From Oxford to Ramallah

By Geoffrey Paul
September 3, 2011

An unexpected spanner has been thrown into the intention of Ramallah to seek recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN later this month. A leading Oxford academic and legal expert has warned that, by pushing ahead with their bid for recognition of a Palestinian state, the PLO leadership may well hazard any right of Palestinians to return to what is now Israel and disenfranchise every Palestinian living outside the area currently under the control of the Palestine Authority.

Professor S Goodwin-Gill, a barrister and senior research fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, in an opinion requested by a member of the Palestine National Council, a sort of Palestinian inner cabinet, has cautioned that:“Until such a time as a final settlement is agreed, the putative State of Palestine will have no territory over which it exercises effective sovereignty, its borders will be indeterminate or disputed, its population, actual and potential, undetermined and many of them continuing to live under occupation or in States of refuge.

“While it may be an observer State in the United Nations, it will fall short of meeting the internationally agreed criteria of statehood, with serious implications for Palestinians at large, particularly as concerns the popular representation of those not currently present in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

Professor Goodwin-Gill, in his conclusion to an opinion which is already exercising international lawyers in Europe, the US and the Middle East, says that “current moves to secure recognition of statehood do not appear to reflect fully the role of the Palestinian people as a principal party in the resolution of the situation in the Middle East.

“The interests of the Palestinian people are at risk of prejudice and fragmentation, unless steps are taken to ensure and maintain their representation through the Palestinian Liberation Organization, until such time as there is in place a State competent and fully able to assume these responsibilities towards the people at large.”

In short, replace the PLO, which is now taken internationally to represent the Palestinian people wherever they may reside, with a Palestinian state without borders and state power, and you have yielded your right to speak on behalf of those Palestinians living outside the area controlled by the PLO, a recognised legal entity.

The next few days may show where the UN bid is going. if anywhere. But given that lawyers are deeply involved....


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