Michael Sefarad
Photo: Guy Assayag

A legal tsunami called Palestine

Legalists warn fledgling Palestinian state may cause abundance of legal trouble for Israel, but say unilateral steps can only go so far

Legal experts said Sunday that if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is successful in his unilateral bid for a Palestinian state, Israel may find itself facing an abundance of various legal troubles.


"I'm sure we will find ourselves dealing with diplomatic crises morning, noon and night," International Law specialist Attorney Michael Sefarad said.


"If Palestine is recognized as a member nation of the UN, Israel may find itself embroiled in relentless legal quagmire vis-à-vis the international community."


The main concern, according to Sefarad, is to Israel's legal status in the territories: "Instead of being the legitimate administrator of the area pending a decision about its final status, we will be considered the illegal occupiers of a UN-member state."

Celebrating the Palestinian reconciliation in Ramallah (Photo: AFP)


Israel, he added, may face legal problems if Palestine becomes a member of various international organizations: "Palestine will become the de facto representative of Palestinian interests in international institution, where currently Israel is running things – at least technically.


"What if, for example, Palestine joins FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) and Israel will not allow its sportsmen to attend competitions? Palestine would be in a position to ask for a UN censure?


"This, of course, is a benign example. The scariest scenario is if Palestine joins the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, giving it proxy to judge anyone suspected of committing a war crime on Palestinian soil."


But not all is bleak: according to Sefarad, such a membership would also leave the Palestinian state vulnerable, "As any Qassam fire on Israel could be construed as a war crime."


The formation of a Palestinian state now, he concluded, could mean 'a legal tsunami' for Israel, "Since a sovereign state has more maneuvering power and can take more action against those who harm it."


'PA will have to negotiate with us'

Dr. Robbie Sabel, an international law lecturer with the Hebrew University does not necessarily agree. Sabel doubts that the United States – which has veto power in the UN – would accept Palestine as a member state, adding that at this point, the implications would be primarily political.


"The UN General Assembly does not hold the key to a Palestinian state, since its decisions are not binding. The Palestinian Authority holds the key to statehood. Nevertheless, if they unilaterally declare themselves a state, realistically speaking, Israel has to assume they would be able to get UN recognition. The important thing is what borders will it have – that cannot be settled unilaterally," he said.


The question of borders, he said, "Is a cardinal rule of International Law and neither the UN nor a single state can unilaterally decide on that. The Palestinians would have to negotiate with us."


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פרסום ראשון: 05.08.11, 14:50
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