Palestinian Statehood is a Matter of Justice

By Ali Younes

President Obama’s speech at the UN today in which he tried to dissuade the Palestinian leadership from applying for a statehood status at the General Assembly is yet another attempt by the Obama administration to deny the Palestinians the justice they seek through achieving a statehood status at the UN.

There were many arguments that supported and opposed the Palestinian bid to statehood, some of the opposing arguments against the Palestinian Authority, PA, did  not only come from Israel and its supporters, but also from some Palestinians especially the Hamas organization. The key objection raised by the US and Israel against the Palestinian statehood is that the Palestinian state has to emerge out of a negotiated agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, a route Palestinians say they have tried for over twenty years and led them to nowhere with either the Israelis or the Americans.

Those who oppose the Palestinian statehood status miss the fact that Palestinians are “entitled” to a state, despite what the international law says about the empirical-facts that the state should have before it gains recognition such as borders, economy and security.

This “entitlement” to state has been the norm in the international relations since the decolonization era begun after WWII and where many African and Asian nations became nation-states despite lacking the empirical facts.  The entitlement, therefore, is a matter of “Justice” not a matter for law in the current state-centric regime of international relations.

 For example when Belgium withdrew from what later became the “Republic of Congo” in the 1960; a country it exploited and ravaged since the 19thcentury, the Republic of Congo gained legal and international recognition despite lacking a functional government, lacking controlled borders, lacking security, and lacking a functioning economy it was not even a real country by the standards established by Article 1 of Montevideo Conference in 1931.

Article 1 of Montevideo conference stipulate that a state must have a) permanent population, b) defined territory, c) government, d) a capacity to enter into relations with other states. Despite lacking the Montevideo conference criteria, the Republic of Congo, technically, became a state in law, but not in fact because it was “entitled” to independence as argued by the European powers then.

Clearly, however, the Palestinians meet all these requirements, despite that Israeli occupation of their future state of West Bank and Gaza.

Similarly, when Finland gained its independence from Russia in 1917 it also lacked its own physical control over its own territories, its own economy and its own society; and was a territory in total anarchy. Yet such conditions did not prevent the International community from recognizing it as a state in law.

There are many more examples that support the Palestinian case to gain an independence status despite what the Montevideo treaty of 1931 says if the legal argument is used against the Palestinians to deny them their state.

 Somalia is another example of how the international system works when it comes to the concept of statehood of nations that do not meet the minimum threshold to hold its own territories together.

Somalia is still recognized by the UN and the international community as a “state” so it is state in law only but in reality it is not.  Think also, Yemen and South Sudan where such states are only a legal concept and not much an empirical reality. The state of Israel itself is a clear example of the “entitlement” concept when the UN and international powers felt that Jews “deserve” a state of their own and thus granting them the legal status of state in the place of the former territories of Palestine.

The Palestinians can level the legal playing field with the Israelis when they become a state and then apply to UN organizations and complicate Israel’s legal and international standing over its occupation of Palestinians territories.

The statehood move by the Palestinians, in the meantime, is not the end of the road, rather the beginning of one that is their long term struggle to end the Israeli occupation of their own territories and achieve their long awaited justice.

It is critical to mention in this context that in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Israelis behaved more strategic since the 1920s. If the Israelis were offered an inch, they took an inch, if they were offered a mile, and they took a mile. As for the Palestinians and in the past 80 years they wanted everything or nothing, a strategy that  80 years later where the Israelis got everything plus some while the Palestinians got nothing.

The Palestinians, as a result, should think more strategic, that is, what will their state of Palestine look like in the next 100 years.

– Ali Younes is a writer and Middle East analyst based in Washington DC. He contributed this article to Contact him at:

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