With Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas circling the globe drumming up support from UN Security Council countries for his statehood bid, the Foreign Ministry circulated a document to its representatives abroad this week, spelling out legal arguments against the move.
The document, written by the Foreign Ministry’s legal department at the behest of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, is to serve as a basis for Israel’s envoys in their continued efforts to poke holes into the Palestinians’ argument that they are ready for statehood.
Abbas is currently in Colombia, and on his way to Portugal, to lobby those countries to support his bid in the Security Council.
“The Palestinian request for membership in the United Nations, which was submitted to the Secretary-General on September 23, 2011, implies that a Palestinian state already, somehow, exists,” read the document, obtained by The Jerusalem Post.
“The request asked to build upon this supposedly existing status to request membership in the United Nations. However, based on both traditional and contemporary legal and tangible tests, it is clear that while one day the Palestinian state could come into existence, today the Palestinian entity has not achieved the status of statehood.”
The five-page paper states that under the accepted principles of international law going back to the Montevideo Convention of 1933, there are four prerequisites for statehood: a permanent population; defined territory; effective government; and a capacity to enter into relations with other states.
Regarding its permanent population, the paper stated that the Palestinians have “been ambiguous about which group of people would constitute the permanent population of their state.”
“The Palestinians seem to be seeking to establish a new state, and at the same time preserve the status of Palestinians living in the diaspora as so-called ‘refugees,’” the document continued.
“As part of this effort, they have presented contradictory positions, wanting to continue to represent all Palestinians on refugee-related claims, but, at the same time, stating that they do not intend to grant citizenship to members of the Palestinian diaspora.”
According to the document, this is an “internal contradiction” that necessarily leads to ambiguity on the population issue since a state can only represent the claims of its own citizens.
The document cited a report in Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper in which Abdullah Abdullah, the Palestinian ambassador to Lebanon, said the future Palestinian state would not be issuing Palestinian passports to refugees – even refugees living in the West Bank and Gaza.
As to the prerequisite of effective government, the document said it would be difficult to argue that the Palestinians presently meet the most basic test of effective governmental control of the territories they are claiming within their state.
“Hamas continues to exercise full control of the Gaza Strip,” the document read. “Despite the signing by Fatah and Hamas of a so-called ‘Reconciliation Agreement’ in May 2011, nothing has changed in practice.
Palestinian Authority leadership, which submitted the UN request for membership, is completely excluded from responsibility in Gaza and retains no control in Gaza.”
One glaring example of this lack of effective control is that Abbas himself has been unable to visit Gaza since Hamas seized control there in 2007.
In addition to a lack of control over Gaza, the Palestinians also do not have control over the West Bank, with some 60 percent effectively under full- Israeli control, as part of Area C.
“Therefore,” the document reads, “the Palestinians would have a difficult time demonstrating effective control over most of the territory they are currently claiming, both regarding the West Bank and Gaza.”
The paper also argues that “recent trends” suggest other criteria as well when considering whether an entity is a state: that it be based on a “lawful claim of statehood;” that it commit itself to international law, human rights and global peace; and that it constitute a viable entity. On each of these counts, the paper argued, the Palestinians fell short.