Special Sovereignty: International Precedents to Less-Than-A-Palestinian State

T. Belman. As I reported elsewhere, Mudar and I have agreed between us, that Israel should be sovereign over all land to west of Jordan River. The Jordan Option envisages autonomous Palestinian areas west of the Jordan R. in some kind of confederation with Jordan. My suggestion was a long term lease of such areas to Jordan. Another suggestion was something akin to Indian Reservations in Canada and the US.

This paper expands the options.

Either full Annexation or “Occupation”? International Examples Establish the Precedent of Special Sovereignty

By Or YissacharBrig. Gen. (Res.) Yossi KuperwasserLt. Col. (Res.) Maurice Hirsch, IDSF

Breaking the False Dichotomy: Precedents set by the western democratic world for autonomy and special geopolitical arrangements

Notwithstanding the fervent discourse concerning the future of Israel’s control of the territories of Judea and Samaria (“West Bank”), a more nuanced assessment reveals that much of the passionate dispute is in regards to the specific details rather than the substantive position.

On the one hand, the more conservative wing of the Israeli political map does not propose full sovereignty in all of Judea and Samaria – plans promoted by right-wing political actors typically call for the establishment of some form of Palestinian entity (a state, autonomy, self-rule, etc.)  in at least some portion of Judea and Samaria. At the same time, the left wing of the Israeli political map does not support a full withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines – most plans supported by left-wing actors recognize the need retail Israeli control of the Jordan Valley, Israeli sovereignty in the major Jewish settlement blocs, and effective demilitarization of the Palestinian entity. In any case, there is a broad consensus that a creative middle-ground solution is the practical approach to this issue, so that the arrangement assures the national security of Israel and considers the needs of the Palestinians to the maximum possible extent.

However, in spite of the broad agreement that out-of-the-box thinking will be necessary for any reasonable solution, to the best of our knowledge there has not yet been a comprehensive study that reviews the precedents around the world of territories that have a special sovereign status. Given that any Palestinian entity that will be established (if at all) would have to have certain elements of special (or limited) sovereignty, it would be wise to learn from other cases which implemented an arrangement of special sovereignty in order to address a unique geopolitical situation.

The study before you presents over 60 of the worldwide models that are governed as dependencies or areas of special sovereignty. These unique diplomatic arrangements reflect the aim of the sovereign country to safeguard its own interests through a form of limited control over the foreign affairs, security, and immigration policy of the given territory while allowing for a high measure of freedom in the governance of internal civil affairs, with the consent of the international community and completely within the scope of international law.

None of the following precedents should be viewed as entirely analogous to the Israeli-Palestinian context and none of the solutions should be viewed as applicable in their entirety, even with minor adjustments, to the Israeli reality. Every special arrangement is unique and is a product of its own particular circumstances. Still, we believe that acquaintance with these special cases will encourage the creative thinking that is necessary for the implantation of a workable solution to the challenge presented by Israel’s presence in the territories.

The study expands on three particular models: the Dutch model, the American model and the British model. Thus, for example, the Netherlands holds no less than six territories in the Caribbean, each with its own status, and none of which has the freedom to manage its own affairs in foreign policy, security and immigration. Neither do any of their respective peoples have the automatic right to immigrate to the European Netherlands despite the fact that they are subject to the decisions of the Dutch parliament and crown with respect to these matters. The US holds unincorporated territories, whose residents are not eligible to vote in the US presidential elections or for automatic US citizenship – this despite the fact that they pay taxes, may serve in the US military and are subject to the authority of Congress and the President. The UK rules territories and colonies whose peoples are not eligible to vote in the UK elections or make decisions on matters of foreign policy, security and immigration, although they are subject to the decisions of Parliament and crown. Consequently, there are six different types of British citizenship, among them “British subject”, “British national” and “British protected person”. All of this is endorsed by the international community and is fully in accordance with international law.

The State of Israel is not a carbon copy of the United States, the UK, or the Netherlands. It is governed by a unique form of democracy, the foundation of which is the aim to guarantee a national home for the Jewish people with certain laws and policies that are designed to safeguard the principle of Jewish independence. The models presented herein are mostly (with the notable exception of Hong Kong) vestiges of colonialism and do not reflect the deep and undeniable connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, as opposed to Americans in Samoa or Dutch in Curacao. Further, none of the territories presented herein are governed by radical ideological movements sworn to wage ongoing, uncompromising war, on the sovereign country. As such, this paper does not propose to adopt one model or another outright, but rather learn from each model and use the concepts as a springboard for a more productive, creative conversation.

This paper takes a trip around the world and asks a basic question – what is special sovereignty?

Review of “Special Sovereignty”

  • A Trip Around the World: Examples of Special Territories
    • 66 special territories around the world: not every territory on the map is an independent state.
    • Disputed territories throughout the world, where there is no demand for full independence.
    • Territories without territorial contiguity – enclaved states, exclaves, non-contiguous territories, overseas territories: not every political entity exists within a single and contiguous territory.
  • Three central models: The Dutch, US and UK models
    • The Dutch model
    • The American model
  • The British model


July 9, 2023 | 9 Comments »

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9 Comments / 9 Comments

  1. @Bear In the first place, many is not the same as all, in the second place, where it’s two, who would hold power, and in the third place, if they are already dominated by these supposedly benign clan leaders, what would change? In the fourth place, saying just defer to the experts automatically, is what we just went through is it not?

    “Daddy, are we lost?” I arsked tenderly.

    “”Shut up,” he explained.”

    – Ring Lardner, “The Immigrunts.”

  2. @Sebastien in many of the Pal cities they are dominated by one or two clans.

    As an example Hebron is dominated by Qawasameh tribe (Arabic: ????????, also spelled: Qawasmeh or Kawasmeh in English), is a major clan primarily based in Hebron.

    Kedar is the expert on Arab culture and knows what he is talking about. You can see him on Arab TV debating in excellent Arabic.

    Brandeis University Published a paper a few years ago on the clans in Palestinian Politics and Militia. They are integrally involved in organizations like Hamas also.

    If you do a google search on “Clans and Militias in Palestinian Politics”
    Prof. Dror Ze’evi you will find it. Very educational.

  3. What is needed first and foremost is as expressed by those living in Samaria is:

    ‘Bigger operation needed that will end with victory’
    ‘The PA’s immunity is preventing the wave of terror from being fully subdued,’ says Samaria Regional Council Head.

    Israel National NewsDefense/Security’Bigger operation needed that will end with victory’

    After terrorists fired rockets from the Jenin area towards the Jewish community of Shaked in northern Samaria today (Monday), the head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, called for an extensive military operation that would “eradicate” terror in the area.

    “I spoke with the chairman of Shaked, Chai Shmolwitz. The residents of the town, the town itself, and the entire nation of Israel are strong, steadfast, and believe in the justice of our path – and expect the government to change,” said Dagan.

    He later addressed the government: “Today it is already clear to everyone that there is no escape. There are no fake stories and no excuses. The government must order the IDF to immediately launch a larger, broader, more thorough and in-depth operation in all of northern Samaria.”

    “Such an operation must end with a decisive victory – certainly not a surgical strike,” he said. “It is no longer possible to be satisfied with partial victories and with providing the ‘Palestinian Authority’ which is the one enabling the firing of rockets and is behind most of the terror, with its strange case of immunity. The Israeli people expect a decisive victory, and victory can be reached with the help of a determined and strong military strike.”

  4. @BEAR

    If the Arabs would agree to live side by side in peace with a Jewish Stat Stopped educating their children that Jews have no right to the land and are thieves we peace could prevail.

    This study is a long time in coming. Why now? Because the JO opens up the possibilities.
    I met with Kuperwasser about 6 months ago to brief him on the JO.

  5. If the Arabs would agree to live side by side in peace with a Jewish Stat Stopped educating their children that Jews have no right to the land and are thieves we peace could prevail.

    The model of demilitarized autonomous entity is certainly is interesting and could be figured assuming their was a peaceful people as the Jews neighbors.

    The neighbors are Hamas run Gaza. Fatah/PLO, Hamas, Islamic Jihad terrorists in Judea&Samaria. So until the terrorist swamp is drained nothing else matters.

    Victory is the preamble to peace. After Victory

    Palestinian Emirate Solution

    There is no clear and easy solution to the Israeli Palestinian Conflict.

    Nir Barkat has put himself into the camp of believing that Palestinian Emirates as Kedar has proposed for years is the most plausible solution. These would be autonomous Palestinian Tribal Entities run by an autocrat in each area. He says they could cooperate with each other if they wished but there would be no Palestinian State. In other words there would be an emirate each in Gaza, Jericho, Hebron, Nabulus, Jenin…..)

    Could this work? Israel would apply sovereignty to all Jewish Towns, Area C, Jordan Valley and any peaceful Arab Emirates in Area A could run their own affairs. The IDF would have overall security west of the Jordan River but the Emirates would be allowed to do their own city service type management (garbage collection, local policing, education).

    The Emir or leader of each tribe would be required to cooperate with the IDF and Shin Bet to ensure security in each entity. Peaceful entities would be allowed to send day workers to Israel. Non-peaceful Areas would end up under Israeli Martial Law and would lose autonomous status.

    As I started there is nothing perfect or easy or it long ago would have occurred.

    The Palestinian Authority is rapidly dissolving, they have stopped security cooperation with Israel. This was their main rational for being allowed to exist from an Israeli perspective.

    Terror in Judea/Samaria is up significantly. Israel is fighting the terrorists constantly and as Ben Gvir correctly says a major operation is needed to clean the dens of terrorism. So the following actions are needed:

    1. Wipe out Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad terrorists and cells.

    2. Find & Work with a Tribal Leader in potential Pal Emirate to autonomously manage a certain specified area.

    The advantage of this Emirates concept is that Israel by itself works with a local tribal leader and no conferences or concurrence of any foreigner is needed. No USA, no EU, no Jordan………………

    Will it work? I see no other immediate realistic ideas. The other alternative is the Civil Administration does all the work at great cost to Israel in many ways.
    If Jordan ever becomes a democracy ( I have serious doubts about this being viable) they could allow Palestinians to emigrate to Jordan who wished and bestow Jordanian Citizenship upon them. They could also give Jordanian Citizenship to any Arab living in one of the Emirates. There is no clear and easy solution to the Israeli Palestinian Conflict.