A unilateral declaration of statehood?

Secretary of State Clinton with a Palestinian flag. What would the US do?

Secretary of State Clinton with a Palestinian flag. What would the US do?

There has been a certain amount of talk about the possibility of a unilateral declaration of the state of ‘Palestine’ within the 1949 armistice lines. Nobody knows what would actually happen if the Palestinian Authority proceeds along this course, but some interesting questions come up:

The Arabs have enough votes in the UN General Assembly to pass almost any resolution that they want. But the Security Council, which is the only UN body that can actually enforce a resolution — by means of sanctions or even military force — is subject to the veto of any of its permanent members: the US, UK, France, Russia and China. What would these nations do?

What would the US do? Barry Rubin says that some Israeli officials expect that the Obama Administration will go all-out to ‘solve’ the Arab-Israeli conflict after the midterm elections. Since this is defined almost entirely in terms of getting a Palestinian state, and there is no overlap between Arab and Israeli positions that can bring this about through negotiations, the US might choose to support a unilateral declaration — or at least abstain.

Would Gaza be part of ‘Palestine’ and if so would Hamas be part of its government?

How many countries would recognize ‘Palestine’?

What would happen next? Would Palestinian authorities immediately demand that all Jewish settlements be evacuated? Would there be a time limit? Would the Palestinians try to expel Jews by force, as the Jordanians did in 1948? Would it try, in particular, to take possession of East Jerusalem (a casus belli if I ever saw one)?

If ‘Palestine’ becomes a sovereign state, it will have the ability to make alliances and even invite foreign troops into its territory to ‘defend’ it.

Such a declaration would be advantageous for the Arabs — if they could pull it off — because it would get them territory without requiring any concessions at all to Israel. ‘Palestine’ could continue to demand that refugees be allowed to ‘return’ to Israel, it could militarize, it could defend its airspace, etc. And it could continue to engage in ‘resistance’ against Israel.

‘Palestine’ already has a constitution, which has gone through several drafts. It tries to take into account the competing visions of Arab nationalism and Islamism that characterize the various factions in Palestinian Arab politics:

Article (1)

The State of Palestine is a sovereign, independent republic. Its territory is an indivisible unit based upon its borders on the eve of June 4, 1967, without prejudice to the rights guaranteed by the international resolutions relative to Palestine. All residents of this territory shall be subject to Palestinian law exclusively.

Article (2)

Palestine is part of the Arab nation. The state of Palestine abides by the charter of the League of Arab States. The Palestinian people are part of the Arab and Islamic nations. Arab unity is a goal, the Palestinian people hopes to achieve.

Article (3)

Palestine is a peace loving state that condemns terror, occupation and aggression. It calls for the resolution of international and regional problems by peaceful means. It abides by the Charter of the United Nations.

Article (4)

Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Palestine and seat of its public authorities.

Article (5)

Arabic and Islam are the official Palestinian language and religion. Christianity and all other monotheistic religions shall be equally revered and respected. The Constitution guarantees equality in rights and duties to all citizens irrespective of their religious belief.

Article (6)

The Palestinian flag, motto, seals, emblems, and national anthem shall be determined by law.

Article (7)

The principles of Islamic Shari’a are a major source for legislation. Civil and religious matters of the followers of monotheistic religions shall be organized in accordance with their religious teachings and denominations within the framework of law, while preserving the unity and independence of the Palestinian people.

Some things are notable here:

Although the leadership has firmly and consistently rejected the idea of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, ‘Palestine’ is defined as having an ‘official religion’ and its laws will be based on Shari’a! Note also that Article 3 condemns ‘occupation’. I don’t think they were thinking of the Chinese occupation of Tibet when they wrote this.

Hindus and Buddhists, who are not considered “monotheists,” will not be “revered and respected” in ‘Palestine’, should they choose to live there. Article 7, if interpreted in keeping with the traditional principles of Islam, implies that the monotheists will pay a special tax while non-monotheists will be required to accept Islam or leave.

Article (12)

Palestinian nationality shall be regulated by law, without prejudice to the rights of those who legally acquired it prior to May 10, 1948 or the rights of the Palestinians residing in Palestine prior to this date, and who were forced into exile or departed there from and denied return thereto. This right passes on from fathers or mothers to their progenitor [sic — they mean ‘progeny’]. It neither disappears nor elapses unless voluntarily relinquished. A Palestinian cannot be deprived of his nationality. The acquisition and relinquishment of Palestinian nationality shall be regulated by law. The rights and duties of citizens with multiple nationalities shall be governed by law.

Article (13)

Palestinians who left Palestine as a result of the 1948 war, and who were denied return thereto shall have the right to return to the Palestinian state and bear its nationality. It is a permanent, inalienable, and irrevocable right.

The state of Palestine shall strive to apply the legitimate right of return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes, and to obtain compensation, through negotiations, political, and legal channels in accordance with the 1948 United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 and the principles of international law.

According to this document, there will be even more ‘Palestinians’ than are recognized today by UNRWA, which allows Palestinian status to descend only to those with ‘Palestinian’ fathers. And the state of ‘Palestine’, as part of its constitution, calls for a right of return.

It’s interesting that Article 13 says that ‘Palestinians who left Palestine as a result of the 1948 war’ will have the right of return to the Palestinian state. There were between 550,000 and 700,00 of them in 1948, and there are far fewer today. The rest of the 4.5 million Arabs with refugee status, therefore, will either go to Israel or stay in refugee camps. This is consistent with the Arab position since 1949 — ‘refugees’ will never be allowed to have a home until Israel is destroyed.

Will they do it? My guess is quite possibly, if they think they can get US support. Remember, their goal is the replacement of Israel with ‘Palestine’, not a state alongside Israel. A partition agreement that Israel could accept to would include demilitarization, various security features, and limitations on sovereignty, at least for a time. It would also rule out an influx of ‘refugees’ and would put the Arabs on the wrong side of international law if they violate it.

And the US? Who knows? Foreign policy under this administration is neither consistent nor rational.

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2 Responses to “A unilateral declaration of statehood?”

  1. levari says:

    every day obama is in office leaves me further convinced that he’s a manchurian candidate of some sort. i don’t think he’s even aware of it. he’s had this baffled look on his face lately, as if he were struggling to understand his own actions, and coming up with nothing.
    also, the palestinians are welcome to declare whatever they want. any military aggression on their part will be reciprocated with a dresden-style response.

  2. NormanF says:

    The Palestinians could do it but Israel would then be freed to take whatever steps it saw fit to protect its interests. They are aware of this and the reason they haven’t taken that step is because it would hurt them more in the end than it would hurt Israel. Also, the Palestinians don’t have control of territory and borders, Gaza excepted, that qualifies them for statehood status. And they have an economy wholly dependent on foreign subvention for survival. They have had 17 years to prepare for independence and are nowhere closer to that goal than they have been for decades now.