That Palestinian Arab state and the UN

By Arlene Kushner


I think it’s reasonably clear at this point, in spite of occasional media reports to the contrary, that nothing will change on the ground for Israel after the PA goes to the UN in September — something Mahmoud Abbas continues to insist he will do unless Israel caves on his major demands. 
What he is seeking to do is secure his state without committing to end of conflict.  He, in fact, made it clear just recently that he would still push for “right of return” even after the founding of a Palestinian state (although he may run into difficulty on this — see below).
Israeli concerns about outcome focus on a possible increase in violence by the Palestinian Arabs — perhaps with large numbers at the borders attempting to enter Israel — and greater international legitimacy for the PA.  This might give it leverage with regard to bringing charges against Israelis in the International Criminal Court and against Israel in the International Court of Justice.
On Sunday night, here in Jerusalem, I attended the first part of a conference on “The Palestinian Statehood Initiative,” jointly sponsored by the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel, and Hadar Israel (a grassroots civic organization).
Michla Pomerance, Professor of International Law, Hebrew University, spoke about the enormous confusion with regard to the whole issue of “UN law,” which is very problematic. Traditional international law is not imposed by a central authority but is rooted in reciprocity — it derives from the consent of states.
The Security Council is not an enforcer of international law, and may not order transfer of/or concessions on territory.  It has no power to abrogate sovereignty.
The General Assembly does not have authority to recognize states.  Its authority is only with regard to admitting and suspending members, pending SC approval.
Only states already in existence can be admitted to the UN. They are required to be peace-loving, and able and willing to carry out their obligations under the UN charter.  There is no admission of a state granted with the intention of eliminating another state.
Within international law, there is no universal right of self-determination recognized.
With regard to a Palestinian state, self-determination would require a defined population.  But as there is a question of boundaries, there is no defined population.
Dr. Tal Becker, International Associate, Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former Israeli negotiator, believes that Abbas is proceeding as he is because of the “Arab Spring” — fear that street anger will be channeled against his government if he doesn’t act; expectations that have been created by Obama and Fayyad; and a desire to secure his legacy. 
He cautions that if the PA does go to the UN, it is likely a committee will be created to begin a slow process: there will not be speedy results.
General (Res.) Yossie Kuperwasser, Director General, Ministry of Strategic Affairs, addressed security concerns. 
The PA, he says, cannot accept Israel as a Jewish state because of the issue of the refugees; because of the Arab population inside of Israel (which would be utilized for demands for a “state of all its citizens” in the second stage of their plans); and because it would require adjusting the narrative.
The bottom line is that the PA goal is to destroy Israel.  It is essential that it accept Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.  But the Arabs are seeking to end historical claims.
Absent PA acknowledgement that Israel is the Jewish state, Israel may have to begin to think in terms of managing the conflict rather than resolving it.
There are security dangers for the PA, as well.  The entire process will be an embarrassment for the PA, and Hamas may end up the winner — with escalation of violence against the PA.
For other takes on the PA initiative:
Israeli Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, in an exclusive interview, said yesterday that if the PA proceeds with its plans, all agreements between the PA and Israel might become null and void:

“We have a lot of agreements with the Palestinian Authority, we have no agreements with a ‘Government of Palestine,’  It’s just a fact, we have no agreements with a ‘Government of Palestine.’ It puts us in a different realm.”

Oren was referring, he said, to agreements that cover such matters as import-export, water sharing, and Israel-Palestinian security forces cooperation.

“It’s not just our agreements with the Palestinian Authority, it’s America’s agreements with the Palestinian Authority (that are at risk),” he further explained. “America is a cosignatory to the Oslo Accord and this would seriously undermine it…. Unilateral steps would have legal, economic, and political ramifications for us and for America as a cosignatory.”

Jordan has just urged the PA to reconsider its move to pursue bid for UN recognition  King Abdullah considers the move dangerous because it may compromise the “right of return.”
Jordan, of course, worries that without a “return” of refugees to Israel, there might be a push to make Jordan the Palestinian state officially (while it is now de facto, with a majority Palestinian population).
Last week similar discouragement with regard to the PA bid in the UN came from the Arab League:
Said Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby, “The unilateral appeal to the U.N. Security Council and U.N. General Assembly could be a very dangerous move for the Palestinians during this period and I propose that Abbas reconsider the handling of the matter.”  
Elaraby is concerned because the PA is not in control in Gaza.
The PA team — headed by Saeb Erekat — that is preparing the UN initiative has received an independent legal opinion — from by Guy Goodwin-Gill, a professor of public international law at Oxford University who has long advised the PA on legal matters — that the initiative could jeopardize the rights of the Palestinian people.
Since 1975, the PLO has been recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and in fact has observer status at the UN.  The PA is seeking to replace PLO representation at the UN with a state sitting in the UN.  But then there would no longer be an agency that “can represent the inalienable rights of the entire Palestinian people.”  Palestinians “outside the homeland” would no longer have representation and would be disenfranchised with regard to such matters as “right of return.”
This comes from the PLO news agency, Ma’an.
Elliott Abrams, Senor Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, asks “Whose Brilliant Idea Was That UN Vote?” He looks in greater depth at the Goodwin-Gill concerns, and at additional legal/diplomatic issues as well.
And we’re worried about the UN initiative?  I wonder how much sleep Mahmoud Abbas is getting these days.
© Arlene KushnerThis material is produced by Arlene Kushner , functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
August 31, 2011 | 1 Comment »

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  1. If the UN’s own declaration of universal human rights were followed by the majority of member states, Israel would have no problems whatever with the UN, and the PLO/PA would never have even got their observer seat. That’s just the beginning. Look at their “Human Rights Council”, and all the rest. It is clear that the UN is not concerned with “law”, and is nothing more than a petrodollar corrupted cesspool, completely dominated by the interests of the Moslem world.

    Abbas has been working towards this UN vote since 2005. He isn’t going to back down now. Israel has been fighting back harder than expected, and that is ocmplicating matters. But they’ll do it anyway.

    Just like Arafat planned Intifada Two well in advance of the Camp David talks, such that no matter what happened there, the uprising was going forward, so too is this all a bunch of choreographed, drama queen Palestinian bullshit.

    No matter how the UN vote turns out, the outcome will be used as an excuse for Intifada Three. There will be a big uprising, which Israel will put down initially with non-lethal means, and then Israeli anti-riot forces will be ambushed by “Dayton’s Army”, likely directed by Hamas, who will probably seize power if the UN vote fails to confer statehood for the PA. If the vote clears the UNSC – and I am not at all certain that it won’t; I don’t trust Obama at all – then the violence will be directed by Fatah. Either way, this is going to happen. With Obama in office for another sixteen months, with the media and UN the way they are towards Israel, the political/media “correlation of forces” will never be more favorable to the PA than they are now. So, they have to move.

    I can’t predict how far this escalates from there. But given the increasing role of Iran, plus the instability in Egypt and Syria, it could all get out of control very quickly. I have no doubt that Israel would prevail handily in any scenario, but there could very well be very high civilian casualties in Israel due to the rocket attacks.

    I think the PA goal is to create a situation where Israel is faced with wide-ranging political/economic sanctions aimed at strangling them as a viable state, in the manner of Rhodesia in the 1970s. I don’t think this will work, but that seems to be what they are aiming at. Israel will be in for a rough time until Obama is out of there, very likely. Never mind the upcoming election; he proved on May 19 with his speech then that screwing Israel is more important to him than winning re-election, if it comes to that. He’s publicly said in the past that he’s willing to pay a political cost for realizing his aims with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the only issue where, in concrete policy terms, he’s never waivered or shown any willingness to recalibrate or compromise at all.

    Iran is actually going to be a wild card in all of this. How far do they want to escalate things? They push Israel too hard, this may give Israel the excuse they need to take out Iran’s nuke sites.

    Enjoy the relative “calm” for now while it lasts. I don’t think it is going to last very much longer.