Israeli officials from the Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office have outlined in recent weeks their concerns over the legal and diplomatic implications of the Palestinian Authority’s planned unilateral moves at the United Nations Opening Assembly in September.
At its Algiers summit in
1988, the PLO already issued a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood
without specifying its borders, a move that was recognized by more than 100
nations from the Soviet and Nonaligned blocs.
When the UN gathers for its
annual Opening Assembly in New York this month, the PA is now determined to seek
a UN vote to recognize a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines, with
Jerusalem as its capital. The PA will also demand that this state be accepted as
a full UN member. In addition, the PA may press for a UN condemnation of Israeli
“settlements” in the disputed territories and a declaration that they are
illegal under international law.
Among the legal and diplomatic
options available to the PA are:
• A demand for recognition and admittance as a
member state in the United Nations. Membership first requires the recommendation
of the UN Security Council before the General Assembly may vote to admit a new
member. The PA claims it has the necessary nine votes in the Security Council to
pass such a resolution, but it could still be blocked by a veto from a permanent
member state, such as the US.
• A UN General Assembly resolution
recognizing Palestine as a “nonmember” state along the pre-1967 lines and/or
declaring Israeli settlements illegal. Such a decision is non-binding, but it
would bolster the legitimacy of Palestinian territorial claims against Israel
and allow the Palestinians to become full members of numerous UN forums. This is
considered the most likely outcome of the looming diplomatic showdown.
A UN General Assembly referral to the International Court of Justice in The
Hague for an advisory opinion regarding Palestinian rights and claims to
statehood and/or the legality of Israeli settlements. Again, such an opinion
would be non-binding, but it would further bolster the legitimacy of Palestinian
territorial claims against Israel.
• Israeli officials contend
that any such measures would be blatant violations of all the signed agreements
between Israel and the Palestinians, while also contravening UN Security Council
resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), among other UN decisions.
Israel opposes these unilateral actions for the following reasons:
• UN Security
Council resolution 242 (1967) called upon Israel and the Arab parties to achieve
a just and lasting peace in the Middle East and specifically stressed the need
to negotiate directly in order to achieve “secure and recognized boundaries.”
This resolution provided a suggested negotiating framework for resolving the
Israeli-Arab conflict and has been reaffirmed in numerous UN decisions ever
since. Israel argues that the Palestinians are now refusing to engage in any
such negotiations and must not be rewarded for obstructing the peace
• The Palestinian proposal, in attempting to unilaterally change
the status of the territory and establish the pre-1967 lines as its recognized
borders, would be a fundamental breach of the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian agreement
on the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending a final peace
accord. In that interim agreement, the parties undertook to negotiate the
issue of borders and not to act unilaterally to change the status of the
territories pending a permanent agreement.
• The Palestinians entered
into the various Oslo Accords with full knowledge and consent that Israel’s
settlements existed in those areas, and that settlements would be one of the
issues to be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations. Furthermore, the
Oslo Accords impose no limitation on Israel’s settlement activity in those
areas, which the Palestinians agreed would continue to be under Israel’s
jurisdiction and control pending the outcome of the final status
• The Oslo Accords were witnessed by the United Nations
together with the European Union, the Russian Federation, the United States,
Egypt and Norway. These witnesses must demand that the Palestinians fully honor
their signed agreements or risk undermining their own integrity as reliable
• The pre-1967 lines never constituted a border. The 1949
armistice agreements entered into by Israel and its Arab neighbors established
only the armistice demarcation lines where the respective armies stood when the
conflict ended in 1948, and expressly stated that these lines did not constitute
an international border.