What is the legal basis for the State of Israel?
Some ask the question, “Does Israel have a right to exist?” That is not a proper question since Israel does exist, is recognized by the United Nations and many other countries, and is no more subject to being so questioned than is the United States, Japan, or any other country.
Anyone who persists with the question of Israel’s right to exist is one whose agenda is to eliminate Israel and its Jewish inhabitants.
But there is a legal background to the State of Israel. The Declaration of Israel’s Independence, issued at Tel Aviv on May 14, 1948, recites the legal history that led to the founding of Israel as an internationally recognized sovereign state:
- The land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and national identity was formed. Here they achieved independence and created a culture of national and universal significance. Here they wrote and gave the Bible to the world.
- In the year 1897 the First Zionist Congress, inspired by Theodor Herzl’s vision of the Jewish State, proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national revival in their own country.
- This right was acknowledged by the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, and re-affirmed by the Mandate of the League of Nations, which gave explicit international recognition to the historic connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and their right to reconstitute their National Home.
- On November 29, 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a Resolution for the establishment of an independent Jewish State in Palestine, and called upon the inhabitants of the country to take such steps as may be necessary on their part to put the plan into effect. This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their independent State may not be revoked. It is, moreover, the self-evident right of the Jewish people to be a nation, as all other nations, in its own sovereign State.
- ACCORDINGLY, WE, the members of the National Council, representing the Jewish people in Palestine and the Zionist movement of the world, met together in solemn assembly today, the day of the termination of the British mandate for Palestine, by virtue of the natural and historic right of the Jewish and of the Resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations, HEREBY PROCLAIM the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine, to be called ISRAEL.
At that point, the State of Israel came into existence. The United States recognized the provisional Jewish government as de facto authority of the Jewish state within minutes. The Soviet Union granted de jure recognition almost immediately in 1948 along with seven other states within the next five days (Guatemala, Byelorussia, the Ukraine, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Uruguay, and Yugoslavia).
Since the League of Nations was formally terminated in April 1946, there was a specific UN resolution that preserved the rights of the Jewish people in Palestine (and in Jerusalem particularly). The United Nations, as the successor organization to the League of Nations, adopted Article 80 of the UN Charter, which negated efforts “to alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any states or any peoples (emphasis added) or the terms of existing international instruments” at the time of the UN’s creation. This provision carried the British Mandate granted by the League of Nations, including all of its committments to a homeland for the Jewish people, into the framework of international law at the United Nations.
Israel’s success in defending its territory against the invading Arab armies in 1948 made the country an established reality. General elections were held on January 25, 1949: the provisional State Council was replaced by an elected Parliament (Knesset) and the Provisional Government by a regular parliamentary Government. De jure recognition by the United States was extended on January 31, 1949 after the permanent government was sworn in. On January 29, 1949, the former Mandatory Power, Britain, recognized the state of Israel, a step that also recognized the end of British efforts to affect the course of the region’s politics.
In the fall of 1948, Israel had applied for membership in the United Nations but failed to win the necessary majority in the Security Council. In February 1949, Israel renewed its application for membership in the United Nations. On March 4, 1949, the Security Council recommended to the General Assembly that it be admitted. On May 11, Israel was admitted, to become the 59th member. Between January 1, 1949 and May 11. 1949, Israel was recognised by 32 States, in addition to the 20 that had accorded it recognition prior to December 31, 1948. Today Israel has full diplomatic relations with most countries of the world, except portions of the Islamic/Arab block that continue to believe that Israel can somehow be eliminated.
Sources and additional reading on this topic:
- Abba Eban on Israel’s “Right to Exist”
- De Jure recognition of Israel
- The U.S. Recognition of the State of Israel
- From Mandate to Independence
- Admission of Israel to the United Nations
- Jerusalem in International Diplomacy
- Historic Right!