[Published 22 July 2011]
Speculation continues to mount that the United Nations (UN) will be approached in September to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian Arab State in the West Bank and Gaza for the first time in recorded history - without regard to considering the right in international law of the Jewish people to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in the same area.
America is expected to veto any such move in the Security Council and the matter is then slated to go to the General Assembly for discussion and to possibly pass a resolution recognizing a 22nd Arab State.
It is absolutely vital for the UN to conduct a reality check before it makes any such decision.
It needs to be mindful that such a decision could lead to the outbreak of hostilities between Israel and the Palestinian Authority who have unsuccessfully sought to resolve sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza for the last 17 years in accordance with the Oslo Accords and the Bush Roadmap - and lead to the termination of both of these negotiating processes as a result of any such recognition by the UN.
The following matters need to be taken into account:
1. Any attempt to recognize such a state must accord with international law - in particular the Montevideo Convention 1933. On any reading of this Convention the conditions precedent to declaring such a state cannot possibly be met by the Palestinian Authority, the PLO, Fatah or Hamas.
2. The territory claimed is part of the territory which Jews were given the vested legal right to settle under article 6 of the Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the UN Charter. For the UN to act in contravention of its own Charter as well as Security Council Resolution 242 would be disastrous for world order, peace and upholding the rule of law.
3. Applying the legal principle of unjust enrichment - the UN should refrain from passing any resolution recognizing any such Palestinian Arab State for the following reasons:
(a) Such a state was rejected by the Arabs - but accepted by the Jews - when offered by the Peel Commission in 1937 and by the United Nations itself in 1947
(b) No such state was created between 1948-1967 in precisely the area now being claimed - despite all the Jews living there having been expelled in the 1948 War following the invasion of Palestine by six Arab armies. Such a state could have been created at any time in those 19 years by the simple stroke of an Arab League pen
(c) Offers by Israel in 2001 and 2008 to cede its claim to more than 90% of the territory were rejected by the Palestinian Authority
(d) Recognizing such a state without a concluded peace agreement will not end the conflict
(e) 500000 Jews presently living in the territory would be under threat of annihilation or expulsion in gross violation of their rights under international humanitarian law
(f) The Palestinian Arabs have refused to abide by international law as Article 20 of the PLO Charter makes clear:
“The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void.”
(g) Great Britain was forced to finally relinquish its Mandate in May 1948 after Great Britain’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had declared in a speech to the House of Commons on 18 February 1947:
“His Majesty’s Government have been faced with an irreconcilable conflict of principles. There are in Palestine about 1,200,000 Arabs and 600,000 Jews. For the Jews the essential point of principle is the creation of a sovereign Jewish State. For the Arabs, the essential point of principle is to resist to the last the establishment of Jewish sovereignty in any part of Palestine. “This racist attitude has been maintained unchanged for the last 130 years and is the root cause of the inability to end the conflict. Until the PLO and Hamas revoke their Charters calling for the destruction of Israel - the UN should refuse to entertain passing any resolution recognizing any Palestinian Arab state.
(h) The UN should reflect on the consequences of the refusal of the Arabs to accept the 1947 UN Partition Plan as detailed in the following summation by Great Britain at the time:
“This plan was accepted in principle by the majority of the Jews, but the Arabs announced their intention of resisting it by every means within their power and were promised full support in their resistance by Egypt, Iraq, the Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Transjordan and the Yemen. While this plan was still being discussed, and before the vote was taken. His Majesty’s Government repeatedly emphasised that, in the absence of agreement by both Arabs and Jews, they would not themselves enforce it and announced their intention to withdraw all British forces from Palestine by 1st August, 1948.”
The threat to world peace ever since and the hundreds of thousands of dead, injured and traumatised victims - both Arabs and Jews - over the past 63 years should not be rewarded by granting what was available and rejected in 1947 and the following 19 years.
Only direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs or another Arab interlocutor can now resolve the conflict. Too much water has passed under the bridge since the Palestinian Arabs frittered away the 20 year window of opportunity to have their own State.
The UN should insist the parties return to the negotiating table without preconditions and continue negotiating under the Oslo Accords and the Bush Roadmap or any other proposal that is mutually acceptable as the basis for negotiations.
Attempting to unilaterally impose a solution without the consent of both parties is a recipe for disaster and will open the UN to similar demands from the myriad of independent and secessionist movements around the world that have been struggling for self-determination in the backyards of many of the UN member States for many decades.
The membership of the UN in 2011 is very different to that existing in 1947. In 1947 there were only 57 members of the UN of whom 33 voted in favour of the Partition Resolution, 13 voted against, 10 abstained and 1 was absent. Today there are 193 members and each has one vote.
They should ponder very carefully how that vote should be exercised and the consequences for world order and peace - and perhaps even the future of the UN and their own existence - if they make the wrong choice.