to support their eventual proposal for a Ministerial conference in Paris.

That conference took place in June included the United States,  Russia, the EU and the UN, as well as the Arab League, the Security Council and about 20 countries, without Israeli or Palestinian participation.

Like McCully’s proposal, the conference's communique acknowledged that any solution had to be a two-state solution.

For New Zealand, the process has been another reminder that when it comes to the crunch, the veto powers of the Permanent Five members of the Security Council can easily trump proposals from small nations like New Zealand.

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