Territorial disputes: the Israel-Palestine difference (Part 21) [Post 61]

Today’s post will cover defence:

What would happen if another party with no part in the original Israel-Palestine difference decided to invade the disputed territories? In the hypothetical scenario a third party such as Iran, the United States, the United Kingdom or Russia decided to invade these territories, who would defend them?

The ways in which the situation may develop are as follows:

a) both Israel and Palestine may remain neutral; consequently the new agent would take over the territories if the inhabitants were unable to defend themselves;

b) one, either Israel or Palestine, may respond to the invasion and defend the territories;

c) both Israel and Palestine may respond to the invasion and defend jointly or independently the islands.


At the same time, States have the right and are obliged to defend their own interests and their population. Consequently, any act of defence is fair and just as long as it is a result of an illegitimate threat or attack. However, in a TERRITORIAL DISPUTE, it seems difficult to determine the one who could/should be defending the disputed territory in the event of an attack on what appears to be a common interest for all the involved parties.


In addition to the way in which the parties would defend the third territory,  there are two other crucial elements that need to be agreed, even if joint defence was the case:

a) the extent to which the burden can be made proportionate, with those with more of the appropriate resources taking the larger share (if they can be trusted not to turn their forces against the other two parties);

b) and the extent to which one considers what combination of contributions will be the most efficient, using, e.g., both the local knowledge of the people in the territory, and the equipment best adapted to defending it.


Indeed, if they take on sovereignty, they must take on the obligation to defend. However, how would Israel and Palestine share the defence? The EGALITARIAN SHARED SOVEREIGNTY addresses the three elements that seem to be crucial in order to have shared defence: a) Resources; b) Training and opportunities; c) Safety of the other two parties (how to avoid misuse of power). What does it mean if the agents have different level of development? The differences in the case of defence are numerous. For example, geostrategic location; economic resources; level of military development; training and facilities; number of troops; etc. In the case of Israel and Palestine, the differences are self-evident. A combination of contributions can make these differences work together in an efficient form.


In the Israel-Palestine difference, it will be highly probable that the parties have a different level of development in terms of their respective defence systems (input-to-output ratio principle). Then, the egalitarian shared sovereignty can be fulfilled in two ways: a) following the most efficient combination in terms of contribution (principle of efficiency)—for example, using both the local knowledge of the people in the territory (Palestinians), the geostrategic location (Israel and Palestine), and the equipment, resources and any means best adapted to defending it (Israel); b) the agent with the better comparative situation—in whatever aspect—may contribute in developing the other parties or granting them exclusive privileges (equilibrium proviso)—for example, Israel could train Palestinian troops in exchange for the use of certain locations.


It is clear that the egalitarian shared sovereignty aims only to achieve the same level of opportunity and development for all the involved parties so they are able to defend the third territory (not the territory that is already part of the sovereign States). Thus, even if there were variations in the future in terms of wealth status and defence development among the involved participants, the reciprocal obligation would always be the same for all the agents. In other words, to combine in order to to produce the most efficient result.


Next time: government and law in the context of the Israel-Palestine difference.

NOTE: based on Chapter 7, Núñez, Jorge Emilio. 2017. Sovereignty Conflicts and International Law and Politics: A Distributive Justice Issue. London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group.


Jorge Emilio Núñez

Twitter: @London1701

21st May 2018

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