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August 26, 2011 1:40 pm

PA Statehood Bid Defies Legal Advice

avatar by Maxine Dovere

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Mahmoud Abbas. Photo: Olivier Pacteau.

“People get it,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Director of The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. The Conference and its members have organized a “100 day plan” in response to the anticipated attempt of Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to seek a unilateral declaration of Palestinian Statehood during the United Nations General Assembly in September.

A series of regular briefings for leaders of the Jewish community and Israeli representatives have resulted in “a remarkable demonstration” of unity in the Jewish community. The meetings have discussed ways to” try to prepare and be ready for any of the alternatives,” said Hoenlein, noting that ” the PA may go all the way – even to the Security Council, to do whatever they can to embarrass United States and  put the PA on the map.”

“If they go ahead, they are replacing the PLO with the PA,” he said.  The PA, he noted “only represents the Palestinian Authority in its territorial area. (Currently, it does not represent the Palestinians of Gaza.) He continued, saying a unilateral declaration “will thus limit any claim on the right of return. The PA can claim no rights in any place except in their area.”

“The Palestinian leadership’s failure to condemn Thursday’s attack against civilians raises serious questions about their readiness for independence, and their commitment to fight terrorism,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev. “Their silence was deafening.”

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Additional admonitions to the PA not to proceed with a unilateral declaration have come from the legal experts of the PLO. International law expert Professor Guy Goodwin-Gill has stated that that the application for statehood could dislodge the PLO from its current United Nations position. His legal opinion is adamantly and characteristically countered by Palestinian representative Hanan Ashrawi, as reported in the Palestinian News Agency Maan.  She disputes his opinion, claiming “the plan to join the United Nations as a state would not threaten the PLO’s UN rights.  Ashrawi says “Palestinian refugees have nothing to fear.  She claims that statehood status would allow Palestine “to have full membership in international institutions”

Goodwin-Gill has stated that the PA attempt would terminate the legal status of the PLO in the UN.  His statement of opinion follows repeated requests to the PLO leadership for clarification regarding its status should the PA proceed with the statehood declaration.  It is the clearest “unofficial public statement “to date.

Abbas, says Hoenlein, is pushing for a declaration of state hood.  He appears to “want a legacy of giving the Israelis nothing,” and seems to be continuing the on the path to unilateral declaration “despite the advice of the PLO Legal committee and his own Prime Minister Fayyad” who Hoenlein called “rational…But he has no support within the PA.”

Asked about the relative quiet greeting the 2011 Durban 3 Conference, Hoenlein noted that it has had a “minimum impact.”  The general sense is that the US has played it down.  The Conference of Presidents’ members have acted similarly, choosing not to afford it any significant status. “Ours is a completely coordinated effort from day one,” he said.

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