Problematic Sovereignty: Contested Rules and Political Possibilities

By Stephen D. Krasner | Go to book overview

10
The Road to Palestinian Sovereignty
Problematic Structures or Conventional Obstacles?
SHIBLEY TELHAMI

The perception that a future Palestinian state will have “problematic” sovereignty is justified for a number of reasons. But that the Palestine case is selected as the problematic case in the Middle East over, say, Lebanon indicates the obvious bias in favor of legal sovereignty over the other forms of sovereignty: whereas Lebanon has full international legal sovereignty, it has neither full Westphalian nor full domestic sovereignty. Indeed, in the limited territories that the less-than-sovereign Palestinian Authority controlled following the Oslo accords, it maintained more Westphalian and domestic authority than did Lebanon; despite international law, Israel was more likely to intrude into Lebanese territories than into the Palestinian ones. The very sovereign order in the Middle East, set up by departing colonial powers, witnessed a significant gap in the past half century between the full legal status bestowed on the states and the degree of Westphalian and domestic sovereignty they in fact held.

Nonetheless, the Palestinian case has been seen as problematic from the inception of the current state system in the Middle East. Unlike what they did with other territories they controlled, the British Mandate authorities deferred final status for Palestine to the United Nations and withdrew from it without leaving a new state in place. The United Nations' vision for Palestine was not conventional: the 1947 partition plan (UN General Assembly Resolution 181), which envisioned the division of Palestine into one Arab and one Jewish state, saw the need not only for a separate and unprecedented international status for Jerusalem but also for an “economic union” to be run by

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