from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Whose Brilliant Idea Was That UN Vote?

August 24, 2011 2:42 pm (EST)

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For years the Palestinian leadership has taken legal advice from a law professor at Oxford University, Guy Goodwin-Gill. But now it seems that they forgot to consult him before demanding a UN vote on Palestinian statehood. In a recent legal brief for the leadership, the good professor demolishes the arguments for UN recognition.

As reported in the Palestinian media, the brief argues that a UN decision to recognize Palestinian statehood replaces the PLO with the Palestinian Authority, and this would have what the article calls “dramatic legal implications:”

First of all, the prospect of substituting the PLO with the State of Palestine raises "constitutional" problems in that they engage the Palestinian National Charter and the organization and entities which make up the PLO, according to the brief. Second is "the question of the ’capacity’ of the State of Palestine effectively to take on the role and responsibilities of the PLO in the UN; and thirdly, the question of popular representation," the opinion says.

Part of the problem is that the PA "has limited legislative and executive competence, limited territorial jurisdiction, and limited personal jurisdiction over Palestinians not present in the areas for which it has been accorded responsibility…."  The thing is, the PA "is a subsidiary body, competent only to exercise those powers conferred on it by the Palestinian National Council. By definition, it does not have the capacity to assume greater powers."

Then there’s the impact on Palestinians not living in the West Bank or Gaza and whom the PA does not govern:

They constitute more than half of the people of Palestine, and if they are ’disenfranchised’ and lose their representation in the UN, it will not only prejudice their entitlement to equal representation ... but also their ability to vocalise their views, to participate in matters of national governance, including the formation and political identity of the State, and to exercise the right of return," the brief is reported to say.

The good professor does not add an issue that arises here in Washington. Right now the PLO has an office here, but why should it be permitted to remain open after the UN vote? Every six months a presidential waiver is required to allow it to remain here, due to the long involvement of the PLO under Arafat in terrorism. Would that waiver henceforth be permitted, or be exercised? But if the PLO office is closed, would the United States accredit an embassy for the State of Palestine? Obviously not, as it would be the American position that there is no State of Palestine, not yet anyway. So how about a Palestinian Authority office? Well, but if the PA is dissolved when "Palestine" is recognized by the UN......

President Abbas, call your lawyer. Too late for that? Call your UN representative and ask him how to extract you from this mess.


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