Great questions today, Peter, and timely. Last week a leading pro-Palestinian legal scholar issued an opinion challenging the very premises of the Palestinian Unilateral Declaration of Independence. Here is a key paragraph:
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.
If one takes traditional international law concepts seriously, there’s simply no basis for recognizing Palestinian statehood in the absence of a final peace settlement. It is a sad reality of our times, however, that many members of the international community functionally view international law as binding only on the West — and primarily on America and Israel.
President Obama has long proclaimed both his fidelity to international law and a desire to curry favor with the international community, and he viewed President Bush as deficient in both respects. Yet there are times when international law clashes with the desires of the majority of the “international community” (at least as those desires are expressed by representatives of a multitude of undemocratic regimes at the UN). In such cases, what will the President do?