Despite a majority in favour of what would have been a historic resolution condemning terror against Israel, it was not adopted because the general assembly voted to require a two-thirds majority. The United States ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, pointed out that the demand for a two-thirds majority was a double-standard since no such demand was made on anti-Israel resolutions.
Shamefully, New Zealand’s representative at the UN abstained, unlike most other democratic countries, on whether the double-standard be allowed. The motion passed with 75 countries in favour and 72 against. Hillel Neuer, director of UN Watch, tweeted that, in abstaining, New Zealand had “aided terror”.
The Israel Institute of New Zealand demanded answers from the government about who made the decision and what the rationale was for what Mr Neuer has called a “vile abstention” and which International lawyer, Arsen Ostrovsky, tweeted was a “cowardly action” that “directly led to defeat of ultimate resolution to condemn Hamas.”
Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) responded to the Israel Institute of New Zealand with the following explanation:
Ahead of the vote on the resolution condemning Hamas, a procedural motion was called. The motion asked states to consider whether the subject matter of the resolution concerned the maintenance of international peace and security. New Zealand’s abstention on this procedural motion balanced New Zealand’s recognition that the terrorist actions of Hamas are a threat to Israel’s peace and security, against New Zealand’s position that procedural motions should not be used to prevent robust debate.MFAT
The MFAT official is referring to UN Rule 83 of the Plenary Meetings procedures that requires a two-thirds majority for resolutions with “recommendations with respect to the maintenance of international peace and security,” among other “important questions”.
However, it is not quite clear how robust debate is prevented by a procedural motion, especially if the vote is with regard to an “important question” that presumably would encourage more debate. It is notable, however, that among the countries that spoke on the proposed resolution to condemn Hamas, New Zealand chose to remain silent.
Regardless of the UN procedural rules, liberal democracies of the world – almost a majority of the UN member states – saw that the motion was a political ploy to thwart United Nations condemnation of terror against Israel. Our traditional allies Australia, Canada, the United States; and EU countries all voted against the motion.
With regard to who made the decision, MFAT was also unable to give a clear answer. The initial response was “As you know decisions taken by New Zealand regarding support for particular initiatives and resolutions relating to Israeli/Palestinian issues are considered carefully, with relevant consultation.” and after further probing, the obfuscatory language became more verbose:
Ministerial direction is sought on New Zealand’s UN positioning, where voting is likely to be contentious. As a matter of practice, where MFAT considers it likely that there will be amendments or procedural motions raised from the floor this is flagged in our advice along with our proposed approach. As issues can move rapidly at the UN and procedural motions and amendments can be proposed with little to no notice, the direction sought is often high level.MFAT
Precisely how “high level” the direction to abstain came from is a mystery. Foreign Minister, Hon Mr Peters, has not responded to questions from the Israel Institute of NZ.
What is clear, however, is that New Zealand aided in the failure of the United Nations General Assembly to condemn terror acts against Israel. In the following week, there were no fewer than three terror attacks against Israelis that have left more than one dozen injured and taken the lives of three. One of those murdered was a baby who was delivered by emergency cesarean section after his mother was shot in a drive-by shooting. As Jason Greenblatt tweeted after the news that the baby boy didn’t survive, “The countries who raised the vote threshold at #UN for our resolution against Hamas… should absorb this news and understand their actions.”