Viable Palestinian State

A viable Palestinian state has become the commonly used concept to describe the nature of the Palestinian entity in permanent status.

Definition

A viable Palestinian state has become the commonly used concept to describe the nature of the Palestinian entity in Permanent Status. It has evolved into an unspecified minimum benchmark for the Palestinian entity to ascend to statehood (see Accession to Statehood).

Background

Since 1988, the Palestinian national movement has formally focused on securing the Palestinian Right of Self Determination within an independent, sovereign Palestinian State alongside Israel.

In the mid 90’s, the concept of viability has been introduced by the Palestinians into the international discourse in the context of the economic prosperity and sustainable development of a future Palestinian State.

Since early 2000, a viable Palestinian state has become the commonly used concept to describe the end state of the Palestinian entity in permanent status. This concept has developed in parallel to the international recognition of the Palestinian claim to statehood. It has been adopted by all major actors in their reference to the future Palestinian entity,1 in spite of absence of a shared understanding of the meaning of viability in this context.

Over time, the component of viability has been assuming new content. For some, it now comprises not only of economic development, but also elements such as the resolution of outstanding issues including borders and territory (particularly contiguity and continuity), Jerusalem, removal of Israeli settlements, water, and refugees.

Furthermore, as viability has expanded in content, it has also become a de-facto minimum benchmark for the accession to statehood by the Palestinians that does not exist in international law – viability, in addition to sovereignty. In the Palestinian case, meeting the requirements of public international law with regard to sovereignty and exercising the right of self determination may not be sufficient. There may be other benchmarks, emanating from the concept of viability, which will have to be met in order to create a Palestinian state.

The international endorsement of the concept of viability, in the absence of a robust understanding of its meaning, may transform viability into a point of future friction in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Furthermore, accepting viability as a requirement for accession to Palestinian Statehood may create a precedent.


[1]

For example, in Bush Vision to the Middle East (6/24/02), US President Bush referred to: “… support the emergence of a viable, credible Palestinian state” as well as in the Exchange of Letters Concerning the Disengagement Plan . The Quartet uses this concept in the Roadmap when referring to the Permanent Status of the Palestinian State. PM Sharon has used the concept in his speech at the Aqaba Summit in Jordan (6/4/03).