Editor's Note: Al-Shabaka is directed by Nadia Hijab, a member of the Advisory Board of the US Campaign. Our blog also featured this op-ed by Victor Kattan on May 1, 2011. Kattan is the author of From Coexistence to Conquest: International Law and the Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1891-1949 (London: Pluto Books, 2009) and The Palestine Question in International Law (London: British Institute of International and Comparative Law, 2008). Victor was a Teaching Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London from 2008-2011 where he is presently completing his PhD. Previously Victor worked for the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (2006-2008), Arab Media Watch (2004-2006), and the BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights as a UNDP TOKTEN consultant (2003-2004).
By Victor Kattan
May 27, 2011
The Strategy in Question
Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and President of the Palestinian National Authority (PA), affirmed in the New York Times on 17 May 2011 that “this September, at the United Nations General Assembly, we will request international recognition of the State of Palestine on the 1967 border and that our state be admitted as a full member of the United Nations.”
Although this announcement has provoked a storm of indignation amongst certain constituencies in the United States, it will not come as a complete surprise to those who have been following developments closely. In the past six months several Latin American countries have recognized the state of Palestine, bringing the total number of countries to have done so since 1988 to over 100. In addition, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom have upgraded the Palestine General Delegations in their capitals to diplomatic missions and embassies—a status normally reserved for states.
From Abbas’s op-ed it would appear that there are two prongs to this strategy: international recognition of Palestine as a state, and membership of the UN.
Although the Palestinian strategy has not been fully articulated, it appears that the PLO hopes to use the opening plenary of the UN General Assembly in September as a forum to call upon other states to recognize it. In other words it will seek collective recognition.
According to Riyad al-Maliki, the PA Foreign Minister, some 150 countries have said that they will recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in September.4 If this number is achieved it could be significant, especially if it includes recognition from some of the countries in the European Union (EU.) This is because if recognition of a Palestinian state is viewed as constitutive (the argument that statehood is a matter of recognition only) then the number and quality of states that recognize Palestine is important. If, however, recognition of a Palestinian state is viewed as declaratory (the argument that recognition alone cannot confer statehood but must be accompanied by other factors, independence being particularly important) then there is of course a problem if Israel retains control over the occupied territories.