Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Welcome Mr McCully

As New Zealand gets ready to sit at the head of the head of the UN Security Council next month, Foreign Minister Murray McCully is visiting this part of the world.

Following is a letter that I sent to the Right Honourable Minister:

Hon Murray McCully,
Minister of Foreign Affairs

Dear Minister,

Haere mai, Bruchim Haba’im, and welcome to Israel

As a New Zealand citizen currently residing in Israel, I was initially pleased to read that the New Zealand Government is taking an active interest in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian authority.

However, according to media reports, instead of encouraging Israelis and Palestinians to work together towards living in peace, the New Zealand may back or even draft a UN resolution which will try to impose a solution from outside.

As a relatively new player to the Israel-Palestinian negotiations, New Zealand has the unique opportunity to propose or suggest new approaches, instead of rehashing proposals that have been repeatedly tried and failed over the past 20 years.

Since the Oslo Accords in 1993, all proposals have focused on borders, refugees, and security concerns. What has been overlooked is actual peaceful relations between citizens of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Although Chapter 4 of the Oslo Accords did discuss cooperation, including educating children towards peace, there has been almost no effort to enforce or encourage this. 
If you look at changes to the Palestinian textbooks since 1993, you would be hard-pressed to find any effort to encourage Palestinian children to live in peace with their Israeli neighbours.

In fact, as governments have spent 20 years discussing possible borders and security arrangements, personal peaceful interaction between Israelis and Palestinians has become more and more difficult. 
Tragically the negotiating process is actually discouraging normalization between Palestinians and Israelis. The result is that we have a whole generation of children on both sides of the conflict who have never met people on the other side, and have grown up in an environment of fear and violence.

In this environment, even if the representatives of both people could come to an agreement, or the UN or other world body could impose a solution, the chances that the agreement would lead to peace between people or a reduction in fear, hatred, and violence is almost zero.

If New Zealand wants to bring new ideas to the table, and really advance the cause of peace, could I suggest that instead of focusing on government-level negotiations or external proposals that are sure to fail, and may lead to another escalation in violence, maybe the New Zealand Government could use its influence to encourage interaction between individuals, particularly children.

Maybe the New Zealand Government could look for ways to encourage joint educational, cultural, sports, economic, or other interaction between Israeli and Palestinians. 
New Zealand is a sports-loving nation, and knows the impact that sports can have on a child’s development. If the New Zealand Government was to sponsor sporting events, concerts, or cultural events that bring Israeli and Palestinian children together in a peaceful, non-threatening environment, this would help to plant seeds of peace.
If the New Zealand government found a way to encourage joint economic ventures between Israelis and Palestinians, the entrepreneurs in these ventures would have a personal interest in maintaining peaceful relationship and free access between business partners on the other side of a future border.

These personal relationships would do more for the cause of peace than a discussion over which neighbourhoods in Jerusalem should be banned for Jews, or how many guns the Palestinian police force should be allowed, or who should control the border check-points in a future Palestinian state.

Thank you for your time,

Shalom and Haere rā

Michael Sedley