The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs published a letter this past Wednesday. The letter was written by a team headed by Ambassador Alan Baker. Baker was the Legal Counsel and Deputy Director General of Israel’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs between 1996 and 2004, and then Israel’s ambassador to Canada from 2004-2008.
Baker is considered one of Israel’s leading experts in international law. Whether he is an honest expert, however, is cast into doubt by this letter.
The letter is addressed to United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, and purports to prove that the Palestinian effort to gain recognition of statehood is illegal under international law.
I freely admit that, despite my years of working with and on questions of international law with regard to the Israel-Palestine conflict, I am no international lawyer. Nonetheless, the holes in the legal arguments in this letter are so big a lawyer is not needed to debunk them.
I need to note at the outset that the push for UN recognition does face some serious obstacles. On Friday, the President of the UN General Assembly stated that the UNGA cannot take it upon itself to vote for Palestinian membership in the UN. Indeed, Article 4 of the UN charter specifically sets out the process for membership and it requires a Security Council recommendation before the GA can vote on it. Obviously, the US will veto any such recommendation.
The GA can still vote on a resolution that would carry no legal weight, such as one acknowledging that a clear majority of world states recognize Palestine, but that does nothing more than the list of countries that have recognized Palestine already does (that list is 112 nations long, out of 192 UN member states).
If the Palestinians have a way around this issue, they have not made that apparent, and frankly, their track record on planning such things out with a clear strategy does not inspire confidence.
But that doesn’t change the weakness of the argument presented for the push for the UN vote’s purported illegality.