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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Is the 'Palestinian Authority' making a huge mistake?

'Moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen has once again laid down conditions for dropping his bid for 'unilateral statehood' at the United Nations next month. No one anticipates Israel agreeing to them.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday set two conditions for abandoning his plan to ask the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state in September: acceptance of the 1967 lines as the basis for a two-state solution and a cessation of settlement construction.

"Without this we will continue going to the UN," Abbas said.
As I reported previously, a legal opinion written by an Oxford University professor suggests that the 'Palestinians' have much to lose (aside from American aid money) by going ahead with the 'statehood' bid. Al-Jazzera interviews Professor Guy Goodwin-Gill, a professor of International Law at Oxford, who wrote the opinion.
Why would the creation of a state not represent Palestinian rights?

Traditionally, a state for the purposes of international law presupposes territory, population, government and the capacity to enter into international relations. But we have moved beyond that, particularly where representation in the UN is concerned. Today's world expects more – that a state should be representative of the people for whom it speaks and directly accountable to them.

One way to establish representative democracy is by elections, though elections also should meet certain international standards. But states which are imposed, top-down, or which are crated without an exercise of the popular will are, by definition, not representative. And as recent events remind us, the lack of representative and accountable government is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.

If the 'state of Palestine' is meant to replace the 'PLO', does this not just mean a transfer of authorities from one to the other? Similar to an official name-change?

As I understand the present proposal, the state of Palestine may replace the PLO as the representative of the people of Palestine at the United Nations. But we need to ask, what is the legitimate basis for such representation? I am not saying that it cannot be done, for of course it can. But only that I do not see the hallmarks of democratic, representative and accountable statehood – something in turn which depends on an exercise of the popular will. Shouldn't this come first?


You tackle three specific issues; constitutional, statehood, and representation. Starting on the issue of constitutional, you are saying the Palestinian Authority (PA) is a subsidiary body, formed by the PLO, as an administrative entity, and that "it does not have the capacity to assume greater powers, to ‘dissolve’ its parent body, or otherwise establish itself independently of the Palestinian National Council and the PLO". What does this mean, both for the quest for statehood, and subsequently for the Palestinians if statehood is granted?

On the legal standing and capacity of the Palestinian Authority, I was applying non-controversial legal principles regarding the powers and competence of subsidiary bodies. Does the PA have the power to move the issue of statehood ahead, and if so, what are the origins and parameters of that power? Have the people of Palestine, through their representative - the PLO - granted such power? I recognise that there is an urgent, pressing need for statehood, particularly in the face of the intransigence of other parties, but I am also concerned that the essentials of modern statehood – democracy, representative government and accountability – may be sidelined, if not sacrificed, perhaps to the long-term disadvantage of the people at large.

One issue here is that the majority of Palestinians are refugees living outside of historic Palestine, and they have an equal claim to be represented, particularly given the recognition of their rights in General Assembly resolution 194 (III), among others. It is not clear that they will be enfranchised through the creation of a state, in which case the PLO must continue to speak for their rights in the UN until they are implemented.

With regards to statehood, you say that as an observer state in the UN, Palestine would 'fall short of meeting the internationally agreed criteria of statehood', which would have serious implications for Palestinians at large, especially for the diaspora. How so?

What concerns me is that insufficient attention has been given so far to representation of the Palestinian people at large – that is, to the diaspora also, for whom both self-determination and the right of return are basic human rights and crucial elements in national identity.
The main point here appears to be this. Under the Montevideo treaty (that's the operative legal document that describes what he's talking about in the first paragraph), states have four things: Territory, population, government and the capacity to enter into foreign relations. The issues of population and government could be resolved by having a referendum. The capacity to enter into foreign relations is a fact - either you have it or you don't. But territory is the key here and this is what he's really trying to sound an alarm about. The PLO has been 'extra-territorial' because it also claims to represent the 'Palestinian diaspora.' If the 'Palestinians' get a 'state' which is limited by territory (much of which they will not de facto control anyway), and that 'state' replaces the PLO as the 'sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people,' the members of the 'Palestinian diaspora' who do not live within the territory of the 'Palestinian state' will not have 'Palestinian' representation in the United Nations.


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At 6:16 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

If the price of statehood is giving up the Palestinian dream to destroy Israel, it may be too high for Abu Bluff to pay. The Palestinians have a bigger problem than Israel's objection. And no one seems particularly excited by their going to the UN next month.


At 4:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The international community is, however, still capable of cobbling together an excuse to keep "right of return" alive and the new Reichlet the nominal address of the worldwide "Palestinian community" if the West and the Whine House decide at the last minute to go along with the charade--Palestinian Fatahamistan is a state like Detroit is a city--that hasn't stopped anyone from taking the suit wearing buffoons who emerge from the Palestinian clownmobile seriously.

At 1:19 AM, Blogger Empress Trudy said...

While admirable in theory, there is nothing in anything the Arabs have ever concocted that makes rational sense. If the PA declared they should be ruled by a Tyrannical Monkey God, the UN would approve it and there would be 25 columns in liberal blogs applauding their wise and monkey-god-inclusive tolerant choice.

It doesn't matter who runs the Mafia. It's the Mafia.


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