|Everything you need to know about the Palestinian Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI).|
Q: What is UDI?
A: UDI stands for “Unilateral Declaration of Independence.” At the upcoming United Nations session in September, the Palestinian government is expected to request international recognition of the State of Palestine on the 1967 borders and that Palestine be admitted as a full member of the United Nations.
Unilaterally declaring independence without working through the difficult negotiations to make a two-state solution workable on the ground, will not further a viable long-term peace or allow for successful nation building. Instead, it only risks hardening the positions of extremists on both sides, reducing the chances of future peace.back to top
Q: Does the U.N. have the power to grant statehood to the Palestinians?
A: The U.N. does not have the ability to grant statehood; rather, it can grant membership into the U.N. Statehood itself is achieved by meeting the international legal demands of the Montevideo Convention (1933), criteria which a Palestinian state has not yet met (see next question). Palestinian leadership has declared independence on prior occasions.
Q: Does the Palestinian Authority meet the criteria for statehood?
A: At present, the Palestinian Authority fails to satisfy the traditional criteria for statehood: it does not have effective governmental control in the areas in which a Palestinian state is presumed to exist, or effective control over a permanent population. Some of these issues must be determined internally, others determined at the negotiating table. Failure to do so violates existing Israel-Palestinian agreements.
Q: How does the process of granting U.N. membership work?
A: Membership must be approved by the U.N. Security Council. If approved, the U.N. General Assembly votes on the impending membership. If a U.N. Security Council member vetoes the impending membership, a “Uniting for Peace” resolution could be utilized – an attempt to bypass the Security Council by bringing the impending membership to the vote of the General Assembly. However, the General Assembly vote only acts as a recommendation and is not legally binding. Only with the approval of the Security Council can membership be granted.
Q: Which major Palestinian government officials have expressed the intention of Palestinians to declare independence through the U.N.?
A: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Foreign Minister Riad Malki, Chief Negotiator Sa’eb Erakat, and Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad.
Q: Why is a Palestinian UDI different than the Israeli Declaration of Independence in May 1948?
A: When Israel was declared a state in 1948, it had already met the requirements of a state according to international law (see above – link to: What are the criteria for statehood?), allowing it to immediately begin functioning. The Palestinian Authority has not yet met the necessary conditions that would allow for a successfully functioning, legal state.
The Israeli Declaration of Independence did not break any previous treaties or agreements. Rather, it was a fulfillment of the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan, whose borders were then altered as a result of the immediate war waged on Israel. (The U.N. Partition Plan called for an independent Jewish state next to an independent Palestinian state – a plan which was rejected by Arab leadership in favor of a five-state assault on the nascent Israeli state.)
In contradiction, if the Palestinians unilaterally declare independence it will violate previous treaties negotiated by the Israelis and Palestinians that clearly call for negotiations as the means to achieving peace. These include the Declaration of Principles (1993), Interim Agreement (1995), Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum (1999), and the Tri-lateral Statement (2000).back to top
Q: Does the Palestinian’s appeal for UDI violate previous peace agreements?
A: Yes. The Declaration of Principles (1993), Interim Agreement (1995), Sharm el-Shikh Memorandum (1999), and the Tri-lateral Statement (2000), all of which directly involved both Israeli and Palestinian parties, necessitate future negotiations. Additionally, the Road Map (2003) issued by the U.S. State Department and the Middle East Quartet, comprised of the United Nations, European Union, Russian Federation and the United States has condemned unilateralism and supported negotiations.
Q: Is a Palestinian UDI a viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
A: No. As recognized by the U.S. and the Middle East Quartet, a comprehensive solution resulting in peace can only come about with negotiations. Palestinian unilateralism undermines Israel’s territorial integrity and will most likely cause instability in the region and threaten the security of civilians. It will allow the Palestinian leadership to circumvent negotiation requirements which include renouncing violence, recognizing Israel’s right to exist and acknowledging an end to the conflict. By breaching prior peace agreements, it would result in increased vulnerability and uncertainty regarding major issues including the status of Jerusalem, the safety of Israeli Jews living in West Bank settlements (including suburbs of Jerusalem), water-share agreements, and foreign aid.
Q: What do the majority of Americans think about a Palestinian UDI?
A: The majority of Americans, regardless of political affiliations, are opposed to a Palestinian UDI. The majority of Americans believe that the U.S. government should take action by opposing the resolution if it is presented at the U.N. this September. Most Americans believe that if the Palestinian’s UDI is recognized it will only strengthen extremists on both ends of the spectrum. [The Israel Project, Survey: American Attitudes toward the Middle East, June 2011
Q: What does U.S. President Barack Obama think about a Palestinian UDI?
A: President Obama has called for the Palestinians and Israelis to return to direct negotiations and has deemed unilateralism a futile endeavor. In his State Department speech on May 19, 2011, President Obama said, "efforts to delegitimize Israel will not end in peace. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state." Additionally, he stated, "Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection."
Q: What do other members of the U.S. Administration think about a Palestinian UDI?
A: U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said, "No outside country has invested more effort and energy and resources in pursuit of that peace [in the Middle East] than the United States has, and we will continue to do so. But the only way that that goal can be reached, the common goal of a two-state solution, is, as a practical matter, through direct negotiations between the parties. There’s no short cut to that end. And every potential action, including action in the Security Council, has to be measured against one test, and that’s whether it will move the parties closer to negotiations and agreement or take them further apart."
Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton said, "The status quo between Palestinians and Israelis is no more sustainable than the political systems that have crumbled in recent months. Neither Israel’s future as a Jewish democratic state nor the legitimate aspirations of Palestinians can be secured without a negotiated two-state solution. And while it is a truism that only the parties themselves can make the hard choices necessary for peace, there is no substitute for continued active American leadership."back to top
Unilateral Declaration of Independence and Israeli security:
o - Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Tal Becker
o - Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Michael Singh
o Remembering Six Days in 1967 – Foreign Policy, Ambassador Michael Oren
Fatah-Hamas Unity Government and the need to recognize Israel as a Jewish State
o Middle East Peace: The Wrong Pact - LA Times, Ambassador Michael Oren
The Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s Speakers Bureau is dedicated to educating the Jewish and general community about local and international issues. Knowledgeable speakers can address the issues surrounding the potential Palestinian UDI. .
Both the U.S. House and Senate have passed resolutions opposing a Palestinian Unilateral Declaration of Independence and calling for a return to direct negotiations. They also state that any Palestinian unity government must publicly and formally accept Israel’s right to exist, swear off terrorism and reaffirm previous agreements. View the full text () and House () and.
Call upon the 193 Members of the United Nations to vote against endorsing a unilaterally declared Palestinian state and to promote the resumption of bilateral negotiations.