The Shape of Palestinian Statehood

On December 17, Bolivia extended diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine within its full pre-1967 borders (all of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem). Coming soon after the similar recognitions by Brazil and Argentina, Bolivia’s recognition brought to 106 the number of UN member states recognizing the State of Palestine, a state whose independence was proclaimed on November 15, 1988. While still under foreign belligerent occupation, the State of Palestine possesses all the customary international law criteria for sovereign statehood, no portion of its territory is recognized by any other country (other than Israel) as any other country’s sovereign territory and, indeed, Israel has only asserted sovereignty over a small portion of its territory, expanded East Jerusalem.

In this context, it may be enlightening to consider the quality as well as the quantity of the states extending diplomatic recognition.

Of the world’s nine most populous states, eight (all except the United States) recognize the State of Palestine. Of the world’s 20 most populous states, 15 (all except the United States, Japan, Mexico, Germany and Thailand) recognize the State of Palestine.

By contrast, the 72 UN member states which currently recognize the Republic of Kosovo as an independent state include only one of the nine most populous states (the United States) and only four of the 20 most populous states (the United States, Japan, Germany and Turkey). When, in July, the International Court of Justice held that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence did not violate international law because international law is silent on the subject of the legality of declarations of independence (meaning that no declarations of independence, even of someone’s vacation home, violate international law and all are “legal”, albeit subject to the political decisions of sovereign states to recognize or not the independence declared), the United States responded by calling on all countries which had not already recognized Kosovo to do so promptly. Five months later, only three more have seen fit to do so — Honduras, Kiribati and Tuvalu.

If one examines both line-ups of state recognizers, one readily realizes that they are almost polar opposites. Few countries recognize both Palestine and Kosovo, and few (Israel, again refusing to do any favors for the United States, among them) recognize neither.

Notwithstanding that (by my rough calculations) states encompassing between 80% and 90% of the world’s population recognize the State of Palestine while states encompassing only between 10% and 20% of the world’s population recognize the Republic of Kosovo, the Western media (and, indeed, much of the non-Western media as well) act as though Kosovo’s independence were an accomplished fact while Palestine’s independence is only an aspiration which can never be realized without Israeli-American consent, and much of international public opinion (including, apparently, the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah) has permitted itself to be brainwashed into thinking and acting accordingly.

As in most aspects of international relations, it is not the nature of the act (or crime) which matters but, rather, who is doing it to whom. Palestine was conquered and is still occupied by the military forces of Israel. What most of the world (including the UN and even five EU member states) still regards as the southern Serbian province of Kosovo was conquered and is still occupied by the military forces of NATO, the American flag is flown there at least as widely as the Kosovo flag and the capital, Pristina, boasts a Bill Clinton Boulevard and a larger-than-life-size statue of the former American president.

Might makes right, at least in the hearts and minds of the mighty, including most Western decision-makers and opinion-formers.

Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives, yet again giving prostitution a bad name, has adopted by a unanimous voice vote a resolution drafted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) calling on President Obama not to recognize the State of Palestine and to veto any effort by Palestine to obtain UN membership.

Western politicians and the Western media customarily apply the term “international community” to the United States and whatever countries are willing to publicly support it on a given issue and apply the term “rogue state” to any country which actively resists Israeli-American global domination. By its slavish subservience to Israel, as reflected yet again both in the absence of a single brave voice raised against this new House resolution and in the Obama administration’s recently abandoned offer of a huge military and diplomatic bribe to Israel as an inducement for a very temporary suspension of its illegal colonization enterprise, the United States has effectively excluded itself from the true international community (redefined to refer to the great majority of mankind) and become a true rogue state acting in consistent and flagrant contempt of both international law and fundamental human rights.

One might hope that the United States could still pull back from the abyss and recover its own independence, but all signs are pointing in the opposite direction. It is a sad ending for a once admirable country.

JOHN V. WHITBECK, an international lawyer who has advised the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel, is author of “The World According to Whitbeck”.




John V. Whitbeck is a Paris-based international lawyer.