Palestine Meets All Statehood Criteria

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) arguing against the Palestinian bid for statehood at the 66th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York, September 23, 2011. (Photo: REUTERS – Jessica Rinaldi)

Jean Aziz | Al Akhbar English | Sunday, September 25, 2011

A UN denial of Palestinian statehood would be scandalous. Not only are Palestinians’ rights to their land self-evident, but the international community and its institutions have effectively recognized a Palestinian state long before Israel was created. And Palestine today meets all the international criteria for such a recognition

The earliest recognition came in 1922, when the League of Nations guaranteed Palestinians the right to sovereignty and self-determination, declaring that historic Palestine reached a developmental stage where its existence as an independent nation would be provisionally recognized. Nevertheless, it was temporarily placed under British mandate as a “sacred trust,” until such time that the nation could stand alone.

Then came WWII, setting the Zionist project in full motion and leading to a full-scale offensive in Palestine. UN resolution 181 (29 November 1947), which divided Palestine into two states, spoke of drafting democratic constitutions for each state and guaranteeing to all persons “equal and non-discriminatory rights in civil, political, economic, and religious matters and the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Legally speaking, there has been dual recognition of a Palestinian state by international institutions and by Israel itself — ironically at the historic expense of the Palestinian people — by virtue of the resolution that led to Israel’s creation.

International recognition of Palestine came again after the 1967 war. UN resolution 242 implicitly recognized that the land occupied in June 1967 constitutes the basis of a Palestinian state. And so the geography changed from historic Palestine and the League of Nations in 1922, to a divided Palestine defined by the UN General Assembly resolution in 1947, to a Palestinian parcel chopped away by Israel, summated by a UN Security Council resolution in 1967. But international recognition of a Palestinian state has always persisted.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the UN, rendered an advisory opinion in 2004 that confirmed the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. The court pointed out that in 1970, the General Assembly affirmed that the principle of self-determination was enshrined in the UN Charter. In 1974, the General Assembly reaffirmed “the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people in Palestine… without external interference… [to] the right to national independence and sovereignty.” It also condemned the Israeli government responsible for denying Palestinians their right to self-determination, calling this behavior a major violation of the UN Charter. The General Assembly resolution 65/202 in 2010 reaffirmed “the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to their independent state of Palestine.” That resolution was adopted by 177 countries. General Assembly resolution 58/292 in 2003 affirmed “the need to enable the Palestinian people to exercise sovereignty and achieve independence in their state, Palestine.” Even the 2002 Mid-East Quartet proposed a Road Map for Peace envisioning a Palestinian state as a means of resolving the conflict based upon a two-state solution. The ‘road map’ was endorsed by UN Security Council resolution 1515.
Experts point out that under the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, there are four criteria for statehood: 1) a permanent population; 2) a defined territory; 3) government; and 4) capacity to enter into relations with other states.

Palestine meets the four criteria. There has been an international recognition of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination in their country. The Palestinian Territories including East Jerusalem, occupied since 1967, are a geographically defined territory. The ICJ advisory opinion confirms this. And there is clearly a permanent population living in the territory. International law apparently does not require border demarcations prior to a state gaining international recognition. Israel is one glaring example. Furthermore, the internationally recognized borders of major countries like India and China have not been completely demarcated; yet, international bodies still recognize the sovereignty of these nations. Palestine duly meets the fourth criteria, evinced by its international recognition from over 120 states and its membership in international organizations.

The Kosovo case belies the political nature of these decisions. The former Yugoslavia territory fails to meet any of the Montevideo Convention conditions, yet Washington has recognized it as an independent and sovereign state. Either the UN recognizes a Palestinian state, or let’s bid the idea of international legitimacy farewell.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect al-Akhbar’s editorial policy.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


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