On 29 November 2012, the 193-member UN General Assembly recognized the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a non-member observer state putting Palestine on a par with the Holy See. The Palestinian bid, submitted by President Mahmoud Abbas, was approved by 138 UN members, while nine voted against it and 41 abstained from voting. The move amounted to an implicit recognition of the Palestinian statehood and increased PA’s chances of joining other UN bodies. It also allowed the Palestinian Authority to challenge the continuing construction of Israeli settlements on the occupied Palestinian land in the International Criminal Court. The Palestinian Authority circulated its resolution on 08 November 2012. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who controls only the West Bank, said a bid for United Nations observer status is the first step toward achieving his people’s rights and has wide support among General Assembly members. “We are going to the United Nations with confidence, supported by all peace lovers,” Abbas said in the West Bank city of Ramallah. “Be assured, there are many countries” supporting the bid, he said. Hamas, which in 2007 fought Abbas’s Fatah for control of Gaza a year after winning parliamentary elections, gave the Palestinian Authority its backing for the UN bid on 22 November 2012.
The vote came on the 65th anniversary of the Assembly's resolution that created Israel by partitioning British-mandate Palestine into Israeli and Palestinian states. Supporters hoped the vote will provide a badly needed political boost to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah party has been eclipsed by rival Hamas, the militant movement whose fortunes had risen with those of its Islamist allies in Egypt and elsewhere.
The proposal wase put to a vote in the General Assembly, where the US lacks veto power. The US opposed the move, saying that Palestinians should achieve statehood only at the conclusion of peace talks with Israel. Israeli Foreign Minister spokesman Yigal Palmor said that the right way to address the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was to first start talking, then agree and, finally, seek UN recognition. “The Palestinians are trying to turn the whole thing upside down and it will make the possibility of returning to negotiations much more difficult,” Palmor said.
French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius told the French National Assembly on 27 November 2012 that France had backed such a status for the Palestinians since 1982 when Socialist president François Mitterrand raised the possibility before the Israeli parliament. The proposal was also one of François Hollande presidential campaign promises. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited France in October Hollande spoke of the “temptation for the Palestinians to seek at the UN general assembly what they cannot obtain through negotiation”, adding “only negotiation can arrive at a definitive solution of the situation in Palestine”.
The United Kingdom initially indicated that support would be based on three conditions. The first was that Palestine would refrain from using their new status at the UN to apply to join the International Criminal Court, where they might bring war crime charges against Israelis. The second condition was that the Palestinians not take the further step of asking the Security Council to consider full Palestinian membership of the UN. Finally, Britain wanted Abbas to resume peace negotiations with Israel without preconditions.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said "We obviously disagree with our oldest ally on this issue. They know that we disagree with them... "But it's their sovereign decision to make, how to proceed." Nuland confirmed that the United States will vote against the Palestinian request, which Washington regards as "a mistake". Nuland told journalists "We're focused on a policy objective on the ground for the Palestinian people, for the people of Israel, which is to end up with two states that can live peacefully next to each other... Nothing in this action at the UN is going to take the Palestinians any closer to that ... If there is a vote, we will vote 'no'"
Lasting peace between the Arabs and Israel will only come when the Pa]estinian Arab population has its own independent homeland. The Palestinian Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Palestinian National Council, the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), in Algiers on 15 November 1988. The Palestinlan National Council recognized the legitimacy of a two-state political solution, renounced terrorism,and conditionally accepted Israel's existence linked to the estabilshment of an independent Palestlnlan state. While many called the announcement ambiguous at best, others believed that the PLO had recognized Israel's right to exist.
The PLO unilaterally proclaimed the establishment of an independent state called the "State of Palestine". This Declaration led to Palestine's recognition by 93 states and to the renaming of the PLO mission in the UN to "Palestine." After the formation of the Palestinian Authority, many countries exchanged embassies and delegations with it. Seven months after declaring statehood, Arafat's new policies received the blessings of the Arab world at the May 1989 Arab Summit in Casablanca. The summit supported the PLO's "peace initiative", its acceptance of Israel's right to exist, and its renunciation of terrorism.
By the end of 1989, more than 100 governments throughout the world had granted some form of recognition to the new State of Palestine. Almost all of Latin America, Africa, and Asia recognize the existence of the state of Palestine. According to one count, by the early 1990s about 125 states had recognized Palestine. By the end of 2010, one inventory found at least ninety-six states had formally recognized the State of Palestine, and 12 more granted some form of diplomatic status to a Palestinian delegation, falling short of full diplomatic recognition.
There is no universally accepted definition of a state. Cicero defined a State to bo a body politic, or society of men, united together for the purpose of promoting their mutual safety and advantage by their combined strength. This definition cannot be admitted as entirely accurate and complete. The denomination of a State cannot be properly applied to voluntary associations of robbers or pirates, the outlaws of other societies, although they may be unitod together for the purpose of promoting their own mutual safety and advantage. The legal idea of a State necessarily implies that of the habitual obedience of its members to those persons in whom the superiority is vested, and of a fixed abode, and definite territory belonging to the people by whom it is occupied. Only States are the subjects of international law, for they alone are vested with international personality.
According to the definition of Grotius, sovereignty is "the power whose acts are not subject to the control of another ..." The supreme power may be exercised either internally or externally. Internal sovereignty is that which is inherent in the people of Internal any State, or vested in its ruler, by its municipal constitution or sovereiSntyfundamental laws. This is the object of what has been called internal public law, 'droit public interne,' but which may more properly be termed constitutional law. External sovereignty consists in the independence of one political society, in respect to all other political societies.
The recognition of any State by other States, and its admission into the general society of nations, may depend, or may be made to depend, at the will of those other Stales, upon its internal constitution or form of government, or the choice it may make of its rulers. But whatever be its internal constitution, or form of government, or whoever may be its rulers, or even if it be distracted with anarchy, through a violent contest for the government between different parties among the people, the State still subsists in contemplation of law, until its sovereignty is completely extinguished by the final dissolution of the social tie, or by some other cause which puts an end to the being of the State. Sovereignty is acquired by a State, either at the origin of the civil society of which it is composed, or when it separates itself from the community of which it previously formed a part, and on which it was dependent.
The internal sovereignty of a State does not, in any degree, depend upon its recognition by other States. A new State, springing into existence, docs not require the recognition of other States to confirm its internal sovereignty. The existence of the State de facto is sufficient, in this respect, to establish its sovereignty de jure. It is a State because it exists. Thus the internal sovereignty of the United Stales of America was complete from the time they declared themselves "free, sovereign, and independent States," on the 4th of July, 1776. It was upon this principle that the US Supreme Court determined, in 1808, that the several States composing the Union, so far as regards their municipal regulations, became entitled, from the time when they declared themselves independent, to all the rights and powers of sovereign States, and that they did not derive them from concessions made by the British King. The treaty of peace of 1782 contained a recognition of their independence, not a grant of it.
The external Sovereignty of any State, on the other hand, may require recognition by other States in order to render it perfect and complete. So long, indeed, as the State confines its action to its own citizens, and to the limits of its own territory, it may well dispense with such recognition. But if it desires to enter into that great society of nations, all the members of which recognise rights to which they are mutually entitled, and duties which they may be called upon reciprocally to fulfil, such recognition becomes essentially necessary to the complete participation of the new State in all the advantages of this society.
The issue of diplomatic recognition of Kosovo's statehood is at the heart of the impasse between Kosovo and Serbia. Though 69 states had taken this step by mid-2010, Serbia has vowed to never accept the territory's "unilateral declaration of independence". As of 2008 Taiwan was officially recognised by just 24, mostly small, impoverished countries, compared to 170 which recognize UN Security Council member China, which seeks to isolate the island diplomatically. Although in control of Afghanistan's capital (Kabul) and most of the country for five years, the Taliban regime, or "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," gained diplomatic recognition from only three states: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Formerly sub-divisions of Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia declared themselves independent in July 1982. After Russia routed Georgian forces during a brief war in August 2008, Moscow recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. Three other UN Members (Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru) recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. They are also recognised by Transnistria, a state that is unrecognised by all UN members.
On 17 January 2011 the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) officially hoist the Palestinian flag outside its office in Washington, DC. Raising this flag in DC was part of the Palestinian leadership's plan to encourage international acceptance and diplomatic recognition of a Palestinian state, while refusing to directly negotiate with Israel or accept the existence of Israel as a democratic, Jewish state. The Palestinian leadership's ongoing drive to win recognition from foreign governments, and its latest push to condemn Israel at the UN, is part of the same strategy aimed at extracting concessions without meeting other international commitments.
U.S. policy is to oppose the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, to withhold diplomatic recognition of any Palestinian state that is unilaterally declared, and to encourage other countries and international organizations to withhold diplomatic recognition of any Palestinian state that is unilaterally declared.
The diplomatic recognition of a Palestinian state is gathering momentum, particularly in Latin America. Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and a number of other nations in that region have recognized the independence of Palestine. On 06 December 2010 the Brazilian Foreign Ministry announced that Brasilia recognizes the Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. By early 2011 a dozen countries in the Caribbean basin and Africa were about to do the same. If more countries announce a recognition of the independence of Palestine, the Palestinians can push a resolution on the creation of a new state through the UN General Assembly.
On January 19, 2011 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev stressed during a visit to the West Bank that Moscow recognized an independent Palestinian state in 1988 and is not changing that position. Speaking at a news conference with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in Jericho, Medvedev said: "We made our decision then and we have not changed it today."
Irina Zryagelskaya, an Oriental expert, says that "Some people believe that recognition of an independent Palestinian state should be forced through and backed by UN support, to make Israel negotiate not with an autonomous entity, but with the leaders of another sovereign state... What is being suggested is an asymmetric overcoming of the conflict, but that in itself is not an ideal option ... That type of recognizing a state could lead to instability. ... A recognition of an independent Palestine without a settlement of the basic issues will be counterproductive, because the settlers cannot be forced out of their homes since they are protected by the Israeli army. A recognition of the 1967 borders will largely be symbolic. Hence, there is no alternative to negotiations."
The Israeli Foreign Ministry stated that "Recognition of a Palestinian state is a breach of the interim agreement which was signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 1995, which said that the issue of the status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip would be discussed and resolved through negotiations." It added that recognition ignored the 2003 Middle East roadmap for peace, which said a Palestinian state could be established through dialogue but not through unilateral measures. "Every attempt to bypass this process and to decide in advance in a unilateral manner about important issues which are disputed, only harms trust between the sides, and hurts their commitment to the agreed framework of negotiating towards peace," the Foreign Ministry said.
Most Israelis now believe in a two-state solution, to preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, it is not even particularly controversial. The problem was security. Unlike the Olso process, a peace agreement would not replace security, but security arrangements would ensure peace. Israel's security requirements would need to be addressed from the beginning of the process since Israel had no response time or strategic depth. Israel's coastal strip includes seventy percent of Israel's population and eighty percent of its GDP, and a Palestinian state would be immediately adjacent. In order to compensate for this increased risk, a Palestinian state would have to be completely demilitarized, with Israel in control of Palestine's air space and land borders. There would need to be special security arrangements to protect Jerusalem and Ben Gurion Airport. Israel would also retain security control of the Jordan Valley, while maintaining early warning and intelligence gathering sites on the tops of the West Bank hills. The land link between the West Bank and Gaza would have to be under Israeli control as well.
On 12 April 2011 a United Nations report highlighted progress made by the Palestinian Authority in building institutions necessary for a functioning State, while stressing the need for Israel to roll back "measures of occupation" and for an urgent resumption of negotiations between the two sides. "In the limited territory under its control and within the constraints on the ground imposed by unresolved political issues, the PA has accelerated progress in improving its governmental functions," states the report, entitled "Palestinian State-building: A Decisive Period." Prepared by the office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO), the report notes that in the six areas where the UN is most engaged, governmental functions are now sufficient for a functioning government of a State.
September 2011 was the target date for completion of institutional readiness for statehood set by the Palestinian Authority and supported by the diplomatic grouping known as the Quartet - which comprises the UN, European Union, Russia and the United States. The World Bank's assessment in September 2010, noted by the Quartet, was that 'if the PA maintains its current performance in institution-building and delivery of public services, it is well positioned for the establishment of a state at any point in the near future'.
The Palestinians abandoned their 2011 attempt to be recognized as a full member state through the 15-member Security Council, after U.S. President Barack Obama indicated the U.S. would use its veto.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|