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Ladder Award: NZ Foreign Minister’s “solutions” approach to Gaza conflict

This is a re-posting of John Gallagher’s Ladder Award. The previous posting mysteriously disappeared. John Gallagher nominated Mr Murray McCully, New Zealand’s Foreign Minister, for a ladder award for his even-handed, solutions-oriented approach to the Gaza conflict.

In his citation John Gallagher said:

Mr McCully has stated that his government’s even-handed position from the beginning has been to call “on both sides of the Gaza conflict to accept an immediate ceasefire.” He added “Both sides need to step back from the brink. Israel must cease attacks on Palestinian targets and Hamas must cease the flow of mortar bombs and rockets into Israel” (Voxy, Saturday, 3 January, 2009)

Like everyone else, I see the situation the people of Gaza are in as horrific, and it needs to be ended as soon as possible. New Zealand, as a small, remote nation with a commitment to peace has to consider what its
best contribution could be. I also see calling for both parties to cease hostilities and backing the United Nations and others who are seeking to broker solutions as Mr McCully has done as exactly the right direction to move in.

Having adopted this even-handed rather than partisan or condemnatory stance, the issue is what steps can be taken to be more rather than less effective, while also building up capacity for constructive future interventions.

A simple and practical step would be to seek contact with parties engaged in helping broker solutions, register an interest in supporting them if and when this might be possible, and asking if we can be briefed on developments.

New Zealand could on a similar basis also ask about having observer status at negotiations where/as this was acceptable to all concerned. Our diplomats and politicians could then better positioned to contribute to solutions while also learning how to develop more effective peacemaking skills for the future.

In this case, diplomatic liaison could be usefully sought with parties like France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Arab League which is headquartered in Cairo, in addition, course, to the Gaza and Israeli governments.

It would be wonderful to see a New Zealand party political consensus develop around this kind of approach, which I believe would position the country to make its very best contributions to helping resolve international conflicts.

See also the previous Village-Connections Ladder Award given to the Labour Party for its election campaign proposal (1 November, 2008). This proposal, an ideal follow-on from New Zealand’s independent nuclear-free foreign policy, was to develop New Zealand’s role in international conflict resolution by involving new networks of diplomats, academics and NGOs and others who have relevant knowledge and skills and mana (status and presence).

John Gallagher has advocated that New Zealand develop peacebroking roles in relation to the Middle East and elsewhere since the 1980s. He did this as a media spokesperson for the New Zealand Nuclear-Free Peacemaking Association in the 1980s and 1990s, as well as for the Otautahi/Christchurch Gulf Crisis Peace Committee in 1990-91.

Any comments welcome. For instance, if you were in a New Zealand government and wanting New Zealand to make effective contributions to helping to achieve peace between Gaza, Palestine and Israel, what approach and what sort of measures would you want to take?


  1. John Gallagher says:

    Now that the blog is being re-posted, I would like to offer a brief update and comment.

    Since the original posting, the Israeli military has formally withdrawn after having inflicted massive damage and death toll. However, to date, Hamas has continued spasmodically launching rockets into Israel upon which the Israelis have responded with yet more bombing and shelling. The Hamas rockets will be quite frightening to those on the possible and actual receiving end, although they have been inflicting considerably less loss of life – 13 people in Israel, compared with about 1300 killed by Israelis in Gaza. Actual Israeli troop casualties within Gaza are hard to find on the Internet, but they seem to be nothing like those sustained by the Gazans)

    I wish to stress that the Ladder Award was proposed for the Minister’s even-handed stance as a starting point for effective intervention. Any permanent settlement of the situation is as far off as ever, and what I have stressed are some possible practical steps so as to be able to build up to
    having more effective in-puts in the future. As I have suggested, there are some not very difficult or expensive steps our government could take beyond issuing some even-handed statements if it seriously desired to help make a difference.

  2. Aejaj says:

    My sister in law is from Palestine. She called her family in the Westbank and they told her there had been a peaceful strike against the attacks in Gaza and as a response Israel went in and started shooting at them. Don’t know how many died. 🙁

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