Andrew Little on UN Israel vote

Andrew Little has stated support for the Unites Nations vote against Israeli settlements.

Two weeks ago Whale Oil reported Little as saying:

It would be a weird friendship if one of its conditions was to accept uncritically everything it did. While I respect Israel’s right to defend itself against hostile neighbours, and it has a few, it doesn’t have the right to appropriate land that is not legally its land.

The world is prepared to support a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and is frustrated Israel says it wants peace but acts in ways contrary to it. I want peace for Israel, and peace for the Palestinians. I also want both to observe the international rule of law.

Yesterday from NZ Herald: NZ right to condemn Israeli settlements despite ‘bluster’: Andrew Little

Backing a UN resolution against Israeli settlements was the right thing to do despite “bluster” from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Labour leader Andrew Little says.

“The international community has clearly expressed a view that Israel needs to take seriously the two state solution. Which it’s rhetoric says that it believes in, but it’s actions suggest something else.”

“I think once you get past the bluster of Benjamin Netanyahu and focus on what the real issues are, and the international law issues are, then it’s a no-brainer. And it’s in everybody’s interests for pressure to go, not just Israel but on the Palestinian Authority, to achieve a lasting settlement.”

Little said despite the controversy surrounding the issue of settlements, it was necessary to “stand back and say, ‘what is right?'”

“The State of Israel has internationally-recognised borders, it is settling its own people outside of those borders and encroaching on territory that ought to be the subject of a settled peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

“In the end there are bigger issues in the Middle East and bigger threats to Israel than just the Palestinian Authority. If that issue is settled then it makes it easier to deal with the other threats to Israel, and the international community wants Israel to be strong and secure and at peace.”

That sounds like it is based on good advice.

Bill English on UN Israel vote

Prime Minister Bill English has commented in support of the New Zealand position on the United Nations vote that condemned Israeli settlements.

NZ Herald reports:

Speaking today before he flew out to Europe for an official visit, Prime Minister Bill English said the issues surrounding the resolution were highly politicised in Israel.

“But the position of the New Zealand Government should have been well understood … we have got a realistic understanding of the pressures in the Middle East. That’s why in our time on the Security Council we wanted to see some advancement on the Middle East peace process. And the resolution in that sense is pretty balanced.

That sounds much the same as Murray McCully has said.

“New Zealand has been a long time friend of Israel, we have a range of connections, trade, increasingly technology and innovation. And it would be a shame if us expressing a view that might not line up exactly with the Israeli Government was seen as somehow being unfriendly or changing that relationship.”

Some advancement on the Middle East peace process would be a good thing, but the prospects don’t look good at the moment.

Both Israel and the Palestinians have to want a lasting solution, and it’s doubtful either do.

Over reaction to Israel’s response

Israel sounded tough  about New Zealand’s involvement in the Security Council vote against Israeli settlements and recalled their ambassador to New Zealand, but appears to have backed off from other treats of retaliation.

Janfrie Wakim, a campaigner for human rights in Palestine, suggests actions and retaliations against Israel.

She gives her version of the situation in Israel and the settlement areas in New Zealand must show Israel cost of staying its course:

The UN General Assembly divided Palestine in 1947, giving the minority Jewish immigrant population the majority of Palestine’s land to form Israel. For the Israeli leaders this was but the first step.

In 1948 the Israeli military expanded well into the land designated for the Arab state and expelled more than 700,000 Palestinians from Palestine. Jordan shared the spoils by taking over East Jerusalem and the West Bank and took in most of the refugees, who now number about six million, the largest permanent refugee population in the world.

Israel’s greatest diplomatic success in the Camp David Accords was removing consideration of these refugees from the peace process. That, however, has only halved Israel’s demographic nightmare.

While about 20 per cent of Israeli citizens are not Jewish, the Israeli Government can usually manage to live with that minority.

The Israeli electoral franchise extends to Jewish settlers in the occupied territories but there is no vote for the nearly three million Palestinians in those territories. If Israel annexed East Jerusalem and the West Bank it would have to give everyone the vote. It has used an endlessly prolonged peace process to save itself from having to do this.

While some laud Israel for it’s democracy in the Middle East, in contrast to adjacent countries, many Palestinians don’t get to vote.

Wakim details options for Israel.

  • It can annex the occupied territories, extend the franchise to everyone and accept that Jews are a minority.
  • Or it can withdraw to a more modest and legally less suspect geographical area within the limits set by the UN in 1947.
  • Or it can continue to ignore world opinion and international law, steal land to build settlements, characterise all criticism and disagreement as anti-Semitic, systematically destroy Palestinian homes, livelihoods and farmland, periodically bomb Gaza or South Lebanon and basically muddle on until it hopes the Palestinians will give up.

She then says that New Zealand should take action  against option 3 and suggests:

  • We can refuse to accept imports or Israeli visitors from the occupied territories.
  • We can pull out of the recent NZ-Israel Film Co-operation Agreement which lacks any distinction between activities in Israel and in the occupied territories.
  • We can put a stop to a range of economic and academic collaboration between Israel and New Zealand.
  • Our Government should tell the NZ Superannuation Fund to divest in Israeli banks which fund West Bank settlements.
  • Murray McCully can tell Netanyahu we don’t like countries declaring war on New Zealand for pointing out what international law is.
  • He could tell him Netanyahu doesn’t need to send his recalled ambassador back to New Zealand until Israel behaves.

No one seriously believes that Netanyahu’s rhetoric was a declaration of war on New Zealand.

And I don’t think there is any serious chance of most and probably all those other suggestions happening.

New Zealand getting involved in a tit for tat spat is unlikely to make any difference to Palestinians.

An eye opener for the WO bubble

Followers of Whale Oil over the the past two weeks will have seen a daily diet of pro-Israel and anti-Security Council resolution, anti-Murray McCully and anti-National government posts.

There has been no attempt at balance, and little attempt at accuracy – support of the Security Council vote (14-0) has been labelled as anti-Israel, but obviously countries like the United States and United Kingdom (and New Zealand) are not anti-Israel overall, they have just become exasperated by Israel’s ongoing provocative settlements.

The activist campaign on WO continues today. Already there has been Is the Maori Party a friend of Israel? which promised much (teasers were posted yesterday) and delivered little.

And  Face of the Day  featured another cherry picked article (also posted on here ‘One Nation’ wants to kick New Zealand). Comments are more interesting:


I am interested in just what the rest of New Zealand outside of W/O actually think. Stuff accepted just 4 comments on this story, one person wrote “that Israel violated international law with their ILLEGAL settlements, therefore it’s only logical they be reprimanded for that.” This has received 395 up votes. I am really surprised at that. It would appear that Israel are not overly supported in this Country – perhaps the ripple in the polls may actually be very small by the simple tactic of ignoring it.


Yep, majority of comments and votes on other news sites/blogs are all very anti-Israeli. While it is probably no more than the screaming skull’s rent-a-crowd, it is an eye opener.

No, not anti-Israel, most are simply pro the Security Council resolution.

Rick H:

As I have been saying all along – – -the vast majority of NZ people (and probably most in the rest of the western world as well) know very little to nothing at all about the facts of the middle east. They believe what they have seen on the TV over the years, that Israel is the evil one.

No amount of trying to show them the real truth makes a difference.
They turn off and simply don’t want to be told.
They aren’t interested.

I’m not surprised that these two Oilers are ‘very surprised’ and find it ‘an eye opener’ what reality outside the WO bubble is.

The ‘truth’ and gospel according to Whale Oil is not what the vast majority of New Zealanders see preached.

Typical of online bubbles they portray any sort of disagreement as totally anti their way of thinking, you are either friend or enemy, similarly of WO and of Israel.

With such a persistent one-sided diet that’s what often happens.

And those who venture out of the bubble are shocked that the real world is more mixed and nuanced, and see this as totally opposite to the lines they have been fed.


Apart from articles on WO, I have seen and heard very little about it, and have had no discussions about it at all.

I’ve seen quite a bit in a variety of places – it’s there if you look for it beyond your self reinforcing zone.

It’s funny that different opinions are seen as an eye opener.

Postscript: “This is a 2000-year-old struggle that the Māori Party is not about to wade into. Both sides claim tangata whenua status. However, we note that the current sanctions imposed against Pallestine are inhumane and cause great suffering of innocent women and children.”

I’m not surprised that the Maori Party didn’t want to ‘wade into’ the frenzy at Whale Oil, but they have probably fed it by suggesting that “innocent (Palestinian) women and children”  are suffering.

Update: while I was writing this post pro-Israel post #3 so far today at WO – Guest Post: Our world: The PLO’s zero-sum game – another cherry picked article from the Jerusalem Post.

Farrar on Israeli settlements

David Farrar has posted his thoughts on the UN vote on Israeli settlements (he thinks it was unfair to Israel) but he thinks the settlements are an ongoing problem for Israel.

Personally I support Israel around 95% of the time, especially when it comes to their own security. But I’ve never been persuaded that settlements on occupied territory are a good idea, or will lead to a two state solution. A one state solution is worse for Israel as that would mean having to give citizenship to those living in those areas and Jews would become the minority in Israel.

Hamas are evil and Fatah corrupt and the Palestinian leadership bear most of the blame for there being no peace settlement. They have rejected some very good offers in the past, and I remain sceptical that their leadership are interested in a two state solution.

There’s certainly some serious problems on the Palestinian side. But Israel doesn’t help the situation, especially with the provocative settlements.

In my view the settlements are wrong and provocative. Israel surrenders the moral high ground when they persist with them. The settlements are not the cause of the conflict, but they aggravate it and make peace much harder.

And while some have portrayed the UN vote as the world against Israel there’s a lot of opposition within Israel to the settlements.

The settlement policy is divisive even in Israel. Most acts of the Israeli state have widespread support (such as military action against Hamas) but the settlements are a policy most associated with the Likud party. They do have majority support, but also significant opposition.

There have been some polls inside Israel on them. They have found:

  • 42% say the settlements hurts security and 27% helps security
  • 41% say Israel should leave the West Bank/Judea and Samaria and 48% are against

Farrar’s suggestions for solutions (which hi is not optimistic about):

  1. There should be a two state solution
  2. Palestine should be given territory equal in area to the pre-1967 borders based on the original mandate.
  3. The territory for Palestine must be good enough to allow them to form a viable prosperous state, not just a series of enclaves, and be agreed between the two parties.
  4. The settlements should cease as every extra settlement is less flexibility for agreeing final boundaries.
  5. The Palestinian leadership of Fatah and Hamas must agree in words and actions to the right of Israel to exist and cease terrorism
  6. Palestine would be a demilitarised state
  7. Jerusalem is the most difficult question and is the biggest challenge (after the fact the Palestinian leadership has little interest in peace). In theory it serves as the capital to most countries, with all citizens allowed in all of the city, but different areas under different control.

To get anywhere near solutions like this it would take significant changes in attitude from both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Neither look likely to go there at this stage.

Background to the Israel-Palestine conflict

Gezza says:

There so many versions of the history of the modern state of Israel and the Palestinian conflict biased to one side’s viewpoint or the other. This is best, neutral, five-minute summary of the history of the Palestinian-Jewish conflict I have seen, published Jan 2016.

Well worth a look imo

Worth a look in my opinion too for a simple summary of the background to the current Israel-Palestine conflict.

It looks like a good explanation to me of the problems in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

It’s easy to have empathy for both sides, and also to condemn some of the actions of both sides. Finding solutions that will end the conflict is an ongoing challenge.


Israel backs off

Israel has wound back their rhetoric after condemning New Zealand’s involvement in the UN vote against Israeli settlements, which included publicising a phone call in which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully that a vote against Israel would be a declaration of war.

Following the Security Council vote, in which no country supported Israel (it passed 14-0, with the United States abstaining), the Israeli government withdrew its ambassador and barred New Zealand’s ambassador from Israel.

Israel also threatened sanctions against countries including New Zealand who had sanctioned the UN resolution. But they are now saying no sanctions will be imposed “until further notice”.

Stuff: Israel pauses further sanctions on New Zealand ‘until further notice’

Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand Itzhak Gerberg will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday to discuss whether further sanctions against NZ are appropriate.

“My ambassador has just arrived in Israel today. He will have a meeting with the Prime Minister tomorrow, so until further notice there are no further sanctions,” said Patricia Deen, spokeswoman for the Israeli embassy in Wellington.

This appears to be a winding back of posturing by Israel. Yesterday:

Netanyahu personally phoned Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully before the vote, his office has confirmed.

Israeli publication Haaretzciting unnamed western diplomats, described a “harsh” phone call between the pair.

“This is a scandalous decision. I’m asking that you not support it and not promote it,” Netanyahu reportedly told McCully.

“If you continue to promote this resolution from our point of view it will be a declaration of war. It will rupture the relations and there will be consequences.”

This was an own goal by Israel. It may have been aimed at appearing to be tough in Israel, but it was always likely to lose rather than gain support internationally, and certainly in New Zealand.

Israel’s arguments in New Zealand were further damaged by being promoted by Whale Oil, not a good way to win popular support here.

Deen said the phone call had been “blown out of proportion” but didn’t want to comment on it in detail.

If Netenyahu hadn’t  leaked the details of the phone call the adverse reaction wouldn’t have happened.

Netanyahu is furious with the decision. He has halted aid to Senegal and said “friends don’t take friends to the Security Council”.

The US were fed up with Israel’s continued flaunting of attempts to dampen disquiet over the settlements and refused to veto the vote.

Will Netenyahu halt US aid to Israel?

Reuters: U.S., Israel sign $38 billion military aid package

The United States will give Israel $38 billion in military assistance over the next decade, the largest such aid package in U.S. history, under a landmark agreement signed on Wednesday.

Nearly 10 months of drawn-out aid negotiations underscored continuing friction between President Barack Obama and Netanyahu over last year’s U.S.-led nuclear deal with Israel’s arch-foe Iran, an accord the Israeli leader opposed. The United States and Israel have also been at odds over the Palestinians.

The settlements have been one point of contention there.

But the right-wing Netanyahu decided it would be best to forge a new arrangement with Obama, who leaves office in January, rather than hoping for better terms from the next U.S. administration, according to officials on both sides.

So it looks like Netanyahu gambled on Clinton winning the election.

Israel won’t win international support if they publicise threats against smaller countries, and threaten and impose sanctions, while they accept huge amounts of aid from the US who also enabled the UN resolution to pass.

I can imagine the US won’t have been impressed with Israel’s publicising of Netenyahu’s ‘declaration of war’ phone call.


Whale Oil on UN vote on Israel

It’s no surprise to see hard out support from Slater for the Israeli position after the UN Security Council voted 14-0 against them over settlements on disputed or private land in the Middle East.

There has been a string of supporting posts for Israel and against anyone involved in the vote against them by Slater. And he has often written (or had material supplied for) pro-Israel posts for years.

There have been 81 posts at Whale Oil tagged ‘Israel’ so far this year, and 209 since 1 January 2015.Of course they can post whatever they like, and many of these have only minor references to Israel (albeit tagged by the author) but this is a remarkable focus on Israel for a New Zealand blog.

And if you go back about 250 ‘Israel’ tagged posts, to August 2014, there are a string of posts reporting on a visit Slater made to Israel – a trip in part paid for by the Israel government.

Stuff reported at the time: Blogging, money and blurred lines

The man at the centre of the Dirty Politics firestorm sits on a leafy street in Tel Aviv, Israel, just a block from the shores of the Mediterranean, sipping a blended mint lemonade.

Cameron “Whale Oil” Slater is bleary-eyed, having spent 24 hours on a plane, and now finds himself in a war zone during a ceasefire. It’s Friday in Israel; Saturday back home.

He’s one of a group of international journalists invited to visit by the Israeli government, which has been earning bruising international condemnation over the civilian death toll in the Gaza conflict.

The Israeli embassy approached him about the trip, he says, and covered some costs, but he is paying for a significant portion of his travels. He has posted anti-Hamas and pro-Israel stories on his blog in the past.

And has continued to do that. Interesting that the Israeli embassy approached Slater.

The arrangement may sound vaguely familiar to anyone who has read certain chapters of Nicky Hager’s controversial new book Dirty Politics, which is based on thousands of emails stolen from Slater’s computer.

Besides his central claims that National used Slater’s Whale Oil blog as an conduit for “dirty” attacks on its political enemies, Hager also says Slater took cash in exchange for running stories for a range of commercial clients.

He writes that certain articles posted under Slater’s name were word-for-word reprints of material supplied by PR man Carrick Graham, whose clients include tobacco and alcohol companies. Hager writes that Slater was paid around $6500 a month by Graham, for work he estimates would have taken perhaps an hour.

When asked if he received any payment from Graham, his company or associates, and whether there was any understanding that he would run copy for that payment, Slater gives an emphatic “No”. He stands by his byline.

“Any copy I am using, I’ve had direct input into – I may have helped write it, I’ve certainly edited it.

“There are large corporates that I work with. They have particular issues and as a result of that those issues are then turned into an interesting story. I take stories, create stories, work on stories, provide commentary on a number of different things and whatever takes my fancy at the time.”

The Security Council vote against Israel seems to have taken Slater’s “fancy at the time”. Since the vote was announced these posts have been on Whale Oil:

The focus on the UN vote stands out amongst otherwise mostly Christmas or trivial posts.

Whether it’s a personal or a financial interest it’s a topic that Slater certainly fancies quite a bit.