During his recent visit to Greece on December 21, 2015, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared his intention to issue new passports in the name of the “State of Palestine” within the coming year.
He declared that the new passport will replace the name “Palestinian Authority,” adding that “…we no longer accept from anybody to use the name Palestinian Authority.”1
This measure comes in the context of a concerted policy by the Palestinian leadership to enhance international awareness of their putative claim to statehood and follows declarations by several European parliaments calling for recognition of Palestinian statehood.
It also follows a 2012 United Nations General Assembly resolution, at the behest of the Palestinian and other Arab delegations, upgrading the Palestinian status in the UN to that of a “non-member observer state”2 and the concomitant Palestinian claim that such resolution constituted acknowledgement of their statehood.
Without entering into the substantive issue of whether indeed the UN General Assembly has the power to establish statehood (which it does not; see Alan Baker: “The Palestinian UN Upgrade – Setting the Record Straight”3) and the extent to which the Palestinian attempts to push their statehood claim undermine their obligations pursuant to the 1993 Oslo Accords, the issuance of a Palestinian passport in the name of a “State of Palestine” would be a further, clear violation of the Oslo Accords.
These accords, representing a series of reciprocal Palestinian and Israeli commitments made between 1993-1999, grant in very clear terms to the Palestinian Authority the right to issue “Passports/Travel Documents” in accordance with the agreed-upon provisions of the agreements. They cannot issue such documentation independently, and not in accordance with the agreements.
These provisions are set out in the following documents:
“Agreement on the Gaza Strip and Jericho Area,” Cairo, May 4, 1994, Annex II, Protocol Concerning Civil Affairs, Article II on Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities of the Civil Administration.4
The issuance of passports/travel documents is set out in paragraph 27 entitled “Population Registry and Documentation,” which states in sub-paragraphs (f) and (m):
f. “Exit abroad through the passages or through Israeli points of exit by residents of the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area shall only be possible by means of an agreed passport/travel document.”
m. “The format of the aforementioned identity card and passport/travel document as well as arrangements of the implementation of the provisions set forth in this Article are detailed in Appendix C attached to this Annex.”
Appendix C details the technical Schedule Regarding Population Registry and Documentation, including format, text and size of pages etc.5
The above provisions were incorporated into the 1995 “Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip”6 and specifically detailed in its Annex III, Protocol Concerning Civil Affairs, Appendix 1 – “Powers and Responsibilities for Civil Affairs.”
Article 28 of this protocol, entitled “Population Registry and Documentation”7 states in its paragraph 7 as follows:
Israel recognizes the validity of the Palestinian passports/travel documents issued by the Palestinian side to Palestinian residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in accordance with the Gaza-Jericho Agreement and this Agreement. Such passports/travel documents shall entitle their holders to exit abroad through the passages or through Israeli points of exit.”
Clearly, any issuance of a Palestinian passport outside the agreed framework of the Oslo Accords as detailed above, would be at stark variance with the Palestinian commitments pursuant to the agreements.
Since the Oslo Accords were co-signed and witnessed by the leaders of the United States, the European Union, the Russian Federation, Egypt, and Norway, and endorsed by the United Nations, the issuance of independent passports is in clear and blatant violation of the accords. Passports purporting to be in the name of a non-existent “State of Palestine,” will have no validity and should not be accepted by Israel or by those states and organizations advocating the resumption of negotiations within the framework of the Oslo peace process.
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1 http://www.foxnews.com/world/2015/12/21/palestinian-president-new-passport-will-refer-to-palestinian-state.html, http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Abbas-says-PA-to-begin-issuing-State-of-Palestine-passports-in-2016-438005
2 A/Res/67/19, 26 November 2012, http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/67/19