Dominion-Post Editorial: Newby foreign minister disowns Govt’s Israel policy.

5 May

Newly-appointed foreign minister Gerry Brownlee (Photo: George Heard/Fairfax)

EDITORIAL: Dominion Post, 5 May 2017.

Newby foreign minister disowns Government’s Israel policy.

It’s not often that a new minister disowns the policy of his immediate predecessor and of the Government as a whole. But that’s what newly-appointed Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee has done.

Brownlee  says it was “premature” of New Zealand to co-sponsor the UN Security Council resolution condemning the Israeli Government’s policy of expanding Israeli settlements. At a stroke he has ratted on his government’s  bold and courageous move which called Benjamin Netanyahu’s belligerent government to account and expressed a widespread international frustration at Israel’s behaviour.

In doing so he has contradicted and disowned the policy of his predecessor, Murray McCully, and thrown his Government’s policy into utter confusion. This is not a sensible course for a new minister to follow, and he should be hauled over the coals by his leader, Bill English.

Brownlee’s stated reasons for the u-turn are incoherent. On the one hand he says the decision was “premature” but he “wasn’t going to make a statement about whether we were right or wrong.” If the resolution was premature it can’t have been right.

Brownlee says a resolution to conflict in the Middle East would be achieved by the people who live there, and the resolution was worthless because it demanded an outcome that was not going to happen. This is the motto of the appeaser through the ages.

Netanyahu’s government was infuriated by the resolution and the Israeli prime minister warned McCully before the vote that the resolution would be in effect a “declaration of war” on Israel. But this just shows why it is impossible to believe that the local people alone will solve the problem of Palestine.

Netanyahu himself is a major obstacle to any just peace in the Middle East. He heads the most right-wing Israeli government in history, as former US Secretary of State John Kerry said last year. Netanyahu’s policy of continuing settlements is part of a deliberate balkanisation programme aimed at sabotaging the twin-state solution now backed by all major international players.

Netanyahu is a part of the problem, and the resolution was a sensible attempt to pressure him to adopt a civilised policy. Left alone, Netanyahu won’t do it. The world must try to persuade him.

So why did Brownlee rat on the policy? Nobody knows except Brownlee, but his move leaves the unfortunate impression that he has done the u-turn in an attempt to curry favour with the new and wildly pro-Netanyahu American president. Trump made it clear he opposed the UN resolution.

Since he has come to power he has proposed to shift his embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a clear signal of approval to the Israeli far right and a gesture of contempt for the Palestinian cause.

It is most unfortunate that Brownlee should do a spectacular u-turn at a time when the warmongering tendencies of Israel are getting such a huge boost from its American patron. Brownlee’s reversal doesn’t look like the “independent foreign policy” National brags about. Rather the opposite.

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