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November 29, 2012

Where's the Coverage? "Palestine" Doesn't Qualify as a State


There has been quite a bit of coverage of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas asking the United Nations General Assembly to recognize a Palestinian state. But the media has focused mostly on the political angle: which nations will support this gambit and which nations will not support it. There has been coverage of the fact that the GA will almost certainly vote to approve and likely by a landslide. However, scant attention has been paid to the fact that "Palestine" does not qualify for statehood under international law. Other than CAMERA's backgrounder, we could find only one blog post on the subject.

According to article 4 of the United Nations charter membership is reserved for states (and "peace loving" states at that, but that's a whole other story). But Abbas is asking for "non-member state" status. This would presumably make it easier for "Palestine" to join the International Criminal Court with the intention of bringing cases against Israeli leaders. (This could backfire, of course, since Palestinian leaders would also be subject to the ICC – see "peace loving" above.)

The question remains, however, does "Palestine" qualify as a state? Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States provides the internationally recognized criteria of statehood:

The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: a) a permanent population; b) a defined territory; c) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.

Does "Palestine" have a permanent population? If so, why do Palestinian leaders frequently demand that residents be allowed to become citizens of another state, Israel?

Does "Palestine" have a defined territory? According to article 17 of the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, signed by Israeli and Palestinian leaders, the Palestinian Legislative Council does NOT have jurisdiction over "issues that will be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations: Jerusalem, settlements, specified military locations, Palestinian refugees, borders, foreign relations and Israelis". No jurisdiction over borders? No defined territory.

Does "Palestine" have a government? You could argue it has two: one government in areas of the West Bank and one in Gaza. And they don't even get along with each other. That's not an effective government by any stretch of the imagination.

Does "Palestine" have the capacity to enter into relations with other states? Again, not under the Interim Agreement. Article 9, paragraph 5-a states clearly:

...[T]he [Palestinian Legislative] Council will not have powers and responsibilities in the sphere of foreign relations, which sphere includes the establishment abroad of embassies, consulates or other types of foreign missions and posts or permitting their establishment in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, the appointment of or admission of diplomatic and consular staff, and the exercise of diplomatic functions.

So on all four counts, "Palestine" does not qualify as a state and hence cannot be recognized as such by the United Nations General Assembly. But then, as Abba Eban said, "If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the Earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions."

No permanent population, no defined territory, no effective government, no capacity to conduct foreign relations, and yet... no coverage either!

(For a more complete and legally authoritative review of this subject, click here.)

Posted by SC at November 29, 2012 04:50 AM


The Oslo agreement forbids any unilateral changes in status-quo. The contract was backed among others by the EU.

Well, the Palestinians are free to do what they want, but where's the credibility of European countries, if they act in contrast to what they have agreed to support.

No wonder, why Israel still trusts nobody.

Posted by: One European at November 29, 2012 08:43 AM

The Arab automatic majority, corrupt UN is anything but a democracy. It is Arab dictate through 22 state countries, petro dollars, intimidation and terror.
Israelis have every right to be on the WB!
Ask yourself why don't these same U.N countries support a Kurdish state?

The PA refuses to negotiate peace with Israel without preconditions. So, they're not talking anyways. The only thing the PA and the Arab and Muslim governments know how to do is make demands and issue threats and ultimatums. The word "compromise" is not part of their vocabulary.

Posted by: Ed Frias at November 29, 2012 09:00 AM

You can't have a people voting in a terrorist group to decide government policy.
You can't have a terrorist group running a government, or a people.
You can't have a group of people that let terrorists launch bombs,rockets and missiles at neighboring countries, from their homes, and be rewarded with statehood.
You can't have a population that hasn't worked, or educated itself in meaningful professions that function in the 21st century, and have made use of the gray matter between their ears, so that they can be self supporting, and have the institutions that constitute a country, and a peoplehood.

Posted by: glenda urmacher at November 29, 2012 11:03 AM

Maybe Israel should demand the return of all the land and money that was confiscated from the refugees who were expelled from the surrounding nations after Israel became a state. In addition to that, they should demand the right of return for their descendants, also.

Posted by: mjazzguitar at December 2, 2012 01:01 PM

A few other creative ideas:
1) Since both Egypt and Gaza are now run by the Muslim Brotherhood, why not encourage Egypt to annex Gaza? Egypt would then be responsible for clearing out the rocket launchers in Gaza.
2) If the PA is gaining traction in their claim to East Jerusalem, then we could encourage Christian Zionists to demand a Christian State in the West Bank and Gaza as well. They can also claim parts of Hebron, Bethlehem, Shechem (Nablus), Jericho, and other historically significant cities.
3) We can also encourage other Christian minorities that have been oppressed in Lebanon (the Maronites), in Egypt (the Coptics), and throughout North Africa, Turkey, Syria and Iran. They all deserve statehood and equal rights. They deserve equal protection under the law, and representation in the ICC for numerous human rights and civil rights violations perpetrated against them.
There are so many ways to level the playing field...

Posted by: Roddy at December 6, 2012 11:03 PM

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