Factsheet: The Palestinian Unilateral Declaration of Independence bid at the UN

Factsheet: The Palestinian Unilateral Declaration of Independence bid at the UN


  • To provide you with information on why Australia should vote against the UN resolution seeking recognition of an independent Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines in September 2011.


It will not establish a Palestinian state under international law

  • It is expected that the UN resolution will be blocked in the Security Council by US veto, and will pass in the General Assembly where it is non-binding.  The General Assembly cannot by itself establish or recognise a state, it can only admit new members after being nominated by the Security Council.
  • The General Assembly has already recommended the creation of a Palestinian State previously and the resolutions have not created a Palestinian state.
  • the Palestinians do not meet the traditional test for statehood – particularly the test of effective government – premature and unilateral recognition of an “unripe” Palestinian state could have a prejudicial effect on other regional conflicts.
  • While it is arguable that the West Bank, or Gaza could meet requirements for statehood, the resolution being sought does not meet requirements for statehood as it seeks recognition of a united and independent Palestinian state on Gaza, West Bank and east Jerusalem.

It is a violation of International Law and Peace Agreements

  • it violates international frameworks for peace including:
    • Security Council resolutions 242, 338 which called upon the parties to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Middle East and specifically stressed the need to negotiate in order to achieve “secure and recognized boundaries.”
    • Oslo II (1995) established that ”neither side shall initiate or take any steps that will change the status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip pending the outcome of permanent status negotiations”;
    • The Roadmap for Peace;
    • Statements by the Quartet which call for a mutually negotiated and agreed resolution to the conflict and not unilateral acts;
    • it would unravel the institutionalised legal and administrative framework that underpins existing Israeli-Palestinian relations, which include bilateral arrangements in over forty spheres of civilian activity and which serve as a basis for economic, legal, and security cooperation and might well precipitate new and violent confrontations.
  • Regarding the ‘1967 lines’ – these are based on the 1949 Armistice Agreements entered into by Israel and its Arab neighbours, which stated that these lines ”are without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.” These are not and have never been internationally recognised borders.

It would recognise Hamas – a terrorist organisation

  • if UN unilateral recognition were to take place while Hamas is the ongoing authority in Gaza, in partnership with Fatah, it would effectively constitute recognition of Hamas – a terrorist organisation outlawed in Australia, Canada, the US, and European countries – while Hamas continues to reject the basic requirements of the international community such as recognising Israel’s right to exist, forswearing terrorism and accepting previous international agreements.

It will not bring peace and promote conflict

  • UN recognition will result in unclear borders and leave unresolved major issues that have been roadblocks to peace including: the status of Jerusalem’s holy sites, infrastructure connecting the West Bank and Gaza and the ”right of return for Palestinian refugees”. These would be a source of tension if not violence.
  • Raised expectations by Palestinians could lead to a ‘third intifada’.

Palestinians can achieve a state by negotiating with Israel

  • The Palestinian Authority (PA) has been offered a Palestinian state by Israeli prime ministers Olmert in 2008 and Barak in 2000, but has rebuffed these offers. The 2008 Olmert ”package” included: a territorial solution offering the Palestinians territory equivalent of the 1967 borders, with ”land swap” modifications on both sides and Jerusalem divided, with east Jerusalem Arab neighbourhoods under Palestinian sovereignty. Israel offered to accept an agreed number of refugees for five years on humanitarian grounds, and to support the creation of an international fund that would compensate all the refugees.
  • PA rejected these offers for statehood primarily because it has refused to relinquish its claim to a ”right of return” to Israel for descendants of 1948 refugees. It’s willingness to reach a reasonable accommodation on Jerusalem is also very much in doubt.
  • Israel will not accept a right of return for all Palestinian refugee descendants (approximately 5 million) because it would likely end its existence as a nation-state of the Jewish people. Any peace agreement should recognise Israel’s right to exist at the nation state of the Jewish people.
  • Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that he is willing to negotiate a “package” which specifies that the borders of the Palestinian state were to be based on 1967 lines with mutual land swaps, if the Palestinians drop the UN bid and give some ground on recognising Israel as a Jewish state.  Therefore, the international community should encourage the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.
  • Moreover, the Palestinians are deliberately avoiding negotiation with Israel, any declaration is more likely to encourage them to continue that policy than convince them to end it.

Australia should vote against the resolution rather than abstain because:

  • Voting against the UN resolution to establish a Palestinian state sends a clear message to the Palestinian leadership that negotiations and not unilateral acts are the only way to peace.
  • While a two state solution remains the only desirable outcome for both Israelis and Palestinians, unilateral acts by the Palestinians will not achieve either peace or statehood, but are likely to escalate the conflict.
  • The Palestinian leadership has been deliberately avoiding negotiations with Israel, and a UN resolution is likely to inspire further unilateral acts by the Palestinians that will not bring peace.
  • Now that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that he is willing to negotiate a “package” which specifies that the borders of the Palestinian state will be based on 1967 lines with mutual land swaps, Australia and the rest of the international community should encourage the Palestinians back to the negotiating table by telling the Palestinians in advance that they will not support the Palestinian UN resolution in September.


  • Palestinians are seeking UN recognition of an independent Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines in September.
  • Fatah (the ruling party in the Palestinian Authority) and Hamas have signed a unity deal to ostensibly appear united for the UN bid.  The unity government has not come into existence – they cannot agree on who will be Prime Minister, and some Hamas officials have criticised the UN bid.
  • In the General Assembly it is likely to receive 140 of the UN’s 193 states and they need a two-thirds majority (129 states) to approve the resolution.
  • Israel is seeking a “moral majority” of Western countries to oppose the Palestinians to limit the impact of any resolution.
  • The US, Italy, Germany and Canada have said they will not support the PA UN bid.  It is also likely that many Latin American countries will vote against it.  It unclear how France and Britain will vote.
  • On 19 May 2011 US President Obama stated “symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state”.  This was reaffirmed in the communique of the G8 on 27 May 2011.

Further Reading:

Colin Rubenstein, “Up a Tree”, Australia Israel Review (AIR)

Sharyn Mittelman, “UN Call will not end this crisis”, Canberra Times

Pinhas Inbari, “After September’, AIR

Members of the Friends of Israel, “State of Tension”, Jerusalem Post and AIR

Letter to the UN Secretary General on why the Palestinian UN bid is illegal, JCPA

Efraim Karsh and Asaf Romirowsky, “Land for War”, Wall Street Journal

Tal Becker, “A Coming Storm? Prospects and Implications of UN Recognition of Palestinian Statehood”, Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Fouad Ajami, “The UN Cant’s Deliver a Palestinian State”, Wall Street Journal

Background on the Palestinian ‘right of return’ – see Geoff Levine’s article “Illusion of Return”, AIR

“Israeli minister says Palestinians losing UN bid”, Yahoo News

“Most Latin American Nations Rethinking PA UN Bid”, Jerusalem Post

150 Italian MPs against Palestinian unilateralism at the UN, for resumption of negotiations

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