As Israel goes to the polls in an election that will determine whether or not incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gets a fourth term, I cannot help but wonder about what is at stake both for Israel but also New Zealand. And I wonder about the role of other players such as Iran in this fascinating yet vastly complex entanglement of tribes, nations, religion and geopolitical interests. The more I wonder, the less certain of the answer I seem to be, but yet all the more curious about both the regional players and the super power influences of Russia, China and the United States, I become.
As a New Zealander wanting a future that is hopefully balanced between Israel having its borders secured and a sustainable solution for the Palestinian question, I find myself repulsed entirely by the hard line anti-Palestinian stance that Mr Netanyahu has adopted in these last few years. From being a somewhat less pragmatic Israeli than the late Yitzhak Rabin to being the outright hard line conservative he is now, Mr Netanyahu has divided his friends with his dislike for Palestine, but hardened the resolve of foes such as militant groups Hamas and Hizbollah.
There is perhaps one thing I am certain of: that Israel is an integral part of the problem and the solution.
There is one thing that Israel or no Israel, that New Zealand needs to do and that is recognize Palestine. Whether it becomes a state or remains the mish mash of places not yet fully annexed by Israel, Palestine needs to be in the United Nations at the very least in an observatory capacity.
So, for me the outcome of the Israeli election for which voting is currently in progress, is very important. I have no time at all for Hamas and would not mind if they were disbanded completely, except that Hamas is the governing faction of Palestinian politics at the moment in a government that was democratically elected. Because the alternatives are hard line militant groups, I have to accept that Hamas is the legitimate government of Palestine for the immediate future.
I also have no time for the incumbent Israeli Prime Minister, and if he were to lose the election tomorrow, I feel it would be good for Israel. His stance on Iran is not so much based on a fear of Iran having nuclear weapons as an irrational hatred of a regional power whose co-operation Israel’s major ally the United States currently needs against Islamic State. Irrational hatred of this sort has no place in international politics. Israel deserves better than Mr Netanyahu. Whilst he remains in office, the probability of another war causing further damage in Gaza that might permanently cripple the place is almost 100%.
There is not much more New Zealand can do other than recognize Palestine and maintain a consistent line in its dialogue with Israel about the absolute need for a two state solution. We are a small bit player on the side respected by the major powers for our fair mindedness, but too weak to actually influence in any useful way the major issues. If we have to use our influence, we should wield it through the U.N. Security Council seat we have.
And as I have indicated in previous articles, New Zealand’s priority should not be the Middle East. It is not our back yard and never geographically will be. The South Pacific on the other hand….