In September Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) went to New York requesting that his people be recognized as a member of the United Nations. For now, that recognition has not been granted – but Israel must consider the many future implications of such a move, and indeed the possible admission of Palestine as the 194th member of the UN in the foreseeable future.
A new JIIS policy paper, by Gilad Noam, addresses this new situation, with a particular focus on the legal aspects and how they might affect the hitherto-unresolved conflict between the Palestinians and Israel. First of all, says Noam, by definition the move towards Palestinian statehood will change the ball game considerably, diplomatically, politically and legally. The move raises myriad questions: how will the conflict be handled by both sides? What changes will Israel have to make in how it manages the territories beyond the green line? And what about the status of East Jerusalem?
Noam says that even if the Palestinians are not admitted as a state to the UN, the growing support by the international community for the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders (the “green line”) has legal significance even now. For example, Palestine may be permitted to join UN Special Agencies that are open to non-member states (UNESCO was the first to extend such membership in principle in October) as well as international courts.
Among the topics examined in the paper is East Jerusalem. “The uniqueness of East Jerusalem derives both from its annexation to the state of Israel and from the fact that the issue of Jerusalem incorporates other international interests, beyond Israeli and Palestinian ones. The most prominent of these are religious interests linked to the sanctity of Jerusalem to the three monotheistic religions,” Noam explains. He continues: “The policy paper points out that, on the one hand, the Palestinians may conduct an intensive diplomatic and legal struggle against various measures adopted by Israel in implementing its sovereignty over East Jerusalem, which are universally condemned and often described as illegal. The Palestinian state might try to implement governance and diplomatic activities in East Jerusalem, which would represent a major challenge for the authorities responsible for enforcing Israeli law. On the other hand, the very fact that the issue of Jerusalem is replete with widespread international interests could limit the Palestinians’ ability to adopt far-reaching unilateral measures there.”
The new policy paper, titled, “The Palestinian Petition to the United Nations for Recognition of a Palestinian State – A Legal/Political Analysis,” looks at the situation from these and other perspectives. It also explores the pros and cons of potential reactions by Israel to the different scenarios. The paper will be released by JIIS in the coming weeks.