Louis Rene Beres: The Palestinian Treaty Problem

tags: Israel, Palestine, Louis René Beres, U.S. News and World Report



Louis Rene Beres is a professor of International Law at Purdue University. Born in Zurich, Switzerland at the end of World War II, he is the author of many major books and articles dealing with world politics, law, literature, and philosophy.

From the beginning, the state of nations has been the state of nature. Always, states and empires are poised for war. Normally, in order to secure themselves within this condition of protracted peril, they have fashioned assorted written agreements under international law. These formal codifications, expressed as treaties, have sought to smooth over the dreadfully harsh realities of anarchic world politics.

Still, on a fragmenting planet, law insistently follows power politics. Throughout history, more or less grievous problems have arisen whenever particular signatories had determined that lawful compliance is no longer in the "national interest." The overriding takeaway here is that treaties can be useful whenever there is a conspicuous mutuality of interest, but they can also become worthless whenever such mutuality is expected to disappear.

For the moment, Israel's 1979 Peace Treaty with Egypt – Muslim Brotherhood rule in Cairo notwithstanding – remains in place. But, at literally any moment, should President Mohamed Morsi decide to shore up his popularity with important Islamist constituencies, this could change. While any willful abrogation of treaty obligations by the Egyptian side would almost certainly be in violation of The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969), there is little that the United Nations or the wider "international community" could actually do about it....




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