Israel and "Palestine": What International Law Requires

by Louis René Beres  •  May 12, 2016 at 5:00 am

  • Under relevant international law, a true state must always possess the following specific qualifications: (1) a permanent population; (2) a defined territory; (3) a government; and (4) the capacity to enter into relations with other states.

  • While this contingent condition of prior demilitarization of a Palestinian state may at first sound reassuring, it represents little more than a impotent legal expectation.

  • For one thing, no new state is ever under any obligation to remain "demilitarized," whatever else it may have actually agreed to during its particular pre-state incarnation.

  • "The legality of the presence of Israel's communities the area (Judea and Samaria) stems from the historic, indigenous, and legal rights of the Jewish people to settle in the area, granted pursuant to valid and binding international legal instruments, recognized and accepted by the international community. These rights cannot be denied or placed in question." — Ambassador Alan Baker, Israeli legal expert.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, U.S. President Bill Clinton, and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat at the Oslo Accords signing ceremony on September 13, 1993. (Image source: Vince Musi / The White House)

International law has one overarching debility. No matter how complex the issues, virtually everyone able to read feels competent to offer an authoritative legal opinion. While, for example, no sane person would ever explain or perform cardio-thoracic surgery without first undergoing rigorous medical training, nearly everyone feels competent to interpret complex meanings of the law.

This debility needs to be countered, at least on a case by case basis. In the enduring controversy over Palestinian statehood, there are significant rules to be considered. For a start, on November 29, 2012, the General Assembly voted to upgrade the Palestinian Authority (PA) to the status of a "Nonmember Observer State."     Continue Reading Article