Foreign Minister Knew that It is the Putting Right That Counts
New Zealand’s foreign minister Gerry Brownlee’s deft handling of the small country’s Middle East posture was timed and executed to perfection.
The former school wood working instructor demonstrated in his new post the understated flair in this realpolitik that has been a characteristic of his long Parliamentary career.
From the outset he understood that in a favoured New Zealand mercantile jingle that it is the “putting right that counts.”
His backtracking on the New Zealand security council participation in the censoring of Israel demanded that he de-fuse the issue, and do so without appearing to snub the rulers of any real or potential trading markets in the region’s Gulf States.
This was accomplished by delivering an apology that was not an apology.
Mr Brownlee had from the start sensed the danger of the UN resolution being allowed to swing unmodified in the always volatile Middle East diplomatic atmosphere.
He had to tread carefully in order to be seen as treating the issue as a high-minded moral milestone instead of the positioning being seen for what it was---a calculated trade-off to appease what was then an unqualified official belief that the Obama presidency would seamlessly make the transition to a Clinton one.
In order to sustain this robe-touching exercise he also had to skitter carefully around some other matters, notably keeping on side with the Gulf traders who much earlier had been told they could go ahead with receiving live sheep shipments and also with the Green lobby which remains determined to making sure that they do not..
The live sheep trade and its banning is a symbolic touchstone of the Greens
Mr Brownlee’s instrument was the apology that was an apology or not an apology, depending on the angle that you examined it from.
The product of the diplomatic soft shoe shuffle in three dimensional terms was the resumption of diplomatic exchanges with Israel.
Meanwhile Mr Brownlee’s government continues to plug away with the equipping of the Gulf processing depot which is the visible-yet-invisible reparation due to the live sheep importing lobby as compensation for the reneging on the original undertaking to supply them with the live shipments.
Mr Brownlee saw the danger to his government of the whole seraglio left as it was dangling unsecured in the lead up to the general election this year. It had to be dealt with before it intruded on the rather more fevered atmosphere of the campaign.
More importantly, by taking the issue substantially out of play he has smoothed relations with the Trump administration, the one that the professional diplomats failed to see coming.