26 Aug The Pro-Palestinian Case Against Palestinian Statehood
This legal opinion by Oxford prof Guy Goodwin-Gill has been drawing some attention in recent days. It argues that the planned campaign to establish a Palestinian state this fall at the United Nations has a number of policy and legal pitfalls that could work against the interests of most Palestinians. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Al-Jazeera:
You tackle three specific issues; constitutional, statehood, and representation. Starting on the issue of constitutional, you are saying the Palestinian Authority (PA) is a subsidiary body, formed by the PLO, as an administrative entity, and that “it does not have the capacity to assume greater powers, to ‘dissolve’ its parent body, or otherwise establish itself independently of the Palestinian National Council and the PLO”. What does this mean, both for the quest for statehood, and subsequently for the Palestinians if statehood is granted?
On the legal standing and capacity of the Palestinian Authority, I was applying non-controversial legal principles regarding the powers and competence of subsidiary bodies. Does the PA have the power to move the issue of statehood ahead, and if so, what are the origins and parameters of that power? Have the people of Palestine, through their representative – the PLO – granted such power? I recognise that there is an urgent, pressing need for statehood, particularly in the face of the intransigence of other parties, but I am also concerned that the essentials of modern statehood – democracy, representative government and accountability – may be sidelined, if not sacrificed, perhaps to the long-term disadvantage of the people at large.
One issue here is that the majority of Palestinians are refugees living outside of historic Palestine, and they have an equal claim to be represented, particularly given the recognition of their rights in General Assembly resolution 194 (III), among others. It is not clear that they will be enfranchised through the creation of a state, in which case the PLO must continue to speak for their rights in the UN until they are implemented.
I’m not sure I buy Goodwin-Gill’s definition of “modern statehood” as requiring “democracy, representative government, and accountability.” But he does raise a fascinating problem and challenge for the Palestinian statehood movement. What will happen to the Palestinian diaspora after the PLO is replaced by a Palestinian state?