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Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel addressed the United Nations General Assembly.

Benjamin Netanyahu UN General Assembly
Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the UN General Assembly.
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The Ramifications of a Palestinian State

August 28, 2008  |  Professor Louis Rene’ Beres

With many issues now surfacing in the US presidential campaign, few are more important than the next president's position on "Palestine." To date, neither candidate has been open on this issue. Would one or the other (or both) feel the current president's commitment to a Palestinian state? Significantly, any such continuance would enlarge the terror threat to Western democracies in general, especially to Israel and the United States.

Even before George W. Bush, the formal US mantra had called for a "two-state solution." Yet the official maps of the Palestinian Authority (an authority with no proper electoral basis and no clearly fixed territory) still include Israel only as a part of Palestine.

 This inclusion refers to all of Israel proper - not merely to Judea, Samaria and Gaza. The so-called road map still favored by President Bush offers a devious and ironic cartography. Everything about this plan presumes Israel's disappearance. Not even the irreconcilable and bloody divisions between warring Palestinian factions has diminished the overriding commitment of all of them to Israel's demolition. It is notably ironic, therefore, that the current government of Israel is on record in favor of a Palestinian state. What can Olmert be thinking? From the Oslo agreements onward, prime ministers from Rabin to Olmert have failed to understand that the true struggle with Arab enemies is less about territory than about God.

TODAY, EACH Palestinian faction remains utterly loyal to a strategy for the "liberation of all Palestinian territory." This "phased plan" was first adopted by the Palestinian National Council in Cairo in June 1974. Under it, any Palestinian state would welcome assorted jihadist terror groups, including al-Qaida. Such cooperation is already on full display in Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Israel, of course, would be the primary target. Additionally, a Palestinian state would aim to undermine the essential security interests of the US. Most perilous would be the inevitable competition for control of such a fragile and anarchic state by the various Sunni Arab regimes now being armed by Washington, and by Shi'ite Iran, being armed by Russia. Candidates McCain and Obama should be made aware of certain ominous linkages between a Palestinian state and regional war. Here, together with Israel's prime minister, they should also consider plausible connections with nuclear war.

A PALESTINIAN state would have no proper authority under international law. Whatever its mode of self-declaration, any such presumption of Palestinian sovereignty could not satisfy the authoritative expectations of statehood. Candidates John McCain and Barack Obama should understand and acknowledge that every state must satisfy four specific requirements of the 1934 Montevideo Treaty: (1) a permanent population; (2) a defined territory; (3) a government; and (4) the capacity to enter into relations with other states.

Although the PA could satisfy none of these criteria, it will argue otherwise. Almost certainly, this will involve incorrect legal references to "fundamental rights of self-determination and national liberation." The right of statehood under international law is never contingent upon goodness. For better or worse, there are no moral or ethical considerations that must be taken into account in the granting of sovereignty.

This means that the openly declared and indisputable Palestinian goal of Israel's forcible destruction and America's incremental destabilization will have no legal bearing on whether or not a Palestinian state is created. Nor will unending and widespread Palestinian acceptance of violence. International law does not insist on any standard of decency for aspiring states, not even the most rudimentary acceptance of peaceful coexistence. While it is true that such acceptance is required for membership in the UN, the logically prior expectations of statehood are less stringent.

In law, all that matters in establishing statehood are certain identifiable demographic, geographic and political facts. It is these particular facts on the ground, defined at Montevideo - not the codified and far-reaching Palestinian indifference to comity and civility - that would make any Palestinian declaration of statehood illegitimate.

A Palestinian state remains contrary to America's strategic interests, and to the binding claims of both national and international law. Naturally, and notwithstanding the incomprehensible government stance in Jerusalem, such a state would be especially dangerous to Israel. It should, therefore, be rejected by both presidential candidates, and by Israel's next prime minister.


The writer is professor of international law at Purdue, and was chairman of Project Daniel, which presented its final report on Iran to former prime minister Ariel Sharon. He is also the academic advisor to the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies.


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