Any treaty is void if, at the time of entry, it is in conflict with a “peremptory” rule of international law, a rule accepted by the community of states as one from which “no derogation is permitted.” Because the right of sovereign states to maintain military forces for self-defense is always such a rule, “Palestine” could be fully within its lawful right to abrogate any agreement that had, before its independence, compelled demilitarization.
Benjamin Netanyahu should take no comfort from any legal promises of Palestinian demilitarization. Should the government of a future Palestinian state choose to invite foreign armies or terrorists on to its territory, possibly after the original government had been overthrown by more militantly Jihadist/Islamic forces, it could do so not only without practical difficulties, but also without necessarily violating international law.
The core danger to Israel of any presumed Palestinian demilitarization is more practical than legal. The Road Map to “Palestine” favored by President Obama and almost all European leaders stems from a persistent misunderstanding of Palestinian history, and also of the long legal history of Jewish life and title to disputed areas in Judea/Samaria (West Bank) and Jerusalem.
At a minimum, President Obama should finally recognize that the PLO was formed in 1964; three years before there were any “occupied territories.”
Exactly what did the PLO plan to “liberate” at its inception?
In his earlier years, Shimon Peres was correct. A Palestinian state – any Palestinian state – would represent an utterly mortal danger to Israel. This danger could not be relieved, inter alia, by any legal Palestinian pre-independence commitments to “demilitarize.”
As I have indicated in several of my previous Jewish Press columns, international law is never a suicide pact.
Louis René Beres, strategic and military affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, is professor of political science at Purdue University. Educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), he lectures and publishes widely on international relations and international law and is the author of ten major books in the field. In Israel, Professor Beres was chair of Project Daniel.