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No Palestinian State

The Legal and Biblical Case against a Palestinian State

“I begin with the basic conviction that Jews and Arabs can live together. I know that we are both inhabitants of this land, and although the state is Jewish, that does not mean that Arabs should not be full citizens in every sense of the word.” [Ariel Sharon, 2002 ]

Palestinian Statehood and the Two-State Solution

No Palestinian State

This has been an issue for decades . For example, in 1947 a UN Special Commission on Palestine recommended that Palestine be divided equally, with open borders, into an Arab state and a Jewish state (note that the plan referred to an “Arab state”, rather than to a Palestinian state since there was no indigenous Palestinian people). The UN General Assembly adopted this plan in 1947 (UN Resolution GA 181). The Jews accepted the UN resolution but the Arabs rejected it. 

The Oslo Accords (1993) was another attempt at a 2-state solution. Here Israel recognised the PLO as Palestine’s official representative, the PLO renounced the use of violence, and the PLO recognised Israel’s right to exist. The PLO became the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 1994. Negotiations then continued as Israel and the PLO worked to implement a 2-state solution. Article 31 of the Oslo Interim Agreement 1995 stated:

Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations

So any attempt to change the status of these territories, namely a 2-state solution without prior negotiations with Israel would violate this clause. Sadly, after a series of negotiations and suspensions over some 5 years, the Oslo Accords process ended after the failure of the Camp David Summit in 2000 .

Clearly, legal Palestinian Statehood is fundamental to any 2-state solution.

Legal Definitions of Palestinian Statehood

In international law there is no specific definition of what constitutes a ‘state’ and the legal definition is disputed among scholars, diplomats and individual nations. Currently there are two theories of statehood: The declarative theory and the constitutive theory, link, link.

The Declarative Theory

A state can be considered as such if it meets the definition of statehood declared in the 1933 Montevideo Convention:

1: a Permanent Population/People

2: a defined territory

3: a government

4: a capacity to conduct international relations

“I don’t say there are no Palestinians, but I say there is no such thing as a distinct Palestinian people.” [ Golda Meir, 1970, Israeli Prime Minister ]

According to the declaratory school of thought, the standards specified under the Montevideo Convention suffice to fulfil the criteria of statehood under international law, link. Importantly, the Montevideo Convention explains that the political existence of a state “is independent of recognition by the other states“. Put another way, on this legal definition, the on-going desire of nations to recognise a Palestinian State seems irrelevant.

The Constitutive Theory

Unlike the Montevideo Convention, this theory says that a state can only be considered a state if other states in the world recognize it as such. In contrast to the Montevideo theory, the Constitutive Theory maintains that it is the act of recognition by other states that creates a new state. This theory is not codified in law: rather, it considers modern statehood a matter of both international law and diplomacy. As of 2024, the majority of the 193 UN member states (145) recognized the Palestinian territories as a state, but the Palestinian territories were not recognized by the US, France or the UK as a state.

The constitutive theory has a number of drawbacks in practice. Firstly, the question of which States’ recognition, if any, must be obtained is ambiguous. Secondly, constitutive theory falls short on finding a solution for a situation where several countries recognize an entity as a State while other States do not, link. It also raises the question of how many recognitions are necessary in order for an entity to become a State.

The Legal Stalemate

Given drawbacks of the Constitutive Theory, recent cases in international law have demonstrated that the Declaratory Theory of recognition is more commonly accepted than the Constitutive Theory. The criteria of the Montevideo Convention are for the most part good law, link. That said, there are significant problems with the Declaratory Theory, namely:

  1. Even if the existence of a Palestinian people is now widely accepted (they did not exist as such in the early 20th century), the problem of how to define Palestine’s “defined territory” remains, see Israel’s Legal Borders. “Under international law, neither Jordan nor the Palestinian Arab ‘people’ of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have a substantial claim to the sovereign possession of the occupied territories. The West Bank should be considered ‘unallocated territory’” [ Professor Eugene Rostow ]
  2. Is there an internationally recognised authority to control and administer the State? Currently Palestine has no effective control and therefore cannot, even with external recognition, be a new State, link. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) represents Palestine in a diplomatic capacity, but has no authority over local governance. In contrast, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has “municipal authority” over the Palestinian territories and could be what is required.
  3. There is a debate taking place in the international legal world over whether or not satisfying the Montevideo criteria alone is enough to be a State or if external recognition is also necessary.
  4. How would a Palestinian State handle the status of Jerusalem?

The Biblical Case Against a Palestinian State

No Palestinian State according to the Bible

Whilst the world tries to justify a Palestinian State from a legal point of view, the biblical case against a Palestinian State is very clear. Modern-day Israel (ancient Canaan) is God’s land (Ezekiel 36:5) and has been given to the descendants of Abraham as an inheritance. God made a covenant with Abraham:

To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates (Genesis 15:18)

Despite Israel’s future disobedience, this promise was unconditional in that the land was to be theirs forever; no strings attached:

I will give to you and to your descendants … all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession (Genesis 17:8)

This includes Jerusalem, from which Christ rules the nations upon His return to earth. So the “God of Israel” gets angry when the nations seek to divide this relatively small piece of land:

I will enter into judgement with the nations . . . (because) they have divided up My land (Joel 3:2)

What about the Palestinians?

The Bible instructs the people of Israel how they should treat foreigners (non-Jews). Old Testament Israel was commanded to love foreigners and to let them live normal lives amongst them (Deuteronomy 10:19):

When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall do him no wrong … (he) shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself (Leviticus 19:33-34)

This instruction is timeless and applies to future Israel. During the Millennium, as Christ reigns from Jerusalem, the land is divided up amongst the tribes of Israel, link, and the stranger amongst them is also ‘allotted an inheritance’:

And they (strangers) shall be to you as the native-born among the sons of Israel; they shall be allotted an inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel (Ezekiel 47:22)

And of course God’s timeless instruction applies now. It applies to Palestinian Arabs today. If only the Palestinian leaders (Hamas and Hezbollah) would accept the existence of the State of Israel, then Palestinians could live peaceably alongside the Jews. No separate Palestinian State would be required.

During an interview in 1989, Ariel Sharon was asked: “Do you think of Arabs as your friends, neighbours, your enemies?” He replied:

From my childhood, I have believed Jews and Arabs can live together, and I believe now they should live together. All the rights to this country, to the land of Israel – especially Judea and Samaria – are Jewish … but everyone who lives in the country should have all the rights of the country.” (Ariel Sharon, TIME, April 1989)

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