Foreign Minister Murray McCully, confirming New Zealand's support for a United Nations resolution recognising a Palestinian state, said this reflected the Government's long-standing belief that Israel should exist side by side with a Palestinian state, each respecting the other's right to peace.
It is a fair and well-balanced position: We recognise Israel's right to safety and security and condemn the recent actions of Hamas extremists. We support the moderate leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and others committed to a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue. We believe the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority should talk directly with each other and negotiate terms to arrive at that solution.
The UN resolution - passed 138-9, with 41 abstentions - upgrades the Palestinians' status from observer to non-member observer state and gives them access to UN agencies and international bodies, including the International Criminal Court.
But statehood is a distant aspiration. The Palestinians have no control over their borders, airspace or trade; they have rival governments in Gaza and the West Bank; they have no unified army or police. The Israelis control the West Bank, east Jerusalem and access to Gaza.
Peace talks have been stalled for two years and Israeli leaders are in no mood to revive them. In churlish defiance of the UN vote, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the construction of thousands of new homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. He has also ordered the hastening of plans that would cut deep into a future Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, ignoring United States and European requests not to build there.
There are disappointing signs the US Congress might take retaliatory action, too, with three separate initiatives in response to the UN vote aimed at ending funding to the Palestinian Authority and to any UN agency the Palestinians join as a consequence of their upgrade.
Our government is frustrated, as Mr McCully said, "that two leaders who live half an hour up the road from each other cannot meet to resolve these matters directly". The vote we supported has given Palestinians a moral and symbolic boost but Israeli and US responses could leave them worse off than before.
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