Judge Selya found that the PA did not have a “defined territory.” After an exhaustive historical analysis, he ruled that “the net result is that, at all times, other states had control over the defined territory.” The Ottoman Empire, England, Egypt, Jordan and Israel have all controlled Palestine over the last century and locals have never exercised independent control.
Similarly, he rejected as specious the PA’s claim that it exercised control of a “permanent population from time immemorial.”
Lastly, Judge Selya ruled that the Oslo accords (the constituent documents of the PA, in which Israel and the PLO entered an agreement to create a “Palestinian Authority” out of whole cloth) “expressly denie[s] the PA the right to conduct foreign relations.”
Similar rulings followed in numerous other terror victims’ suits against the PA. Also, the Supreme Court rejected Clark’s attempt to seek review of the denial of its sovereignty claims. Thus wall-to-wall authority conclusively demonstrates that simply asserting sovereignty (or even obtaining international support for statehood) does not make a non-state into a state under international law. As Judge Selya stated, “The fact remains, however, that neither political recognition of the PLO nor United Nations support for self-governance is sufficient to signify that the Restatement’s conditions for statehood have been met.”
These legal rulings should be kept in mind when considering Abbas’s new tactic which attempts an end run around international law while deviating and undermining Arafat’s approach, which is still the PA’s position in court. As judges have repeatedly ruled, merely obtaining UN approval does not countenance a violation of international law. And as Arafat and Clark acknowledged for two decades, any purported “State of Palestine” must comply with international law in order to be legitimate, no mater how many anti-Israel UN members pile on in either a General Assembly or Security Council vote.
David J. Strachman, a Providence lawyer, represented dozen of victims in numerous lawsuits over the past decade against the Palestinian Authority. He is an adjunct professor at UMASS Law School and Roger Williams University School of Law and author of “Civil Terrorism Law” (Lawyers & Judges Publishing, 2008).