Law professor sees current Israeli, Palestinian borders as false

Eugene Kontorovich, a professor of law at Northwestern University, speaks about border disputes in Israel. (Ramon Luis Nieve | For The Post)

Wielding the argument that there are no current legal borders of Israel and Palestine, a professor argued that lack of international law makes a two-state solution nearly impossible.

Eugene Kontorovich, a professor of law at Northwestern University, spoke to roughly 30 people in Baker University Center on Monday night, saying the current borders set by the 1949 armistice agreement are not “territorial boundaries.”

“To say today that these borders are the default starting line borders are to retroactively vindicate the Arab attempt to conquer Palestine,” Kontorovich said. “If there should be a Palestinian state, which the government of Israel seems to strongly desire and the international community seems to have some interest in it, then the 1949 armistice lines are not borders … what are the borders in Kashmir? We don’t know — that’s why there is a dispute.”

The event was sponsored by the George Washington Forum and the Ohio University chapter of the Alexander Hamilton Society.

Dismissing religious and political contexts, Kontorovich focused on the lack of international legality justifying the current borders, stemming from the fact that bodies like the United Nations and the International Criminal Court pass down advisory, non-binding opinions.

Kontorovich believes that Israelis have a right to settle in the West Bank, one of the current sticking points in negotiations between Israel and Palestine. He did state that Palestine has a legitimate claim to its existence, adding Israel just needs to be less shy about asserting its legal rights to settle and demand recognition of its legal status as a state.

He acknowledged a legal discussion will do little to cut through the politics on the ground, and some attending the presentation believed the presentation lacked an ability to offer a template for change.

An audience member asked Kontorovich about the aggression Israel has shown towards Palestinians and suggested that those in the West Bank and Gaza Strip live in fear of Israel and are not run by their own, independent government.

"When I say the Palestinian authority is an independent state, it is not my characterization. It is the characterization of Mahmoud Abbas and 180-some countries at the U.N.,” Kontorovich said in response, arguing that the Palestinians have all the mechanisms to be considered a legitimate state not under Israel’s thumb.

The George Washington Forum’s goal is to sponsor diverse political and social debate at OU, an aim accomplished by the controversial tone of Kontorovich’s presentation.

“We were honored to have the professor speak tonight. I think he’s in line with what we believe in, in kind of bringing alternative visions and views to the table for discussion,” said Evan Ecos, co-president of the OU chapter of the Alexander Hamilton Society. “Overall we were very happy with the presentation and we look forward to bringing John Bolton here in a month.”

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