The Conversation Column Repeatedly Blames Israel For Lack Of Palestinian Statehood

In his recent September 14 opinion column published in The Conversation (which was also published by the Winnipeg Free Press) Philip Leech-Ngo, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Ottawa’s Centre on Governance, took a look back at the last 30 years since the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which was not a peace agreement, but rather areas of interim arrangements between the two parties.

Leech-Ngo posited that it is due to Israeli actions and behaviours which have prevented the establishment of a Palestinian state, and more broadly, sovereignty in general. He presented four categories of sovereignty which he discussed:

  • Domestic sovereignty: Internal control over a land

  • Interdependence sovereignty: Control of people and goods across borders

  • International legal sovereignty: Namely, international recognition

  • Westphalian sovereignty: Other powers not interfering in internal affairs

In each of these categories, Leech-Ngo presented a scenario which is either oversimplified, or otherwise misleading.

With domestic sovereignty, Leech-Ngo wrote that “Palestine’s struggle for domestic sovereignty, or control within the Palestinian territory, can be traced back to what’s known as the British Mandate period, leading to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.”

While this is accurate, it also fails to acknowledge that the Arabs living in pre-state Israel could very well have achieved full sovereignty more than seven decades ago, if only their leadership had agreed. According to the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine (UN Resolution 181), other than Jerusalem as a neutral international zone, the rest of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea would be split between a Jewish State and an Arab State.

And while Jewish representatives to the United Nations accepted the proposal, though it fell far short of their legal rights. Conversely, Arab delegates refused, and after Israel proclaimed its independence in 1948, was invaded by its Arab neighbours, but if the Arab representatives to the United Nations had accepted the partition in 1947, the Palestinians today would enjoy full domestic sovereignty.

On interdependence sovereignty, Leech-Ngo wrote that “Israeli restrictions on movement and trade have historically limited Palestinian efforts to control transborder flows,” and cited Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza as an example.

With this statement, Leech-Ngo failed to share with readers the reasoning for Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza, namely Hamas’ repeated and ongoing efforts to smuggle in weaponry and explosives. Additionally, given Hamas’ continued refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist – and its continuous acts of terrorism against Israelis – Israel is well within its international legal rights to institute a blockade.

As such, without Hamas’ efforts to smuggle in weaponry and carry out attacks on Israel, the Jewish State would not be forced to carry out its maritime blockade on Gaza at all.

On international legal sovereignty, Leech-Ngo stated how although the United Nations accepted Palestine as a non-member observer state in 2012, “full UN membership remains elusive.” This should come as little surprise given how the Palestinian Authority (PA) fails to negotiate in good faith with Israel, provide funding for terrorists and their families, and disseminating hateful anti-Israel propaganda throughout its territory; the Palestinian leadership has demonstrated in no uncertain terms its disinterest in forging peace with Israel.

Given that admission to the UN General Assembly is first predicated on approval from the Security Council, which is unlikely given the PA’s ongoing hostility to Israel, full membership for the Palestinians will remain elusive until there is a fundamental change in behaviour from their leadership.

Finally, on the concept of Westphalian sovereignty, Leech-Ngo wrote that “The principle of non-intervention in Palestinian affairs has been consistently challenged by Israeli occupation, settlement expansion and international mediation efforts.”

Here, Leech-Ngo presented circular reasoning. Until a final status peace agreement is signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, there is no peace, and consequently, no independent Palestinian state with mutually-agreed upon borders.

As such, the lands claimed by the Palestinians, including eastern Jerusalem, as well as Judea & Samaria (commonly called the “West Bank” by the news media) are – backed up by extensive legal rights – claimed by Israel as well. So, one cannot state that Israel’s presence in Judea & Samaria is a hindrance to Palestinian sovereignty, because Palestinian sovereignty has not been established as legitimate in the first place. Under the status quo, Israel and the Palestinians both claim certain lands, which remain contested until an agreement is forged.

Thirty years after the Oslo Accords, Leech-Ngo may be correct when he wrote that Palestinian sovereignty “is now little more than a mirage,” but advocates for the Palestinians will continue to do a great disservice to their cause until they recognize how this situation came to be, and which party bears ultimate responsibility for it.

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