New Zealand is preparing a UN Security Council resolution calling on Israel to freeze construction and home demolitions in the West Bank, as well as urging the Palestinians to desist from taking steps against Israel at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, as part of a series of confidence-building steps ahead of a hoped-for resumption of peace talks.
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New Zealand, a non-permanent Security Council member for the last year, has planned to disseminate the draft resolution for some time, but relented following a request by the United States. In view of the escalation of tension around the Temple Mount, it has decided to renew its motion, handing it out last Friday to the other 14 Security Council members. Haaretz has obtained a copy.
The draft asserts that the Security Council considers the continued stalled negotiations unacceptable, calling on both sides “to take the necessary measures to rebuild confidence and prepare for the resumption of negotiations.” The draft calls on the Quartet (United States, Russia, United Nations and European Union), Security Council members and Arab states that support the Arab peace initiative to assist the sides in preparing for renewed talks.
The draft defines some of the steps that Israel and the Palestinians must take in laying the groundwork for negotiations:
* Desisting from actions or declarations that would harm mutual confidence or predetermine the results of negotiations, including expansion of settlements and demolition of Palestinian homes in the territories;
* Avoiding provocative actions, particularly any which threaten the status quo on the Temple Mount;
* Avoiding lodging complaints against Israel or the situation in the territories at the International Court in The Hague;
* Avoiding casting doubts on the sincerity or commitment to peace of the opposing side and its leaders.
“The Security Council is very concerned that the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians regarding the vision of two states has been suspended for 17 months,” says the draft resolution. “A durable peace based on a two-state solution can only be achieved if the two sides engage in serious negotiations. Support by interested parties, especially members of the quartet and the Security Council, is essential. The Arab League initiative is also important in this context.”
The draft also determines that the Security Council will in the future debate a further resolution to define the principles for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The UN secretary general would report to the Security Council within three months on the progress made in implementing the resolution.
The guiding spirit behind the proposal is New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Murray McCully who, despite his country’s distance from the Middle East, has placed the conflict high on his list of priorities. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has mentioned McCully frequently in recent years as an example of the importance the international community attributes to the conflict.
Last Thursday in a Security Council meeting, McCully said that six years have passed since the body has passed a resolution on the conflict. He said that the resolution he is proposing is geared to defining a path of action for both sides, which would enable the conditions for resuming negotiations “within a realistic and early time frame.”
It’s still unclear if McCully’s motion will succeed. The draft prepared by New Zealand is different than the French initiatives of recent months. It is much more balanced and doesn’t propose principles for a solution of any of the core issues such as boundaries or Jerusalem, focusing only on creating the conditions for resuming negotiations.
McCully raised this possibility during his visit to Jerusalem a few months ago. Netanyahu did not dismiss the idea out of hand, according to a senior Israeli official. New Zealand has updated Israel in the last few days about the draft resolution and Israel did not express total rejection, in contrast to similar occasions in the past.
New Zealand’s move and the draft’s wording fit in with talks being held these days between Quartet members and Israel and the Palestinians. The European Union’s foreign affairs minister Federica Mogherini referred to New Zealand’s initiative in a speech to the European parliament Tuesday.