Permanent Status of the Palestinian Right of Self Determination

This concept deals with the realization of the Palestinian right to self-determination following the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Definition

The concept the "Permanent Status of the Palestinian Right to Self-Determination" refers to the question of whether the Palestinian Right to Self-Determination will be fully realized with the establishment of a Palestinian state:

  1. Does the coming into being of a Palestinian state realize the Right to Self-Determination for the entire Palestinian people and remove this issue from the political agenda (See Finality of Claims)?
  2. Following the establishment of a Palestinian state, will there still be Palestinians who claim that their Right to Self-Determination has yet to be fulfilled?

The Issue of Self-Determination under International Law

The Right to Self-Determination is the right of a population that has national aspirations to define its political status within a specific territory.1

This right is one of the most important principles in international law and is embodied in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (The U.N. Headquarters 12/66) which states that: "All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development".2

However, the various U.N. documents do not define the exact meaning of this principle. Although the U.N. Charter states that all peoples have the Right to Self-Determination, there is no international agreement on how this principle should be implemented.3

The Uniqueness of the Issue of the Palestinian Right to Self-Determination

The Issue of the Palestinian Right to Self-Determination relates to the Issue of Palestinian Representation, the Issue of the Political Status of Israeli-Arabs and the Map of the Palestinian People, which examines the geographic and demographic make-up of the Palestinian People in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and in Host Countries (Jordan, Syria and Lebanon).

The complexity of the issue of the Palestinian Right to Self-Determination is due to a combination of two factors:

  1. Palestinian Refugees - A population of Palestinian Refugees lives in areas of the Palestinian Authority and in "Host Countries" (Jordan, Syria and Lebanon).
    The official Palestinian demand is that the fulfillment of the Right to Self-Determination is conditioned upon fully realizing the "Right of Return" to the State of Israel.
    In other words, according to this approach, the realization of the Right to Self-Determination is intrinsically connected to the return to the original geographic location (Israel) and not to a return to a Palestinian state.
  2. The Issue of the Political-Legal Status of Israeli-Arabs - Some Israeli-Arabs identify with the Palestinian national struggle.
    The raison d'etre of the State of Israel is to realize the Jewish Right to Self-Determination. As a democracy, the State of Israel must still represent all of its citizens, including Israeli-Arabs and other non-Jewish segments of its population.
    However, many Palestinians perceive Israeli-Arabs to be Palestinians whose Right to Self-Determination should be realized in their country of residence, the State of Israel. From this, it may be understood that Israeli-Arabs have the Right to Self-Determination as Palestinians.4 Within the State of Israel, this right collides with the Jewish Right to Self-Determination.

The Permanent Status of the Issue of the Palestinian Right to Self-Determination

There are two possible approaches to the Palestinian Right to Self-Determination within the Palestinian state:

All Its Residents / Citizens Approach

  1. The Palestinian state realizes the Right to Self-Determination of its residents and/or citizens only.
    The distinction between a "resident" and a "citizen" is important, if there are to be Palestinian refugees within the Palestinian state. If refugees are not recognized as citizens, the realization of the Right to Self-Determination within the Palestinian state will be restricted solely to its indigenous residents. In this case, there will be "Palestinian Refugees" within the Palestinian state whose Right to Self-Determination has not been realized;
  2. The Right to Self-Determination of the Palestinian Diaspora lingers as an open issue as long as the Palestinian refugee problem remains unresolved.

Containment Approach

  1. The establishment of a Palestinian state realizes the Right to Self-Determination for the entire Palestinian people. In other words, the Palestinian Right to Self-Determination is contained within the Palestinian state;
  2. The establishment of a Palestinian state realizes the Right to Self-Determination of every Palestinian;
  3. The establishment of the Palestinian state removes the issue of the Palestinian Right to Self-Determination from the political agenda.

This approach was an underlying assumption of the Permanent Status Negotiations 1999-2001.

Historical Background

The Right to Self-Determination by means of establishing a Palestinian state has been the goal of the Palestinian national struggle since the movement's inception. Despite Israel's opposition years ago, the international community has recognized the Palestinian Right to Self-Determination.

However, there are two conflicting Palestinian approaches to the realization of this right:

  1. According to the Ethos of the Struggle, the Palestinian Right to Self-Determination will be realized with the establishment of a Palestinian state in all of Mandatory Palestine. In other words, this right is connected to the rule of a Palestinian political entity over the entire area in which Palestinians lived prior to 1948;
  2. According to the Principle of Historic Compromise, the Palestinian decision to agree to the principle of a Two-State Solution and the partition of the land between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine signifies that the Palestinian Right to Self-Determination will be realized, first and foremost, in a Palestinian state.

The Permanent Status of the Palestinian Right to Self-Determination was discussed during negotiations on Permanent Status Agreement (1999-2001).

Israel's position rested on the Containment Approach, according to which, the establishment of a Palestinian state will realize the Right to Self-Determination for the Palestinian people in its entirety.5 As such, the Palestinian Right to Self-Determination will be contained within a Palestinian state.

In this light, Israel claimed that the government of the Palestinian state would be the sole representative of all its residents and citizens, refugees and non-refugees alike. The PLO would therefore have no standing concerning this population;6 the State of Palestine would not represent populations outside its jurisdiction and specifically would have no powers of representation vis-à-vis Israeli-Arabs.7 Therefore, the establishment of a Palestinian state would obligate the PLO to change its name, founding documents and stated objectives.8

Israel demanded that the establishment of a Palestinian state would realize the Right to Self-Determination for the entire Palestinian people and resolve the issue completely.

However, the Geneva Initiative (10/03) presented a different approach:

  • Linking the establishment of a Palestinian state and the Palestinian Right to Self-Determination with the existence of the State of Israel and the Jewish Right to Self-Determination.9
  • The Geneva Initiative did not attempt to define "who is a Palestinian", what is the territory in which the Palestinian Right to Self-Determination will be realized, or to what extent this right would be fully realized upon the establishment of the Palestinian state.

These questions will become more prominent during the build-up to the possible establishment of a Palestinian State with Provisional Borders (PSPB) - as a result of negotiations (within the 2nd Phase of the Roadmap) or through Israeli Unilateral Recognition of the Palestinian Authority as a state.


1 Webster Dictionary.

2 Article 1.1, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966.

3 Rubinstein Amnon and Alexander Jacobson, Israel and the Family of Nations - Jewish Nation State and Human Rights, Tel-Aviv: Schocken, 2003.

4 Although the Palestinian Constitution - Draft no. 3 does not explicitly mention the right to self-Determination, this expression has become commonly accepted as the Palestinian end-goal. According to the draft of the constitution, Israeli-Arabs are defined as Palestinians and have political and judicial privileges in a future Palestinian state (for further elaboration, see Palestinian Constitutional Structure). In addition, the draft uses various expressions to depict its constituencies such as "citizens", "nationals" and "people", making its positions on the Issue of Palestinian Representation and the Issue of the Political-Legal Status of Israeli-Arabs extremely vague. For more details, see the draft of the Palestinian Constitution (14/5/03) http://www.mopic.gov.ps/constitution/english%20constitution.asp.

5 See Sher, Gilad, Just Beyond Reach: The Negotiations for Peace - 1999-2001, Tel-Aviv, Miskal, 2001. Article 2.9, pp. 421.

6 Ibid. Article 2.10, pp. 422.

7 Ibid. Article 2.18, pp. 422.

8 Ibid. Article 2.20, pp. 423.

9 The introduction to the Geneva Initiative reads "this agreement marks the recognition of the Jewish People's right to a state and the Palestinian People's right to a state, without compromising the equal rights of citizens of both parties." In addition, article 2.4 indicates that "the parties recognize Palestine and Israel as the homelands of both peoples"; Article 7.14 which refers to the Refugees Issue and indicates that there will be cooperation between the parties "in order to create forums to exchange historical issues and advance mutual understanding regarding the past." For the full text Click Here .