The UNGA Recognizes the State of PalestinePosted: December 3, 2012
I’ve written a couple of posts lately on the Israel-Palestine conflict, the most recent of which is here, where I argued that the U.N. Security Council should step in to the situation and act under Chapter VII to legally determine the boundaries of a Palestinian state.
As all will now be aware, the UN General Assembly voted last Thursday to upgrade Palestine’s UN status to “non-member observer state.” I do think that this was a significant manifestation by a supermajority of states (138) of recognition of Palestine as a state, with borders defined by the 1949 Armistice (Green) line.
Of course, this was not the first such manifestation of recognition. To date, 131 of the world’s 193 states have formally recognized the statehood of Palestine. I’m very much a proponent of the constitutive theory of recognition in the law of statehood, so this fact is very influential in my opinion. It’s only the identity of the holdouts (the US and Europe) that keeps the situation at all questionable – though there should be no question in my opinion. In terms of the Montevideo Convention criteria (permanent population, defined territory, government, capacity to enter into legal relations), in addition to the steady stream of formal recognitions since 1988, the state of Palestine has almost certainly existed for decades, simply in a continuing situation of foreign military occupation.
I think that the numbers here are really striking – both in terms of the recent UNGA vote and in terms of formal recognitions. The US so often likes to get on its high horse about how other countries are out of step with, or flouting the “will of the international community” on some issue. Well on this issue, the shoe is most definitely on the other foot, and it’s the US and Europe that are out of step with the will and judgment of the international community – and decidedly so.
Over at opinio juris, Kevin Jon Heller has some excellent analysis of the International Criminal Court jurisdiction implications of the UNGA vote.
It appears that, in direct response to the UNGA vote, Israel has decided to take the perversely provocative and illegal step of moving forward with additional settlement building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, in direct contravention of the ICJ’s 2006 determination that such settlements in occupied territory are in violation of international law. These actions threaten to make a two-state solution logistically impossible.
I think that all of these developments only support my argument that it’s time for the Security Council to step in and legally determine the boundaries of the state of Palestine. If it did so, and at the same time ordered Israel to withdraw from its military occupation of Palestinian state territory, it would clear the way for the Palestinians to set up, with international assistance, a working government for their state. Such a full and final disposition of the competing territorial claims of Israel and the Palestinians is the only way to move forward meaningfully toward a lasting, peaceful coexistence between the two nations.