Political status of the Palestinian territories

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The Israeli Government-approved barrier route as of July 2006

The Political Status of the Palestinian territories (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) is one of the most violently disputed issues in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Various conferences and negotiations have been conducted to determine their status (see "Palestinian territories").

The Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (the DOP, better known as the Oslo accords), signed in Washington on 13 September 1993, provided for a transitional period not exceeding five years of Palestinian interim self-government in sections of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Under the DOP, Israel agreed to recognize the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a "Single Territorial Unit" as well as to transfer certain powers and responsibilities to the Palestinian Authority, which includes the Palestinian Legislative Council elected in January 1996, as part of the interim self-governing arrangements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In US legal parlance, the term "Country" is used for any political entity known as a nation.[1] The US granted a request from the Palestinian National Authority for recognition of the West Bank and Gaza as a Country in view of developments including the Israeli-PLO Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements. In a letter dated 13 January 1997, the Department of State advised the other agencies of the Executive branch that it considered the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to be one area for political, economic, legal and other purposes.[2] The Treasury Department subsequently stated that the country of origin markings of goods from the West Bank and Gaza shall not contain the words "Israel", "Made in Israel", "Occupied Territories-Israel", or words of similar meaning.

A transfer of powers and responsibilities for the Gaza Strip and Jericho took place pursuant to the Israel-PLO 4 May 1994 Cairo Agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area. In other areas of the West Bank, transfer of powers took place pursuant to the Israel-PLO 28 September 1995 Interim Agreement, the Israel-PLO 15 January 1997 Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron, the Israel-PLO 23 October 1998 Wye River Memorandum, and the 4 September 1999 Sharm el-Sheikh Agreement.

The DOP provides that Israel will retain responsibility during the transitional period for external security and for internal security and public order of Israeli settlements and citizens. Direct negotiations to determine the permanent status of Gaza and the West Bank had begun in September 1999 after a three-year hiatus, but have been derailed by the al-Aqsa Intifada that began in September 2000.

In 2003, the Israeli government issued a plan for total withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and part of the northern West Bank by late 2005. This became known as the Disengagement Plan. The Palestinian Authority welcomed this plan, but declared that until final status, it would still consider the Gaza Strip under Israeli occupation. Many Israelis opposed the plan, and tensions were very high in Israel before and after the Disengagement Plan was approved by the Israeli Knesset on 16 February 2005.

In August 2005, the Israel Defense Forces and Israeli police forcibly removed all settlers from the Gaza Strip. Israel completed the disengagement on 12 September 2005. Presently, most of the West Bank is administered by Israel though 42% of it is under varying degrees of autonomous rule by the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority. The Gaza Strip is currently under the control of Hamas.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is an independent international treaty organization with its own legislative assembly. Many of the member states recognize the State of Palestine. The Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki presented the ICC prosecutor with documentary evidence which shows that 67 states in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Europe have legally recognized the State of Palestine.[3]

In January 2010, King Abdullah of Jordan, after a meeting with the Israeli president Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos, declared that his country does not want to rule the West Bank and that "the two-state solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the only viable option. If rule over the territory was to be transferred to the kingdom, it would only "replace Israeli military rule with Jordanian military rule... and the Palestinians want their own state".[4]

On Thursday, November 29, 2012, In a 138-9 vote (with 41 abstaining) General Assembly resolution 67/19 passed, upgrading Palestine to "non-member observer State status in the United Nations,".[5] The new status equates Palestine's with that of the Holy See.The change in status was described by The Independent as "de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine".[6]

The vote was a historic benchmark for the partially recognised State of Palestine and its citizens, whilst it was a diplomatic setback for Israel and the United States. Status as an observer state in the UN will allow the State of Palestine to join treaties and specialised UN agencies.[7] the Law of the Seas treaty, and the International Criminal Court. It shall permit Palestine to pursue legal rights over its territorial waters and air space as a sovereign state recognised by the UN, and allow the Palestinian people the right to sue for sovereignty over their rightful territory in the International Court of Justice and to bring 'crimes against humanity' and war-crimes charges, including that of unlawfully occupying the territory of State of Palestine, as well as against Israel in the International Criminal Court.[8][9]

The UN has, after the resolution was passed, permitted Palestine to title its representative office to the UN as "The Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations",[10] seen by many as a reflexion of the UN's de facto position of recognising the State of Palestine's sovereignty under international law,[5] and Palestine has started to re-title its name accordingly on postal stamps, official documents and passports.[11][12] The Palestinian authorities have also instructed its diplomats to officially represent the "State of Palestine", as opposed to the "Palestine National Authority".[12] Additionally, on 17 December 2012, UN Chief of Protocol Yeocheol Yoon decided that "the designation of "State of Palestine" shall be used by the Secretariat in all official United Nations documents",[13] recognising the "State of Palestine" as the official name of the Palestinian nation.

On Thursday 26 September 2013 at the United Nations, Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority, was given the right to sit in the General Assembly’s beige chair which is reserved for heads of state waiting to take the podium and address the General Assembly.[14]

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