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Memorandum prepared by the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations - New York
Response to Arguments that the "September Initiative" regarding Statehood will harm the Status of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the rights of the Palestine Refugees: Foreword: The Palestinian people are recognized worldwide as a nation of people with a distinct history, heritage, culture and society. The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and freedom is an inalienable right, enshrined in the United Nations Charter, international law and United Nations resolutions and also recognized worldwide. This right to self-determination and freedom includes the right to an independent State where the Palestinian people can live as a free and dignified people without external interference. This is among the legitimate national aspirations of the Palestinian people, for which they have been striving for decades. As all peoples in the world, the Palestinian people must struggle with national crises, problems and difficult and sensitive issues. Primary among the crises that the Palestinian people and their national movement and leadership have faced over the decades are the plight of the Palestine refugees since the 1948 Al-Nakba and the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, since 1967, and all of the crimes and violations perpetrated against our people by the occupying Power with the continuation of this conflict and the obstruction of peace and justice for our people. The continuing national effort to resolve the conflict in all its aspects, including the achievement of just solutions for the core final status issues - the Palestine refugees, Jerusalem, the settlements, borders, security, water and prisoners - does not contradict or negate our right to be a free people, like all other peoples of the world. We have an inalienable right to freedom and to an independent homeland for our people as we continue this journey to justly and completely resolve the conflict and achieve all of the rights of our people, including their right to return, in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions and provisions of international law, including humanitarian and human rights law. This is the core of the "September Initiative" for Palestinian Statehood: affirmation of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to Statehood and recognition of the State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on the basis of the pre-June 1967 borders, existing as a
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reality in the international community and as an equal member of the community of nations, with equal rights and sovereignty under international law that must be respected. The right to self-determination and freedom and other human rights, including the right of refugees to return, are not mutually exclusive and the achievement of one does not negate the other. Any other interpretation is baseless and ignores the international human rights covenants, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which affirms the rights to which all peoples of the world are entitled. Accordingly, the current arguments circulating about potential dangers and harm that could be caused to the status of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people as a whole and the legal status, rights and representation of the Palestine refugees are distorted arguments, based on faulty assumptions that ignore the extensive national, regional and international legislation that exists in this regard. Such national, regional and international legislation safeguards the rights of the refugees, including their right to return and to just compensation on the basis of UN General Assembly resolution 194 (III) (11 December 1948) and safeguards the status and role of the PLO. Moreover, such arguments ignore the historical and ongoing functioning of the PLO at the national, regional and international levels on behalf of the Palestinian people in their entirety, both the Palestinian civilian population living under the Israeli occupation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (namely the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip) and the Palestinian refugees in the Diaspora, including in the refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the OPT itself. Lastly, the arguments being made reflect either a serious lack of understanding or total dismissal of the essence of the right to self-determination, the inalienable right of all peoples to be free and live in dignity, determining their own political status and destiny, enjoying their human rights and developing and prospering without external interference. Facts and Explanation: 1. The Statehood initiative being pursued at the United Nations (UN) revolves around the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and the exercise of that right in an independent homeland, in accordance with the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1970 UNGA "Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations", and all relevant UN resolutions regarding the question of Palestine that have been adopted over the decades and continue to be adopted. 2. The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to an independent State has been repeatedly reaffirmed by the international community in numerous UN resolutions, by the ICJ in its 2004 advisory opinion, and via the bilateral recognitions accorded to Palestine by 126 countries, the majority of which recognized the State of Palestine post Declaration of Independence in 1988 by the Palestinian National Council (PNC). Such reaffirmations of this right are based on the above international legal instruments as well as on the two-State solution for a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of the pre-June 1967 borders, on which the Declaration of Independence by the PNC/PLO was explicitly based in 1988. The two-State solution thus became the official position of the Palestinian national movement in 1988, long before the advent of the Palestinian National Authority (PA). This
position was of course adopted without prejudice to the legitimate rights of the Palestine refugees wherever they may be, including to return and to just compensation, and to the status of Occupied East Jerusalem, which by then Israel, the occupying Power, had imposed its so-called basic law on in attempted de facto annexation of East Jerusalem, which was in 1988 declared the capital of the State of Palestine. 3. The exercise by a people of their right to self-determination is precisely their pursuit freely, without any external interference, of their political status, i.e. to determine how to govern themselves and to determine their destiny. Thus, the political structures of governance are determined freely by that people. If it is the choice of the Palestinian people and their leadership to maintain the PLO as their supreme governing body, or executive body, or ultimate decisionmaking body then that is their right and their decision. Through the various stages of the contemporary Palestinian national struggle this has been the case and remains so until now. The PLO remains the most authoritative Palestinian governing body, overseeing the national efforts to achieve the legitimate rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people and representing the Palestinian people in their entirety, both the Palestinian civilian population living under Israeli occupation in the Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Palestine refugees in the Diaspora, including in the refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and in the Occupied Palestinian Territory itself, in all international forums. 4. No initiative in the UN regarding recognition of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people and the independence of the State of Palestine on the basis of the pre-1967 borders and its acceptance among the community of nations would "terminate" the PLO. That is the sovereign decision of the Palestinian people and their leadership and they only. We cannot be told by anyone that: as you are recognized as a State, now you cannot have the PLO. If we want to maintain the PLO as a governing body, then that is our decision and that of no one else. This is the essence of sovereignty: the right to decide your fate and to govern yourself accordingly. We maintained and preserved the status and role of the PLO, including via specific UN resolutions, even after the Palestine National Council declared the independence of Palestine in 1988 and even after establishment of the PNA in 1994 and so forth, and such would be the case with the undertaking of the current Statehood initiative. 5. The proponents of the arguments against the Statehood initiative seem to deliberately ignore the relevant national, regional and international legislation on this issue of PLO status and representation of the Palestinian people as a whole, wherever they may be and whatever their legal status, whether refugees or civilians living under foreign occupation. 6. The national legislation in this regard includes, inter alia, the PLO Charter, the PNC Declaration of Independence of Palestine, etc and the establishment of the PNA as a subsidiary body to the PLO, in addition to the dual role played by President Abbas as Chairman of the PLO Executive Committee and President of the PNA and the repeated proclamation and fact that the PLO is the ultimate authority and representative for the Palestinian people as a whole, whether inside the Occupied Palestinian Territory (including the nearly 2 million registered refugees in the OPT itself between the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip) or in the Diaspora. 7. The international legislation in this regard includes, inter alia, the relevant UN resolutions by which the PLO (1974-1988)/Palestine (1988-Present) gained observer status and by which it
functions in the UN and on the international stage, both bilaterally and multilaterally (NAM, OIC, Arab League, etc.) with Member States throughout the world. This legislation also includes the relevant resolutions regarding the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and regarding all aspects of the plight and rights of the Palestine refugees, which we have strived year after year to reaffirm and to gain overwhelming support for by the international community at the UN as well as in other international forums, and the 2004 1CJ Advisory Opinion. It also includes the PLO relationship with UNRWA and the agreement signed between the two and the PLO-Palestine's role as a member of the Advisory Commission of UNRWA advocating on behalf of the Palestine refugees. And, it includes the Oslo Accords (Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Govemment Arrangements), which specified the role and status of the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people and the letters of mutual recognition between the two sides. 8. In addition, we must look at the relevant regional legislation that is also being ignored by proponents of the faulty arguments against the Statehood initiative. This includes regional legislation in the form of positions taken by the League of Arab States, in which Palestine is a full Member State. Within the Arab League, the role, function and representative status of the PLO and the positions regarding the rights of the Palestine refugees and the two-state solution based on the pre-1967 borders are clear. In this connection, it must be stressed that the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which is predicated on the two-State solution, also calls for a just solution to the Palestine refugee problem on the basis of UNGA resolution 194. 9. As for the claim that such an initiative would abrogate the right of the Palestine refugees to return and/or to just compensation in accordance with international law and UNGA resolution 194 and subsequent relevant resolutions, this too is unfounded and not based in legal fact. The refugee issue is a core issue, a final status issue, and a political issue that requires a just and comprehensive political solution. Addressing the issue of the State and the right to selfdetermination does not negate the rights, status or claims of the Palestine refugees. Nor does it negate the requirement for a just and comprehensive solution addressing this refugee issue as a primary national issue for the Palestinian people, which is also a priority regional issue concerning the countries neighboring Palestine that have been hosting Palestine refugees for over six decades, namely Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. 10. The Palestinian leadership has repeatedly stated that we must negotiate just solutions for all of the final status issues, including the refugee issue, on the basis of clear parameters based on international law and UN resolutions and within a specified timeframe, before, during and after our Statehood push. Regardless of the Statehood initiative, it is understood that the plight of the Palestine refugees must be politically, definitively and justly resolved. 11. In this regard, we reaffirm that the Palestine refugee issue is a national, regional and international issue and any solution would have to be comprehensive and just in nature in order to be a lasting solution that address all aspects of the question, including the rights of the Palestine refugees to return and compensation, compensation issues in terms of the host countries, international responsibility and role with regard to any solution arrived at, and mechanisms for implementation. The Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the UN has drafted, negotiated and lobbied for the adoption by the widest majority of Member States of countless UN resolutions that preserve the legal status and rights of the Palestine refugees and the role of the
international community in this regard, including in terms of the assistance provided to the refugee population by the UNRWA. Indeed, the PLO-Palestine at the UN have done everything possible to preserve the rights of the Palestine refugees - to return, to compensation, to their properties and revenues - year after year on the international stage and to ensure for them the humanitarian and socio-economic assistance they need to survive - for all the refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and all of the OPT. This is factual and fully documented in official UN records. The adoption of all these resolutions has been, and continues to be, pursued by Palestine's representatives at the UN. 12. The claim that pursuing this initiative - which aims at consecrating the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to their independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on the basis of the pre-1967 borders - would negate the rights of the refugees is to give credence to the harmful and rhetorical Israeli arguments in this regard. This argument is baseless, because even in the context of negotiations and the peace process, and even in the context of the infamous Roadmap, it has been repeatedly stated that a just, agreed, fair solution for the refugees must be arrived at. Such an Israeli position negating the rights of the refugees is neither just, nor would it ever be agreed to by Palestine and it is an internationally, regionally and nationally known fact this issue must be resolved for an end of all claims in the conflict. 13. In sum, opposition to the Statehood initiative at this point in time, under arguments revolving around the status of the PLO and particularly the rights of the Palestine refugees, is misguided and predicated on faulty premises at best, or at worst is mal-intended and taking advantage of the high sensitivity of this issue among the Palestinian people. These arguments have no basis in the actual national, regional and international legislation and understandings that exist. Such arguments seem clearly centered on opposition to the two-State solution and in turn support for the one- State solution. This is a position held by a segment of the Palestinian people, and it is their legitimate right to have a different position and opinion, but that does not justify attempts to undermine, with misinformation and faulty legal arguments, an initiative aimed at promoting the rights of the Palestinian people as a whole to self-determination and freedom to their human rights and dignity at this point in the history of our struggle as a nation of people. 14. Further, these misguided arguments reflect a lack of understanding about the UN and about its longstanding resolutions regarding the question of Palestine, namely the international legislation on the question, from 181, 194 and onwards. The UN is not a non-govemmental organization; it is the world body representing the international community, in which the Palestinian people have been represented by their sole legitimate representative, the PLO, since 1974. There has never been a so-called bifurcation of representation of the Palestinian people in this world body; we are one, both the Palestine refugees in the Diaspora and Palestinian civilian population living under occupation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. All segments of our people - under occupation, in the refugee camps, and living in exile are represented as one people with a just and noble cause. 15. Of course, in this context, the necessary attention is accorded to the specific plight of the Palestine refugees and their legitimate rights and needs, as reflected in the numerous resolutions adopted yearly and the efforts exerted to ensure the continuity and requisite support for UNRWA to serve the Palestine in all areas of the region, all of which are officially documented in the resolutions adopted by the General Assembly (again, all drafted, presented and negotiated by
Palestine at the UN) and the statements of the delegation of Palestine, whether at the General Assembly, Security Council, Human Rights Council, Economic and Social Council, ICJ, etc. At the same time, the necessary attention is accorded to the plight of the Palestinian civilians under Israel's military occupation and the gross violation of all of their human rights by the occupying Power, including the war crimes perpetrated against them. This too is fully and officially documented in UN records, whether in resolutions or statements in all of its organs and bodies. 16. This is the essence and core of Palestine's representation of all the Palestinian people in the UN, namely in the international community. This has been the case since the PLO gained observer status in the organization in 1974 and thereafter, including after the change of title/ designation at the UN from PLO to Palestine in 1988 following the PNC's Declaration of Independence. In resolution 43/177 (15 December 1988), by which the GA changed the designation (by sovereign decision by the Palestinian leadership and not externally imposed), the status of the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people and the rights and privileges it attained in the UN on behalf of this people were preserved. It has remained so thereafter, even after Oslo and the establishment of the PA, and this is precisely because it was the decision of the PLO to maintain it as such because it is a people and their leadership who determine their representation and governing bodies and not any external force. 17. In addition, in 1998, the General Assembly adopted resolution 52/250 (7 July 1998) regarding the "Participation of Palestine in the work of the United Nations", upgraded the observer status of Palestine in the UN, without prejudice to existing rights and privileges attained by the PLO in previous resolutions that are also recalled in the said resolution. This upgrade did not harm or alter the status of the PLO as representative of all of the Palestinian people in the international arena. Moreover, in this regard, it is relevant to point out that even the official letters sent by Palestine to the UN Secretary-General and the Security Council, which are also official UN records, always refer to the "Palestinian leadership" in deference to the dichotomy in our structures, with the PLO and PA playing different roles, but clearly with the PLO being the parent body and the ultimate authority. 18. Another matter that seems to not be understood is the status of the Palestinian people's representation in other international, regional and political organizations. As mentioned earlier, Palestine is a full member in the Arab League and its representation in this body is of all Palestinians. Palestine is also a full member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Group of 77 and China and in these bodies it represents all of the Palestinian people. They, their rights and their plight - as refugees and as civilians under foreign occupation - are fully addressed and represented by Palestine in these bodies. This too is fully and officially documented in the declarations of the NAM Summits and Ministerial Conferences, including the Declarations of the NAM Committee on Palestine, with all paragraphs of the larger declarations of the Movement and of the Committee on Palestine drafted and negotiated and secured by the delegation of Palestine to the UN in NY and addressing all aspects of the question of Palestine, without exception. The same is applicable to the declarations and communiques adopted by the OIC Group in NY. Palestine is also a full member of the ESCWA (Economic and Social Commission of Western Asia) and represents the whole of the Palestinian people in this body.
19. Lastly, references to "citizenship" in connection with the September initiative are misguided, misplaced and dangerous. Again, this is about the inalienable right of our people to selfdetermination, independence and freedom. The day after, barring any unforeseen miracle, there will still be the Israeli occupation that we must continue to strive to bring to an end and all the core final status issues remain to be resolved, including the plight of the refugees, Jerusalem, the settlements, borders, security, water and, I would add, the prisoners as well. Citizenship and other related issues are internal issues that will have to be dealt with by the leadership, but this is not an issue to be at all dealt with at the UN in the context September initiative. Again, the focus of this initiative is aimed at consecrating our right to be free and to have an independent State in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip based on the pre- June 1967 borders, i.e. the two-State solution, thus making these both unquestionable, recognized worldwide, and inevitable. 20. Furthermore, the question of "citizenship" in the State of Palestine for any Palestinian the world over does not negate the need for a just solution to the refugee issue. These two matters exist in tandem and separately on their own merits. Further, as noted earlier, the Palestine refugee issue is also a regional issue and cannot be so simply discarded following adoption of a resolution recognizing the State in the pre-1967 territory or upgrading Palestine to a non-member State in the UN system. These are all assumptions that have no substantive political or legal basis. In this regard, a contemporary issue of can be easily referred to as an example: with regard to Sudan. South Sudan's independence and admission as a full Member State in the UN in no way abrogates the rights of its refugees, an issue that must be resolved among several other "outstanding issues", including the border issue, which must all be fully and justly resolved. 21. Thus, whether the two-State solution is achieved or not, in all circumstances, the refugee issue is a core political issue requiring just political solution. This is undeniable and would even be the case in the event that this last ditch effort to achieve the two- State solution fails and we are forced to turn to other alternative solutions, such as the one-State, in which case we would still need to find a just and internationally-supported (particularly in terms of any ultimate compensation mechanism) solution for the plight of the Palestine refugees. Nothing about a September initiative on Statehood would negate this and nor would it negate the role and status of the PLO so long as it is the decision of the people and their leadership to maintain it as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and that is indeed the current and longheld position.