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Palestinian statehood: Individual nations, not the U.N., will have the final say [Blowback]

UN

Victor Kattan, a policy advisor for Al Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network, responds to two June 13 Times Op-Ed articles on the role of the United Nations in determining Palestinian statehood. Kattan is the author of the book "From Coexistence to Conquest: International Law and the Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1891-1949." His blog is at victorkattan.com.

In their Op-Ed articles on Palestinian statehood, Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzook and John R. Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, both misunderstood the nature and function of U.N. recognition in international law. Bolton's claim that President Obama is "the most anti-Israel president since 1948" was particularly galling. Was it not the president of the administration in which Bolton served who claimed to have had a "vision" of an Israeli and a Palestinian state "living side by side in peace and security," exactly as Obama wants?

As Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated recently, the option of going to the U.N. in the fall to seek recognition of a Palestinian state is a measure of last resort that will be pursued only if negotiations fail. In this regard, Abbas has repeatedly declared that he is ready to negotiate with Israel, including on the basis of the framework that Obama outlined most recently in his May 19 address.

If the Palestinians decide to seek a declaration of recognition at the U.N. General Assembly, no U.S. president or Israeli leader can prevent that. They can certainly cajole other states not to recognize Palestine, but there is no veto power in the Assembly. If, however, the Palestinians seek U.N. membership and would therefore have to earn a recommendation by the Security Council, the U.S. will have the power of veto. In light of Obama's address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee last month and 40 years of U.S. vetoes, it is highly probable that the U.S. would veto a Palestinian application for U.N. membership.

The issue of U.N. membership must, however, be separated from statehood. Palestine can still declare that it is a state and call on other nations to recognize it without seeking U.N. membership. Kosovo, Taiwan and the Vatican, for example, are considered states by some members of the international community and yet do not have U.N. membership. Switzerland only became a member in 2002, but no one would argue that it wasn't a state before then. It is for countries individually to decide whether they will recognize Palestine as a state. The reason why the Palestinians will seek recognition at the U.N. is because this is the most convenient forum in which to seek collective recognition. The Palestinian foreign minister expects that 150 states will recognize Palestine there.

If -- and it is still a big if -- negotiations founder and the Palestinians feel that they have no other option but to go the U.N. route, and if 150 states do recognize Palestine in September, then Palestine will be considered a state in the eyes of those countries that recognize it but not in the eyes of those that do not. If Britain, for example, unequivocally declares that Palestine is a state and enters into diplomatic relations, then the relationship between the two will be one between states. But Palestine's relationship with the U.S. and Israel, assuming that they refuse to recognize Palestine, would not be a relationship between states. This may seem like a tautology, but under international law recognition is solely a political matter for each state to decide.  

So does the Palestinian plan to seek recognition at the U.N. make any difference, or is it merely "entertainment" as Bolton has alleged? It depends on what happens. It is not the General Assembly resolution that will make Palestine a state. It is what states say during the vote and what they do afterward. This is not a question of whether or not a resolution is binding. Abu Marzook's comparison with the vote on the U.N. Partition Plan in 1947 is misleading, as the resolution itself did not create Israel. Rather, the 1947 plan was formulated by the international community to allow both Arabs and Jews to exercise their respective rights to self-determination upon Britain's withdrawal from the territory. It was associated with decolonization.

Israel exists today not because of the U.N. vote in 1947 but because it won the war in 1948, when many of Palestine's indigenous Arab population either fled or were expelled by Israel to create a Jewish majority. Israel has kept hold of the territory it acquired since that date, and it has been recognized as the sovereign power within the ceasefire lines established in 1949 by most states in the world, including the Palestine Liberation Organization.

A U.S. vote in the U.N. General Assembly against Palestinian statehood would be most unfortunate. Even "symbolic votes" affect legitimacy. In the light of the current clamor for democracy in the Middle East, the U.S. could end up positioning itself on the wrong side of history. It would also be acting against its own stated policy, as it voted in favor of the 1947 plan, which sought to establish an Arab state as well as a Jewish state. The U.S. also voted in favor of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1515 in 2003, which reaffirmed President George W. Bush's "vision of a region where two states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side within secure and recognized borders." 

RELATED:

Palestinian statehood: What's the U.N.'s role?

Abbas takes greater risks as he again tries to unify Palestinians

The long view in Israel against the 1967 line

Middle East peace: The wrong pact

-- Victor Kattan

Photo: The United Nations General Assembly in session on June 8. Credit: Bebeto Matthews / Associated Press

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Comments () | Archives (13)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Peter

What a load of worthless trash...as usual.

Abbas is willing to negotiate? No. Abbas refuses to negotiate. Maybe because he knows that a reasonable agreement with Israel would be his death sentence.

The Palestinian obsession with annihilating Israel lives on. The military tack has failed and so they now hope to insinuate themselves like a spreading virus.

The Palestinian leadership has never exhibited any ability or the responsibility to govern a legitimate state. They've spoiled the many offers and opportunities for statehood made to them over the last 75 years. And to think that they could be trusted in any international diplomatic situation is laughable.

At least the corruption of the United Nations will be held up for all to see.

Mariella


Excellent. Thank heavens that Palestinians will finally get just a tiny bit of what they deserve after years of murder, theft, intimidation and forced poverty.

IN YOUR FACE, Israel and the United States.

mark

Marella,
It is kind of hard to murder an enemy who vows to kill you. If Israel were all the lies you say they are they would ram a sword into every living thing that swears to murder them. As it is the million plus arabs who live in Israel live in a democracy. I do not see any emerging democrays in the Arab world do you? I read that Syria and lebanon and libya are killing there fellow Arabs. I never heard of an Israeli killing them in cold blood. Of course after the 7000th rocket launched into Israel caused operation cast lead but you kind of bring that on yourself when you launch rockets into your neighbors country , don`t you think? You are either a misguided liberal or a Jew hating muslim, it does not matter a lie told a million times is still a lie.

Tommy Birchfield

LATimes and I are right, and under internatio​nal law recognitio​n is solely a political matter for each state to decide.

|Thomas Birchfield

Palestinian statehood: Individual nations, not the U.N., will have the
final say President Barack needs to back Mahmoud Abbas, to show the
Palestinians and the Arab World he not only believes them he is
willing to fight for them! "Nutanyahu has made the President look
like a fool, and all Israel, believes "Nutanyahu over the President,
the President cannot have it both ways!

...'Read on...


Victor Kattan, a policy advisor for Al Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy
Network, responds to two June 13 Times Op-Ed articles on the role of
the United Nations in determining Palestinian statehood. Kattan is the
author of the book "From Coexistence to Conquest: International Law
and the Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1891-1949." His blog is
at victorkattan.com.

In their Op-Ed articles on Palestinian statehood, Hamas official Mousa
Abu Marzook and John R. Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United
Nations, both misunderstood the nature and function of U.N.
recognition in international law. Bolton's claim that President Obama
is "the most anti-Israel president since 1948" was particularly
galling. Was it not the president of the administration in which
Bolton served who claimed to have had a "vision" of an Israeli and a
Palestinian state "living side by side in peace and security," exactly
as Obama wants?

As Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated recently, the option
of going to the U.N. in the fall to seek recognition of a Palestinian
state is a measure of last resort that will be pursued only if
negotiations fail. In this regard, Abbas has repeatedly declared that
he is ready to negotiate with Israel, including on the basis of the
framework that Obama outlined most recently in his May 19 address.

If the Palestinians decide to seek a declaration of recognition at the
U.N. General Assembly, no U.S. president or Israeli leader can prevent
that. They can certainly cajole other states not to recognize
Palestine, but there is no veto power in the Assembly. If, however,
the Palestinians seek U.N. membership and would therefore have to earn
a recommendation by the Security Council, the U.S. will have the power
of veto. In light of Obama's address to the American Israel Public
Affairs Committee last month and 40 years of U.S. vetoes, it is highly
probable that the U.S. would veto a Palestinian application for U.N.
membership.

The issue of U.N. membership must, however, be separated from
statehood. Palestine can still declare that it is a state and call on
other nations to recognize it without seeking U.N. membership. Kosovo,
Taiwan and the Vatican, for example, are considered states by some
members of the international community and yet do not have U.N.
membership. Switzerland only became a member in 2002, but no one would
argue that it wasn't a state before then. It is for countries
individually to decide whether they will recognize Palestine as a
state. The reason why the Palestinians will seek recognition at the
U.N. is because this is the most convenient forum in which to seek
collective recognition. The Palestinian foreign minister expects that
150 states will recognize Palestine there.

If -- and it is still a big if -- negotiations founder and the
Palestinians feel that they have no other option but to go the U.N.
route, and if 150 states do recognize Palestine in September, then
Palestine will be considered a state in the eyes of those countries
that recognize it but not in the eyes of those that do not. If
Britain, for example, unequivocally declares that Palestine is a state
and enters into diplomatic relations, then the relationship between
the two will be one between states. But Palestine's relationship with
the U.S. and Israel, assuming that they refuse to recognize Palestine,
would not be a relationship between states. This may seem like a
tautology, but under international law recognition is solely a
political matter for each state to decide.

So does the Palestinian plan to seek recognition at the U.N. make any
difference, or is it merely "entertainment" as Bolton has alleged? It
depends on what happens. It is not the General Assembly resolution
that will make Palestine a state. It is what states say during the
vote and what they do afterward. This is not a question of whether or
not a resolution is binding. Abu Marzook's comparison with the vote on
the U.N. Partition Plan in 1947 is misleading, as the resolution
itself did not create Israel. Rather, the 1947 plan was formulated by
the international community to allow both Arabs and Jews to exercise
their respective rights to self-determination upon Britain's
withdrawal from the territory. It was associated with decolonization.

Israel exists today not because of the U.N. vote in 1947 but because
it won the war in 1948, when many of Palestine's indigenous Arab
population either fled or were expelled by Israel to create a Jewish
majority. Israel has kept hold of the territory it acquired since that
date, and it has been recognized as the sovereign power within the
ceasefire lines established in 1949 by most states in the world,
including the Palestine Liberation Organization.

A U.S. vote in the U.N. General Assembly against Palestinian statehood
would be most unfortunate. Even "symbolic votes" affect legitimacy. In
the light of the current clamor for democracy in the Middle East, the
U.S. could end up positioning itself on the wrong side of history. It
would also be acting against its own stated policy, as it voted in
favor of the 1947 plan, which sought to establish an Arab state as
well as a Jewish state. The U.S. also voted in favor of U.N. Security
Council Resolution 1515 in 2003, which reaffirmed President George W.
Bush's "vision of a region where two states, Israel and Palestine,
live side by side within secure and recognized borders."

RELATED:

Palestinian statehood: What's the U.N.'s role?
Abbas takes greater risks as he again tries to unify Palestinians
The long view in Israel against the 1967 line
Middle East peace: The wrong pact


-- Victor Kattan

..."When in command sir...command!

...."I discovered; "I always have choices, "And Sometimes; "It's only
a choice of attitude."---Abraham Lincoln, Sixteenth, President of the
United States.

Sincerely, your friend, Tommy Birchfield, VOter/Vet USAF,
College Graduate, Class, 2007,
East Tennessee State University

Sandy

Neither the UN, nor any other nation will decide whether "Palestine" is a nation. It's the people who wish to call themselves a nation who must decide.

Are they really interested in having their own nation, or more interested in destroying their neighbours' nation?

If all they want is the West Bank and Gaza, why didn't they demand sovereignty when Jordan and Egypt held those territiories? What were they trying to "liberate" when they formed the PLO in 1964 and stated hijacking airliners and murdering civilians?

Do they wish to have an economy that has more than two industries (international aid and terrorism)?

me

http://www.ccmep.org/delegations/maps/palestine.html

I have to laugh anymore when I read the comments on the Palestinians wanting to ' wipe Israel off the map ' or ' destroy their neighbor ' or ' push all jews into the sea ' when actually you can see from the map it is the other way around. The map shows the gradual ' wiping off the map ' of Palestine.

63 years of stealing land from the Palestinians.

If you repeat a lie over and over people will start to believe it.

RogerRoger

Anybody wonder why Netanyahu won't stop settlement building?

He can't. The Israeli form of government ensures that there never will be peace between Palestinians and Jews until all Palestinians have been removed from Judea and Samaria (West Bank).

Gordon Santa Monica

The UN can do whatever it wants … if everyone is seeking statehood then the conditions have to be met as stated Before sitting down ... Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and security does not mean that it will be easy to come back to the table. In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel - how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist. In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question. Meanwhile, the United States, our Quartet partners, and the Arab states will need to continue every effort to get beyond the current impasse.
…. ELSE …
Sounds to me like the Middle Eastern Countries along with the Countries that established Israel after World War II are ready to watch the area explode into nothingness … If such a word exist?

All this analysis is nothing but the wasting away of beautiful trees. Think about it ... Israel now has in place a submarine with nuclear weapons in the Persian Gulf and Iran is protecting itself against any impending threats.

Sit back world and watch the fireworks.
*******************gaptidbits@yahoo.com*************************************

The real question for me is not “Talking for Peace again”, but is this the last chance before the Middle East blows itself to hell?

Having said the above, I believe the President Obama realizes the profound truth, that the position of the United States as a Mediator Nation is a position of great responsibility. Failure is not an option for the President and the United States. The President realizes that the consequences of failure, could lead to a Middle East nuclear disaster and the Region destroyed. The disastrous affect on the World stage as a whole and the Middle East in particular will be...

1. Population Disaster.
2. Economic Disaster.
3. Environmental Disaster.
4. Diplomatic Disaster.
5. Political Disaster.
6. Religious Disaster.

I believe the true road to peace in the Middle East may involve the belief in the threat of the above by the leaders in the Middle East and that they finally see a disastrous end to Civilization in the Middle East. Much is at stake.
.
I believe the President and his Middle East advisors including the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, want a total solution in the Middle East … a solution which includes …the security of the region, resolution to the Iran Nuclear threat, political independence of members in the region, the economical stability in the region, along with solutions to any other topical concerns of the members in the region.

I believe the President and his Middle East advisors including the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, would like the major countries involved … from outside the Middle East … to be, at the very least, those major countries involved in the post World War II solution, regarding the establishment of Israel … The other countries would obviously be all those interested Middle East countries … along with other stakeholder countries around the world …

*******************gaptidbits@yahoo.com**********************

Shlomo

The zionists trolls are out in force. Don't u see it really does not matter what the Zionist says or does? America is bankrupt, thanks to stealing byWall Street and AIPACs war in Iraq. US has become a laughing stock because of you to the entire worldEurope is disintegrating. The East couldn't care less about the racist apartheid regime in Israel. There is a new economic power being born in the Middle East, central Asia and the far east. For them the key is to trade with the Middle East and they will roll over any roach on their way. Lol

johnsun555

What you call Palestinians are people who came from Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, and even Yemen. Just a few months ago, a group of Arabs from the west bank went to visit their homeland Libya, and the leader Qaddafi. It was by the time of ruling the area by the British, Turkish Ottoman, and just to get some work by the Jews who worked hard to develop the desert and swampy land. Those Arab men, after they found work, they brought their wives and children, and after a generation or two, they started to claim the land, falsifying stories that they were there for thousand of years. And by the way, Jordan, was cut of by the British Empire, and was created as a state in 1947, it is 2/3 of old Palestine. The rest of the land,meaning 1/2 only, was promised to the Jews, although it belonged to the Jews for the last 3,000 years, and was conquered by one empire after another during history. The wast bank is included in this 1/3 piece of land. The big mistake among others the the British made was, not allowing Jews to live in Jordan, but letting in Arabs from neighboring areas into what was promised to be the Jewish land. Imagine the Mexicans who come to look for work in the US, will start organizing and making up a name of a nation which never excited, and demand that part of the US belongs to them.

JohnZ52

It was entirely acceptable in 1947 for the U.N. to unilaterally create Israel from Palestine real estate even though the zionists had two active terrorist organizations, the Irgun and Lehi, at that time. The creation of Israel is predicated upon the singular believe in a book of myths written over 2,000 years ago by dozens of nomadic Jews over a period of hundreds of years. Nothing biased in that...Right.

James Hovland

Peter!
Your claim that Palestine has "never exhibited any ability or the responsibility to govern a legitimate state" is about two years out of date, and currently absolutely incorrect. You need to catch up. A lot has changed. The Palestinians are actually fully prepared for statehood. Ask the UN, the IMF, and EU, who have all publicly announced pretty much exactly that.

Due to the actions on both sides of this conflict the balance of power has shifted significantly in favor of the Palestinians.

The pro-Israel propaganda may still be effective at keeping the fools fooled, but anyone taking the time to pay attention, or responsibly for anything beyond commenting their blind support, has a far more realistic understand of what's going on.

The continued settlement expansion constitutes a blatant rejection of both the peace-process and the two state solution. Israel's leaders don't want to negotiate yet, they want to settle more land. That is abundantly clear.

LA Times Reader

Although the UN voted back then for a Jewish and a Palestinian State, the Palestinian State unfortunately was hogged by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan therefore
there was no place for the "arab Palestinians" to settle anywhere.....
in addition, the Arabs of then Palestine didnt flee or get kicked out of the place.. its the Arab Nations that attacked the Jews back then ordered them to LEAVE UNTIL THE LAND IS LIBERATED.... which they lost....
its the Arab countries surrounding today's Israel that should take responsibility what they did to their "cousins"


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