Palestine Fails the Test of Statehood


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There are four conditions for statehood; Palestine arguably meets one of them.

The most widely accepted definition of a sovereign nation is found in the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, which was adopted at the Seventh International Conference of American States in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1933. The Montevideo Convention lays out the criteria for statehood, including a defined territory, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other states. These criteria are widely accepted as the basic requirements for statehood in international law.

  1. Defined Territory: The entity seeking statehood must have a clearly defined territory over which it exercises sovereignty. Palestine does not meet this criterion. The original mandate granted it the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. However, these territories are not contiguous, and the Palestinians are demanding more territory, including the whole of Jerusalem. Hamas, moreover, wants all of Israel. Thus, there is no clearly defined territory for Palestine, and even the Palestinians have not agreed on what their territory should be.
  2. Permanent Population: The entity must have a permanent population residing within its defined territory. This is the only criterion that Palestine more or less meets, as Gaza and the West Bank do have a permanent population. However, the phrase ‘within its defined territory’ suggests that the territory of Palestine would need to be clearly established first before it can be said to have a permanent population within that territory.
  3. Government: The entity must have a functioning government capable of exercising control and authority over its territory and population. Palestine fails this test. Power in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank is divided among three entities: the Palestinian Authority, the terrorist organization Hamas, and the state of Israel. Generally, the Palestinian Authority exerts control over the West Bank, Hamas over Gaza, and Israel over both. Therefore, it cannot be said that Palestine has a functioning government.”
  4. Capacity to Enter into Relations with Other States: The entity must possess the capacity to enter into relations with other states, indicating its independence and sovereignty. Palestine does not have the authority to enter into international agreements or treaties. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), previously designated as a terrorist organization, represents Palestine at international bodies but does not hold memberships or voting rights in those bodies. For example, the PLO has permanent observer status at the UN.

These criteria are widely recognized as the fundamental requirements for statehood in international law. Most countries and international organizations adhere to the principles laid out in the convention. Additionally, the criteria specified in the convention are commonly used by governments, legal scholars, and international bodies to determine the statehood of entities seeking recognition as sovereign states. Therefore, the definition provided by the Montevideo Convention is broadly accepted by the international community.

UN members recently voted to recognize Palestine. According to the UN Charter, “States are admitted to membership in the United Nations by a decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.” However, as a member of the Security Council, the US exercised its veto power, preventing Palestine’s admission.

The United Nations (UN) does not have an official definition of statehood, as it is not explicitly defined in the UN Charter. Instead, the UN generally follows the criteria outlined in the Montevideo Convention. Additionally, the UN has three more requirements for membership.

  1. Peace-loving State: The applicant must be a peace-loving state that is able and willing to carry out the obligations contained in the United Nations Charter. The Hamas attacks on Israel, as well as numerous other attacks over the past decades, and the PLO attacks that date back even further, disqualify Palestine.
  2. Recommendation by the Security Council: The application for membership must be recommended by the UN Security Council, requiring at least nine out of fifteen votes, including the concurring votes of all five permanent members (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China). Palestine failed this requirement due to a US veto.
  3. Approval by the General Assembly: Following the Security Council’s recommendation, the application must be approved by a two-thirds majority in the UN General Assembly. Palestine passed this test in the recent UN vote. However, the veto power of the US overrode the vote.

In conclusion, Palestine is not a state. It meets possibly only one of the four criteria under the Montevideo Convention and one of the three criteria under the UN. Ultimately, the US can exercise its veto power. Pro-Palestine protestors need to read the requirements of statehood and understand that their outrage has been misguided.

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Dr. Antonio Graceffo, PhD, China MBA, is an economist and national security analyst with a focus on China and Russia. He is a graduate of American Military University.

You can email Antonio Graceffo here, and read more of Antonio Graceffo's articles here.


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