Right to exist
The right to exist is said to be an attribute of nations. According to an essay by the nineteenth century French philosopher Ernest Renan, a state has the right to exist when individuals are willing to sacrifice their own interests for the community it represents. Unlike self-determination, the right to exist is an attribute of states rather than of peoples. It is not a right recognized in international law. The phrase has featured prominently in the Arab–Israeli conflict since the 1950s.
The right to exist of a de facto state may be balanced against another state's right to territorial integrity. Proponents of the right to exist trace it back to the "right of existence", said to be a fundamental right of states recognized by writers on international law for hundreds of years.
Thomas Paine used the phrase "right to exist" to refer to forms of government, arguing that representative government has a right to exist, but that hereditary government does not. In 1823, Sir Walter Scott argued for the "right to exist in the Greek people". (The Greeks were then revolting against Turkish rule.) According to Renan's "What is a Nation?" (1882), "So long as this moral consciousness [called a nation] gives proof of its strength by the sacrifices which demand the abdication of the individual to the advantage of the community, it is legitimate and has the right to exist. If doubts arise regarding its frontiers, consult the populations in the areas under dispute." Existence is not a historical right, but "a daily plebiscite, just as an individual's existence is a perpetual affirmation of life," Renan said. The phrase gained enormous usage in reference to the breakup of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. "If Turkey has a right to exist – and the Powers are very prompt to assert that she has – she possesses an equally good right to defend herself against all attempts to imperil her political existence," wrote Eliakim and Robert Littell in 1903. In many cases, a nation's right to exist is not questioned, and is therefore not asserted.
According to Basque nationalists, "Euzkadi (the name of our country in our own language) is the country of the Basques with as such right to exist independently as a nation as Poland or Ireland. The Basques are a very ancient people..."
In 1947, a United Nations General Assembly resolution provided for the creation of an "Arab State" and a "Jewish State" to exist within Palestine in the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. This has been described by Prof. Joseph Massad as "a non-binding proposal that was never ratified or adopted by the Security Council, and therefore never acquired legal standing, as UN regulations require." The Jewish Agency, precursor to the Israeli government, agreed to the plan, but the Palestinians rejected it and fighting broke out. After Israel's May 14, 1948 unilateral declaration of independence, support from neighboring Arab states escalated the 1947–48 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine into the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The legal and territorial status of Israel and Palestine is still hotly disputed in the region and within the international community.
According to Ilan Pappé, Arab recognition of Israel's right to exist was part of Folke Bernadotte's 1948 peace plan. The Arab states gave this as their reason to reject the plan. In the 1950s UK MP Herbert Morrison cited then Egyptian leader Abdel Nasser as saying "Israel is an artificial State which must disappear." . The issue was described as the central one between Israel and the Arabs.
After the June 1967 war, Egyptian spokesman Mohammed H. el-Zayyat stated that Cairo had accepted Israel's right to exist since the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli armistice in 1949. He added that this did not imply recognition of Israel. In September, the Arab leaders adopted a hardline "three nos" position in the Khartoum Resolution: No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negotiations with Israel. But in November, Egypt accepted UN Security Council Resolution 242, which implied acceptance of Israel's right to exist. At the same time, President Gamal Abdel Nasser urged Yasser Arafat and other Palestinian leaders to reject the resolution. "You must be our irresponsible arm," he said. King Hussein of Jordan also acknowledged that Israel had a right to exist at this time. Meanwhile, Syria rejected Resolution 242, saying that it, "refers to Israel's right to exist and it ignores the right of the [Palestinian] refugees to return to their homes."
Upon assuming the premiership in 1977, Menachem Begin spoke as follows: Our right to exist—have you ever heard of such a thing? Would it enter the mind of any Briton or Frenchman, Belgian or Dutchman, Hungarian or Bulgarian, Russian or American, to request for its people recognition of its right to exist? ..... Mr. Speaker: From the Knesset of Israel, I say to the world, our very existence per se is our right to exist!
As reported by the Financial Times, in 1988 Yasser Arafat declared that the Palestinians had accepted Israel's right to exist. In 1993, there was an official exchange of letters between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Chairman Arafat, in which Arafat declared that "the PLO affirms that those articles of the Palestinian Covenant which deny Israel's right to exist, and the provisions of the Covenant which are inconsistent with the commitments of this letter are now inoperative and no longer valid." In 2009 Prime Minister Ehud Olmert demanded the Palestinian Authority's acceptance of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, which the Palestinian Authority rejected. The Knesset plenum gave initial approval in May 2009 to a bill criminalising the public denial of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, with a penalty of up to a year in prison.
In 2011, the PA Ambassador to India, Adli Sadeq, wrote in the official PA daily: "They [Israelis] have a common mistake or misconception by which they fool themselves, assuming that Fatah accepts them and recognizes the right of their state to exist, and that it is Hamas alone that loathes them and does not recognize the right of this state to exist. They ignore the fact that this state, based on a fabricated [Zionist] enterprise, never had any shred of a right to exist." In a different part of the article the PA ambassador explained this explicitly: "There are no two Palestinians who disagree over the fact that Israel exists, and recognition of it is restating the obvious. But recognition of its right to exist is something else, different from recognition of its [physical] existence."
In 2011 Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a speech to the Dutch Parliament that the Palestinian people recognise Israel's right to exist and they hope the Israeli government will respond by "recognizing the Palestinian state on the borders of the land occupied in 1967." 
In 2013 Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh reiterated that the Palestinian Arabs as a whole will never recognize Israel: "We had two wars...but Palestinians did not and will not recognize Israel".
John V. Whitbeck argued that Israel's insistence on a right to exist forces Palestinians to provide a moral justification for their own suffering. Noam Chomsky has argued that no state has the right to exist, that the concept was invented in the 1970s, and that Israel's right to exist can not be accepted by the Palestinians.
International law scholar Anthony Carty observed in 2013 that “the question whether Israel has a legal right to exist might appear to be one of the most emotively charged in the vocabulary of international law and politics. It evokes immediately the ‘exterminationist’ rhetoric of numerous Arab and Islamic politicians and ideologues, not least the present President of Iran."
Representatives of the Kashmiri people regularly assert their right to exist as a nation, independent from both India and Pakistan.
Supporters of an autonomous Novorossiya in eastern Ukraine equally argue for a Novorossiyan right to exist. Due to ongoing media controversy around the driving forces behind the unrest in Ukraine, however, the term carries significant weight. RT News reported in December 2014 that Soika, a self-professed 23-year old Slovak volunteer who had then been in Donbass for two months, told them: "Novorossiya has the right to exist. Although Europe declares the rights of peoples, it recognizes them in a selective manner." Euromaidan generally sees the state not as a grassroots movement, but rather as Russian-backed astroturfing.
In the context of South Korea's and the United States non-recognition of the North Korean state and what the North views as a 'hostile policy' pursued by the US, the North's government frequently accuses the US of denying the 'right of existence' of North Korea. For instance, a 2017 Foreign Ministry statement declared, "The DPRK will redouble the efforts to increase its strength to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and right to existence." North Korea itself does not recognise the right of existence of the Republic of Korea in the south. 
The League of Nations formally awarded Britain a mandate over Mandatory Palestine in 1922, when Jews made up 11% of the population. The land west of the Jordan River was under direct British administration until 1948, while the land east of the Jordan was a semi-autonomous region known as Transjordan Emirate, and gained independence in 1946. In 1936-39 there was a nationalist uprising by Palestinian Arabs against British colonial rule and mass Jewish immigration into Palestine.
In 1947, a United Nations General Assembly resolution provided for the creation of an "Arab State" and a "Jewish State" to exist within Palestine in the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. This has been described by Prof. Joseph Massad as "a non-binding proposal that was never ratified or adopted by the Security Council, and therefore never acquired legal standing, as UN regulations require." The Jewish Agency, precursor to the Israeli government, agreed to the plan, but the Palestinians rejected this and fighting broke out. After Israel's May 14, 1948 unilateral declaration of independence, support from neighboring Arab states escalated the 1947–48 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine into the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The legal and territorial status of Israel and Palestine is still hotly disputed in the region and within the international community.
As reported by The New York Times, in 1988 Yasser Arafat declared that the Palestinians accepted United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which would guarantee "the right to exist in peace and security for all". In 1993, there was an official exchange of letters between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Chairman Arafat, in which Arafat declared that "the PLO affirms that those articles of the Palestinian Covenant which deny Israel's right to exist, and the provisions of the Covenant which are inconsistent with the commitments of this letter are now inoperative and no longer valid."However, the actual wording of the revision only stated the provision would be removed at a future date; the non-recognition of Israel remains in the charter.
In 2009 Prime Minister Ehud Olmert demanded the Palestinian Authority's acceptance of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, which the Palestinian Authority rejected. The Knesset plenum gave initial approval in May 2009 to a bill criminalizing the public denial of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, with a penalty of up to a year in prison.
In 2011, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in a speech to the Dutch parliament in the Hague that the Palestinian people recognize Israel's right to exist and they hope the Israeli government will respond by "recognizing the Palestinian state on the borders of the land occupied in 1967."
Israeli government ministers Naftali Bennett and Danny Danon have repeatedly rejected the creation of a Palestinian state, with Bennett stating "I will do everything in my power to make sure they never get a state." Bennett stated that "relinquishing control of the West Bank would expose Israel's home front to infiltration tunnels leading into the heartland of Israel," citing the case of Gaza as a scenario that could repeat itself. In an August 2011 interview with Teymoor Nabili on Al Jazeera English, Danny Danon said "There is place only for one state on the land of Israel.... I do not believe in a two-state solution.", reaffirming his stance in June 2013: “Oy vey! Is it such a criminal offense to oppose a two-state solution?” In June 2016 a poll showed that only 4 out of 20 Israeli ministers accepted the state of Palestine's right to exist  A poll carried out in 2011 by the Hebrew University indicated that 58% of Israelis and 50% of Palestinians support a two-state solution based on the Clinton Parameters. In 2011 Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a speech to the Dutch Parliament that the Palestinian people recognise Israel's right to exist and they hope the Israeli government will respond by "recognizing the Palestinian state on the borders of the land occupied in 1967." Abbas said he sought United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state only after the Israeli government refused "the terms of reference of the peace process and the cessation of settlement building" in the occupied territories.
- 1791 Thomas Paine, Rights of Man: "The fact therefore must be that the individuals themselves, each in his own personal and sovereign right, entered into a contract with each other to produce a government: and this is the only mode in which governments have a right to arise, and the only principle on which they have a right to exist."
- 1823 Sir Walter Scott: "Admitting, however, this right to exist in the Greek people is a different question whether there is any right, much more any call, for the nations of Europe to interfere in their support."
- 1882 Ernest Renan, "What is a nation?": So long as this moral consciousness gives proof of its strength by the sacrifices which demand the abdication of the individual to the advantage of the community, it is legitimate and has the right to exist [French: le droit d'exister].
- 1916 American Institute of International Law: "Every nation has the right to exist, and to protect and to conserve its existence."
- 1933 Nazis all over Germany checking if people had voted on withdrawal from the League of Nations said "We do this because Germany's right to exist is now a question of to be or not to be."
- Diplomatic recognition
- Nation state
- Sovereign state
- Special Committee on Decolonization
- Territorial integrity
- Zionist Entity
- Lagerwall, Anne. "The Paradoxical Protection of State's Territorial Integrity by the United Nations: Law versus Power?", Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Law and Society Association, Hilton Bonaventure, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, May 27, 2008.
- Oppenheim, Lassa and Ronald Roxburgh, (2005) International Law, p. 192–193.
- Paine, Thomas, "Dissertation on the First Principles of Government" (1795), The Life and Works of Thomas Paine, 5:221--25.
- Scott, Walter, "The Greek Revolution", Edinburgh Annual Register of 1823, p. 249.
- Renan, Ernest, "What is a Nation? Archived 2013-03-19 at the Wayback Machine.", 1882.
- Littell, Eliakim and Robert S. Littell, "The Reign of Terror in Macedonia", The Living Age, April–June 1903, p. 68.
- John Riddell (2014). To the Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921. Brill Academic. p. 28. ISBN 978-90-04-28803-4.
- Nationalism, Naunihal Singh, Mittal Publications, 2006, p. 111.
- Wood, Tony. Chechnya, the Case for Independence. Page 6. Quote: "The second basis for dismissing Chechnya's right to existence is that the country had its chance at independence from 1996 to 1999..."
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Russia’s numerous separatist movements quickly shrank to nothing, but they will once again return to life if their right to exist, even if only in the distant future, is confirmed by the precedents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. And here the example of Chechnya may prove to be formative.
- Prof. Joseph Massad (6 May 2011). "'The rights of Israel'". Retrieved 12 Sep 2012.
In international law, countries are recognised as existing de facto and de jure, but there is no notion that any country has a 'right to exist', let alone that other countries should recognise such a right. Nonetheless, the modification by Israel of its claim that others had to recognise its 'right to exist' to their having to recognise 'its right to exist as Jewish state' is pushed most forcefully at present, as it goes to the heart of the matter of what the Zionist project has been all about since its inception, and addresses itself to the extant discrepancy between Israel's own understanding of its rights to realise these Zionist aims and the international community's differing understanding of them. This is a crucial matter, as all these rights that Israel claims to possess, but which are not recognised internationally, translate into its rights to colonise Palestinian land, to occupy it, and to discriminate against the non-Jewish Palestinian people.
- Ilan Pappé, The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951, I.B.Tauris, 1994, p. 149.
- *"Foreign Affairs; A Time to Find a Solution for Palestine", New York Times Aug 2, 1958. "Most Arab leaders do not even dare admit Israel's right to exist. They fear assassination by fanatics."
*Parliamentary debates: Official report: Volume 547 (1956), Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons: "I will give two short quotations, one from Colonel Nasser, the Prime Minister of Egypt, on 8th May, 1954. It is an extremist point of view based on the belief and the assertion that Israel has no right to exist at all."
*"Arms and the Middle East", Toledo Blade, Sep 30, 1955. "the Arabs still refuse to acknowledge Israel's right to exist."
- "And underlying all of the questions dividing Israel and its Arab neighbors, one issue is central: Does Israel have a right to exist?" (Farrell, James Thomas, It has come to pass, 1958)
- Whetten, Lawrence L. (1974). The Canal War: Four-Power Conflict in the Middle East. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. p. 51. ISBN 0-262-23069-0.
- "Khartoum Resolution". Council on Foreign Relations. Archived from the original on 20 May 2012. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
The Khartoum Resolution passed by the Arab League in the wake of the 1967 war is famous for the "Three Nos" articulated in the third paragraph: No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negotiations with Israel.
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- Whitbeck, John V. (February 2, 2007). "What 'Israel's right to exist' means to Palestinians". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
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- Paine, Thomas, (1791) The Rights of Man
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- Yaacov Lozowick: Right to Exist: A Moral Defense of Israel's Wars. Doubleday, 2003. ISBN 0-385-50905-7
- Sholom Aleichem. Why Do the Jews Need a Land of Their own?, 1898
- Does Israel have a right to exist?
- Israel's Right to the Land, a presentation by U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma)
- Does Israel Have a Right to Exist? by David Meir-Levi. April 6, 2005
- Israel-PLO Recognition Letter from Yasser Arafat to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, September 9, 1993
- Abba Eban on Israel's "Right to Exist"
- Israel's Birthright and Right to Exist Compels Justice for Palestinian Peoples[permanent dead link] Catholic viewpoint
- From the father of Daniel Pearl