Upgrading the Political Status of the Palestinian Authority

This concept refers to a process aimed at bestowing attributes of statehood onto the Palestinian Authority, without it reaching de-jure statehood.

Definition

The concept of Upgrading the Political Status of the Palestinian Authority refers to a process aimed at bestowing attributes of statehood onto the Palestinian Authority (hereinafter the PA), without it reaching de-jure statehood, by:

  1. Rescinding the restrictions on the sovereign powers of the PA stipulated in the Interim Agreement (9/95);
  2. Developing the PA's powers and jurisdiction and its status vis-à-vis the international community and Israel.

These measures may be taken either unilaterally or in coordination with the Palestinians or with third parties.

Background

Upgrading the Political Status of the PA is the mainstay of a wider process of Upgrading the Sovereign Status of the Palestinian Authority, which also includes upgrading the PA's internal governing capacities over civil and economic matters.

According to international law (see the Montevideo Convention), one of the four criteria for statehood is the capacity to independently conduct foreign affairs. One indication of this capacity is membership in international organizations such as the UN (see Accession to Statehood). In addition, a state is subject to a number of inherent rights and responsibilities, including the right to diplomatic representation and membership in international organizations.

The Interim Agreement1 and the Palestinian Constitutional Structure2 subordinate the PA to the PLO, and substantially restrict the PA's capacity to conduct foreign affairs (for a detailed description see Status of Palestinian Statehood). This division of powers and authority was consistent with the logic of the Oslo Process.

In order to upgrade the political status of the PA, Israel may rescind the aforementioned restrictions. In addition, such a process may include a number of measures both related and unrelated to the Interim Agreement, such as:

  1. Rescinding the restrictions on PA's political powers. Such an action may be either unilateral or coordinated, and would theoretically enable the PA to independently conduct foreign affairs;
  2. Negotiations with the PA as Israel's formal interlocutor, instead of the PLO. Such strategy would mean focusing primarily on future arrangements in the West Bank and Gaza;
  3. PA membership in international organizations, such as the World Trade Organization or the World Health Organization;3
  4. Titles of PA officials: According to the Interim Agreement, the leader of the PA is referred to as the Chairman.4 Using titles such as President and Foreign Minister will upgrade the political status of the PA.5
  5. Diplomatic missions of the PA abroad. Currently all Palestinian missions, including the one to the UN, are appointed by and accountable before the PLO. Allowing the PA to appoint diplomatic missions abroad that would report to the PA's Foreign Minister, Prime Minister and President will strengthen the status of the PA as opposed to the PLO.6
  6. Eroding the status of the PLO formal missions. This may be done by urging third countries to move the political focus from the PLO to the PA.
  7. Marginalization of the PLO as the sole legitimate Palestinian representative. In order to do so, Israel should emphasize its objection to any formal discussions concerning the future of the West Bank and Gaza between international players, such as the United States or Europe, and the PLO.
  8. Establishing foreign diplomatic missions in the PA (such as US mission to the PA). The diplomats will present their credentials to the Chairman of the PA, and will become future ambassadors to the Palestinian State.
  9. Activating a Palestinian international country code. Israel could promote the activation of the independent Palestinian country code as a central tenet of international communications.

Political Logic

The rationale behind Upgrading the Political Status of the PA serves Israel’s interests in the following manners:

  1. Preparing for the establishment of a Palestinian State in a Permanent Status Agreement or within the framework of the Second Phase of the Roadmap (See Unilateral Israeli Recognition of a Palestinian State).
  2. Marginalizing the PLO's status in the international arena and replacing it with the PA, as a sole Palestinian representative (See Who is the Interlocutor: the PLO or the PA?).
  3. Balancing the institutional asymmetry between Israel and the PLO, by turning the PA into a state, that would function as Israel's interlocutor to the political process (See Policy Options for Switching the PLO with the PA).

1 According to the Interim Agreement, the PLO is the official party to negotiations with Israel, and is authorized to reach agreements with other states and international organizations on behalf of the PA (see Article IX-5-B to the Agreement). The Agreement further stipulates that the PA does not have the capacity to conduct foreign affairs, including the establishment of diplomatic missions abroad, or allowing the establishment of foreign diplomatic missions within the territory of the PA (see Article IX-5-A to the Agreement).
2 The political constraints on the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the Palestinian Constitutional Structure manifest the preferential status of the PLO compared to the PA:The PA is perceived as representing the citizens of the West Bank and Gaza Strip only, while the PLO is perceived as the representative of the entire Palestinian people;The Basic Law, which is the temporary constitution of the PA, states that the PLO is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and that the future Palestinian state will be under its administration.
3 The Interim Agreement prohibits the PA from participating in international organizations. Instead, it is represented by the PLO.
4 At the beginning of negotiations over the Oslo Accords, Israel objected to the establishment of a Palestinian State and to any signs of Palestinian statehood, such as titles of President, Foreign Minister, Foreign Ministry, Prime Minister etc. Instead, the titles Chairman (Rai’ees), Minister of Planning and International Cooperation and Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation were used.
5 The Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation evolved under Nabil Sha`th’s leadership to become a de facto foreign ministry. Currently there is a separate ministry of foreign affairs headed by Nasir al-Qidwa, which is not officially recognized by Israel.
6 For the past few years, there has been a battle between the PA foreign ministry and the PLO political bureau headed by Faruq al-Qaddumi, on the control over Palestinian embassies.