News / Middle East

Palestine a State Already, Some Scholars Argue

Experts agree that UN recognition not essential, but differ on definition of statehood.

Palestinian students hold flags as they arrive to deliver letters to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon through the head of the UN office in the West Bank city of Ramallah September 20, 2011, ahead of President Mahmoud Abbas' bid for statehood recognition a
Palestinian students hold flags as they arrive to deliver letters to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon through the head of the UN office in the West Bank city of Ramallah September 20, 2011, ahead of President Mahmoud Abbas' bid for statehood recognition a
Davin HutchinsCecily Hilleary

Barring any diplomatic surprises, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas intends to make the case for membership before the United Nations this week. However, some analysts say he need not bother – that, in fact, Palestine already is a state, whether a U.N. member or not.

John Quigley, professor of international law at Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University, and author of The Statehood of Palestine: International Law in the Middle East Conflict, argues that Palestine has, in effect, been sovereign since the end of the British Mandate in 1948. Further, he says, Palestine officially declared itself a state in 1988, and when the U.N. responded to that declaration, it was in effect recognizing Palestine.

John Quigley
John Quigley

He cites the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States of 1933, which stipulates that “statehood” is not dependent on recognition by other states.  To be considered an official state, an entity must possess a permanent population, defined territory, a government and the capacity to enter into relations with the other states.

Quigley argues that Palestinians meet all of these criteria, therefore it is not even necessary for them to go the U.N. “That is, I think Palestine is a state presently, and that what would be done at the U.N. would simply be a confirmation of that.”

If that’s the case, why is Abbas proceeding with his U.N. bid? “The International Criminal Court,” says Quigley, “would be likely to go ahead with investigating the alleged war crimes…that may have been committed in Palestine’s territory.”

Quigley also argues that there is legal precedent for the General Assembly to override a veto by any member of the Security Council. “There’s a long history on this issue,” he said.  “It came up in the 1940s, when the Soviet Union was vetoing. At that time, the United States made a unilateral commitment in the General Assembly that it would never veto an application for admission.”

Guy S. Goodwin-Gill
Guy S. Goodwin-Gill

However, other analysts disagree, saying that in the case of Palestine, things are not so cut and dry. Guy S. Goodwin-Gill, Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, says that the Montevideo Convention, while it offers the classic definition of a state, is problematic.

Palestinian Statehood Bid Breakdown

    The Process

  • Palestinians say they are seeking U.N. recognition after years of negotiations with Israel failed to deliver an independent state.
  • It is not clear if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will seek U.N. Security Council approval of U.N. member status for an independent Palestine, or instead seek "non-member status" within the world body.
  • The mechanism for recognizing statehood at the United Nations is specific.
  • First, a resolution declaring a State of Palestine as a full U.N. member is introduced. Then the resolution is sent to the Security Council, which studies it and takes a vote on sending the measure to the full General Assembly. It takes two thirds of the U.N.'s membership to approve voting-state status.
  • Achieving non-member status requires only a simple majority vote in the 193-member General Assembly. Palestinians currently hold observer status at the world body.
  • Non-voting U.N. membership would provide Palestinians with a status upgrade that would allow them to petition U.N. committees and entities such as the International Court of Justice.

    Why the Palestinian bid?

  • President Abbas backed out of U.S.-led peace talks last year in protest against Israel's decision to end a freeze in settlement building on land the Palestinians want for a future state. Palestinians say because the peace process has failed, they will unilaterally seek to establish a state. Abbas said the Palestinians are the only people in the world who remain under occupation.

    Why the Israelis oppose the move?

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the Palestinians' plan to seek statehood recognition at the United Nations is "futile," and that only direct negotiations can lead to a peace agreement.
  • Netanyahu has accused the Palestinians of "consistently evading" negotiations. He called on the Palestinian Authority "to abandon unilateral steps" and said it would then "find Israel to be a genuine partner" for peace.
  • Israel leaders say that by bypassing talks and going to the U.N., the Palestinians are violating previous agreements, and that could result in Israeli sanctions.

    Why the U.S. promises to veto?

  • The Obama administration opposes the Palestinian move and says it will not help to bring Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table. President Obama has called the proposal a "distraction" to attaining Mideast peace that he says can only be addressed through negotiations.
  • The U.S., one of five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council, says it will veto a Palestinian membership bid in the Council if it comes to a vote.

“That is a mixture of matters of fact, which perhaps were to be determined objectively, and also some matters of appreciational discretion which is where, if you like,  the interesting dimension comes in,” he said.

In simpler terms, Goodwin-Gill suggests that the Convention is sufficiently vague that it can be interpreted according to the political objectives of other states.  

He also points to the fact that Palestine is under occupation. “That is a qualification of what we look for in every state, which is independence,” he said.

Goodwin-Gill argues that because the borders of Palestinian territory are vague and disputed and the Palestinian Authority does not exercise full sovereignty over its territory, Palestine cannot be considered a state and it will not, until it comes to a final settlement through negotiations with Israel.  

He does concede that the conventions are not hard and fast rules.  “There are certainly anomalies or entities around the world which do not, on any objective criterion, meet all the requirements of statehood, but which nonetheless are accepted,” Goodwin-Gill said.   Such as Monaco, which is a sovereign and independent state, but still linked to France in some matters, such as defense.

Like Quigley, Goodwin-Gill says recognition by the United Nations isn’t necessary in order to be considered a state. He cites the example of Switzerland, which did not become a member of the United Nations “family” until 2002.

He disagrees with his colleague, however, on the matter of whether the General Assembly can override a Security Council veto, saying that the U.N. Charter is quite clear that a state cannot be recognized without a Security Council recommendation.  However, that is not to say the General Assembly could not find other political means of enhancing Palestine’s standing, if enough states ask it to do so.

In the end, Goodwin-Gill says, statehood is very much dependent on how you are treated by other countries.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.
بعض الباحثين القانونيين يقولون ان الاراضي الفلسطينية هي دولة مسبقا الرئيس الفلسطيني محمود عباس لصنع الحال بالنسبة للعضوية في الأمم المتحدة هذا الأسبوع. لكن بعض المحللين يقولون ان القانون الفلسطيني، في الواقع، هو بالفعل دولة وفقا لبعض الاتفاقيات الدولية.

You May Like

Ukraine: Mysterious 'Roaming Tank' Reportedly Takes Aim at Smugglers

Ukraine's TV, print media, Facebook abuzz with reports a 'roaming tank' is on the loose, destroying vehicles of those involved in smuggling More

US Wildlife Service Begins Probe of Killing of Cecil the Lion

Minnesota man accused of killing beast is in hiding, has been asked to contact US officials; White House to review extradition petition More

Video Kerry Five-Nation Tour to Cover Security, Iran Nuclear Deal

Secretary of state will visit Egypt, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam to discuss security issues, Iran nuclear deal, Trans-Pacific Partnership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs