Territorial disputes: the Israel-Palestine difference (Part 5) [Post 45]

The Israel-Palestine difference and the egalitarian shared sovereignty

Time to untangle the Israel-Palestine difference. The last four posts introduced very briefly the background situation of this TERRITORIAL DISPUTE.
With the previous case studies part of the TERRITORIAL DISPUTES series (so far Kashmir, the Falkland/Malvinas islands, and Gibraltar), we covered population, territory, government and law and how to address these conflicts by means of the EGALITARIAN SHARED SOVEREIGNTY.

On this occasion, the Israel-Palestine difference calls for a prior clarification: who counts? For some in Israel, sovereignty over certain areas does not need any discussion with Palestinians. For some in Palestine, sovereignty over the same areas does not need discussion with Israel. Each of these parties consider the land to be theirs and the opponent does not have any legitimate claim.

In domestic law (and this is applicable to international relations too) before going into the negotiations to solve any conflict it is imperative to decide who will be able to be part of them. In other words, who is a legitimate claiming party? This has to do with the “admissibility” steps prior to any negotiation or discussion. In simple terms, if I do not recognize you to have right to claim over “X” I will not discuss who owns “X.” So far, this long standing difference has been in a legal and political limbo. Yet, if we were finally reasonable and wanted a peaceful end to the dispute, who counts? Who can be part of the discussions about the sovereignty over the disputed territories?

The usual grounds in international law to acknowledge legitimacy when disputes of the kind we see here are effective occupation, consent by the other agent in the dispute, consent by other States, and/or consent by the international community. Without entering into too much detail about them (simply to avoid making this post too academic and littered with technical jargon), it is easy to see that Israel and Palestine dispute these grounds for different reasons in relation to their opponent. For example, Palestinians do not have effective occupation and therefore, have no right to claim. Israel does not count with the consent of the other agent in the dispute (Palestine) and most of the regional neighbors; hence, Israel does not have any right to claim sovereignty. And so on…

The issue, I believe, is that the usual grounds for legitimacy do not capture the whole complexity of Israel-Palestine difference. In my latest monograph (Núñez 2017) I develop the idea any claiming party in a sovereignty conflict should have what I call a “colorable claim.” The expression comes from the domestic Courts in the US and, to an extent, in Scotland. 

In basic terms, any party claiming sovereignty (whether Israel or Palestine) must have a valid reason to claim. That reason should be “colorable” enough to prove that their intended rights are at least sufficiently plausible to be acknowledged, and they can be based on any reasonable circumstances—e.g. political, historical, legal, geographical arguments to name a few. 

For example, in the case of the Falklands/Malvinas islands dispute it would be unreasonable for Russia to participate in the negotiations in relation to their sovereignty since they do not have any colorable claim over that territory.

I will introduce next time more details about the colorable claim and its different grounds. I aim to show how and why both Israel and Palestine have the right to claim sovereignty. To be more precise, I refer to the RIGHT TO CLAIM SOVEREIGNTY and not SOVEREIGNTY itself. Remember a right to claim anything is prior to having the right acknowledged. First, we have to prove we can claim (admissibility). It is only after this step we can argue who has the right (the substance of the case).

NOTE: This post is based on Jorge Emilio Núñez, “Territorial Disputes and State Sovereignty: International Law and Politics,” London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2020 (forthcoming)Previous published research monograph about territorial disputes and sovereignty by the author, Jorge Emilio Núñez, “Sovereignty Conflicts and International Law and Politics: A Distributive Justice Issue,” London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2017.

NEXT POST: The Israel-Palestine difference: Who counts? (available on Monday 06th January 2020).

Friday 06th December 2019 

Dr Jorge Emilio Núñez

Twitter: @London1701

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