PLO letter to UN in December 1988: the missing link

So, there is a provision for a Palestinian Provisional Government…

International law expert Francis Boyle, who once advised the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat and other Palestinian leaders, wrote about this over the weekend, in a commentary published on 26 August on, here.

In this piece, Boyle stated that “In the 15 November 1988 Palestinian Declaration of Independence that was approved by the PNC [Palestine National Council] representing all Palestinians all over the world, the Executive Committee of the PLO was set up as the Provisional Government for the State of Palestine—pursuant to my advice. In addition, the Declaration of Independence also provides that all Palestinians living around the world automatically become citizens of the State of Palestine—pursuant to my advice. So the Executive Committee of the PLO in its capacity as the Provisional Government for the State of Palestine will continue to represent the interests of all Palestinians around the world when Palestine becomes a UN Member State. Hence all rights will be preserved: for all Palestinians and for the PLO. No one will be disenfranchised. The PLO will not lose its status. This legal arrangement does not violate the Palestinian Charter, but was approved already by the PNC”

Now, thanks to research carried out yesterday by Xavier Abu Eid in Ramallah, here is a letter from the PLO to the United Nations, dated 9 December 1988 — three weeks after the PLO issued a Declaration of Independence at a meeting of the Palestine National Council in Algiers on 15 November 1988 — informing the international organization of the formation of a Provisional Government:

Declaration of the formation of the provisional Government of the State of Palestine – 15 November 1988

“The Palestine National Council, at its nineteenth extraordinary session, the session of the intifadah, decides as follows:

1. A provisional Government shall be formed for the State of Palestine as soon as possible, in accordance with circumstances and the evolution of events.

2. The Central Council and the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization shall be empowered to appoint a time for the formation of the provisional Government, the Executive Committee shall be entrusted with its formation, and it shall be presented to the Central Council for a motion of confidence. The Central Council shall adopt the provisional system of government until such time as the Palestinian people exercises full sovereignty over the land of Palestine.

3. The provisional Government shall be composed of Palestinian leaders, notables and skilled human resources within the occupied homeland and outside, on the basis of political pluralism and in such a manner as to embody national unity.

4. The provisional Government shall draw up its programme on the basis of the instrument of independence, the political programme of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the resolutions of the national councils.

5. The Palestine National Council hereby entrusts the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization with the powers and responsibilities of the provisional Government until such time as the formation of the Government is declared.

Adopted by the National Council at its extraordinary session at Algiers on 15 November 1988″.
– – – – –

This document is posted on the United Nations website here.

Professor Boyle has done a great deal of work on international law and the Palestinian situation.  [Though I am under no obligation to say this, I will state, to avoid useless future arguments, that not all of it, I agree with.]   Boyle did write, at the request of the then-PLO Ambassador to the UN, the late Zuhdi Labib Terzi, a Memorandum of Law completed in December 1987 [based on an oral presentation he gave at a UN panel in June 1987], arguing, as he later wrote in Counterpunch, here“that the time had now come for the Palestinian People to unilaterally proclaim their own independent nation state under international law and practice. I then proceeded to sketch out precisely why and how this could be done. I argued that the Palestinians must not go to any International Peace Conference to ask the Israelis to give them their State. Rather, the Palestinians must unilaterally proclaim their own independent nation state, and then attend an international peace conference where they would simply ask Israel to evacuate from Palestine”.

What was the PLO reaction?

For months, as Boyle wrote, “There was a deafening silence from the PLO. It was clear that the creation of a Palestinian State would generate too many internal political problems for the PLO, which at that time operated upon the principle of consensus. Back in those days the Palestinian Independence Movement was a genuine democracy. The creation of a Palestinian State would have forced the PLO to make some very difficult political decisions that could have produced a terrible division among the different groups composing the Palestinian Independence Movement”

Then, Boyle added: “On July 31, 1988 I was teaching Summer School when King Hussein of Jordan announced that he was severing all forms of legal and administrative ties between Jordan and the West Bank. Later that afternoon in class, my students asked me what I thought would happen as a result of this decision: ‘Honestly speaking, I really do not know’. When I returned to my office at the end of teaching that very class, there was a message sitting on my desk from Zuhdi Terzi asking me to come to New York immediately in order to discuss my Memorandum of Law. In attendance as this meeting convened at the PLO Mission to the United Nations in New York were Zuhdi Terzi, Nasser Al-Kidwe, and Ramsey Clark, as well as Tom and Sally Mallison. Since I had already drafted a comprehensive Memorandum of Law on how to create a Palestinian State, I had to do a good deal of the talking. The Palestinians had a list of questions from PLO Headquarters in Tunis that they wanted us to answer for transmission back to the PLO Leadership. The first question was: ‘Why should the PLO create an independent Palestinian state?’ My answer was characteristically blunt and succinct: ‘If you do not create this State, you will forfeit the moral right to lead your people!’… On November 15, 1988, the Palestine National Council meeting in Algiers proclaimed the existence of the new independent state of Palestine. On that same day, after the close of prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the crowd came out of the Mosque into the Great Courtyard in front of the Dome of the Rock … Then one man got up and read the Palestinian Declaration of Independence right there in front of the assembled multitude. It was my advice to the PLO that the Palestinian State must also be proclaimed from their own capital in Jerusalem; that since this State would be proclaimed ‘In the Name of God’ (which it was), the State must be proclaimed in the Grand Courtyard in front of the Al-Aqsa Mosque the third Holiest site in Islam –at the close of prayers on Independence Day”

And that was on 15 November 1988.

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