by Adam Gonn
JERUSALEM, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) -- A new legal opinion presented to the committee in charge of preparations ahead of the Palestinian's United Nations bid said that the move would have drastic consequences for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported on Wednesday.
The report by Professor Guy Goodwin-Gill of Oxford University warned that the initiative to transfer Palestinian representation at the UN would result in PLO loss of its status as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people to the world body.
The PLO, of which Fatah is the largest faction, has held that position since 1975.
If the vote goes through and representation is transferred to the new state, it would not only affect the PLO's standing at the UN, but also at home, according to the report.
When the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) was established in 1994 after the Oslo accords between Israel and the PLO, Fatah under late president Yasser Arafat became the dominant force in the new administration.
However, in the 2006 elections Fatah lost control of the Palestinian parliament, the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), to its rival Hamas, which then formed a new government. The following year Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip by ousting forces loyal to Fatah, leading to a split between the two that still remains today.
Hamas claims that PLC speaker Abdel Aziz Dweik, a Hamas member, is the legitimate president of the PNA, as the term of Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas ended in 2009 and has since been extended unilaterally.
Should the PLO relinquish its status at the UN, it would also mean that the Palestinians living outside of the West Bank and Gaza would no longer have a representative at the UN, according to the report.
"A change in status would severely disenfranchise the right of refugees to return to their homes and properties from which they were displaced," according to Ma'an.
The so-called "rights of return" of the Palestinian refugees that fled or left when Israel was established in 1948 is one of the central questions in the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
The Palestinians argue that all refugees should be allowed to the return to their former places of residence with Israel, and not just in the West Bank and Gaza. However, Israel opposes such a move, saying it would threaten the country's Jewish majority, effectively ending Israel's raison d'etre: a Jewish homeland.
Local analysts said that the Palestinians have to be very careful in their approach to the legal implication of the UN bid, since the rights of Palestinian refugees is a fundamental question and as the report points out, a resolution won't lead to a formal state as the Israeli occupation will continue.
Hanna Siniora, the co-CEO of the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, told Xinhua that it would be "very grave if the PLO would lose its representation for a virtual future Palestinian state."
However, he added that the top leadership of the PLO is aware of the conclusions of the legal opinion.
Siniora argued that the PLO's current intention is to go to the UN Security Council (UNSC), in order to achieve full representation and a seat at the UN.
However, the United States has already signaled that it would use its veto should there be a vote. Were that to happen, Siniora said that the Palestinian might seek a UNSC resolution that defines the border of a future Palestinian state along the cease- fire lines that existed prior to the 1967 war. It was the idea raised by U.S. President Barack Obama earlier this year, and hence harder to block at the UN.
Nevertheless, the most important aspect of the UN bid isn't the gesture itself, according to Siniora, who argued that the Palestinians are now being proactive and putting forward new initiatives instead of just waiting for Israel to present new policies.
Dr. Hussein Ibish, a senior research fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, said that the opinion suggests that there are numerous important legal implications to the ambitious UN statehood initiative that have not been fully considered, particularly by the Palestinian general public.
One such implication raised by the report is that the PNA was established as a temporary administrative body, and as such it " has limited legislative and executive competence, limited territorial jurisdiction, and limited personal jurisdiction over Palestinians not present in the areas."
Ibish argued that the "Palestinians should be very careful about any action that might prove a symbolic victory but carry serious political, diplomatic and legal consequences."
"A confrontation is not in the interests of any of the parties, " Ibish said.