Palestine, Uti Possidetis Juris and the Borders of Israel

60 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2016 Last revised: 8 Oct 2016

Abraham Bell

Bar Ilan University - Faculty of Law; University of San Diego School of Law

Eugene Kontorovich

Northwestern University Law School

Date Written: March 8, 2016


Israel’s borders and territorial scope are a source of seemingly endless debate. Remarkably, despite the intensity of the debates, little attention has been paid to relevance of the doctrine of uti possidetis juris to resolving legal aspects of the border dispute. Uti possidetis juris is widely acknowledged as the doctrine of customary international law that is central to determining territorial sovereignty in the era of decolonization. The doctrine provides that emerging states presumptively inherit their pre-independence administrative boundaries.

Applied to the case of Israel, uti possidetis juris would dictate that Israel inherit the boundaries of the Mandate of Palestine as they existed in May, 1948. The doctrine would thus support Israeli claims to any or all of the currently hotly disputed areas of Jerusalem (including East Jerusalem), the West Bank, and even potentially the Gaza Strip (though not the Golan Heights).

Keywords: Israel, Palestine, Uti Possidetis, International Law, Boundary Disputes, Borders, Boundaries, Public International Law, Territorial Sovereignty, Occupation, Self-Determination, Mandates

JEL Classification: K10, K19, K30, K33

Suggested Citation

Bell, Abraham and Kontorovich, Eugene, Palestine, Uti Possidetis Juris and the Borders of Israel (March 8, 2016). Arizona Law Review, vol. 58, pages 633-692 (2016); Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 16-04; San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 16-214. Available at SSRN: or

Abraham Bell

Bar Ilan University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Faculty of Law
Ramat Gan, 52900


University of San Diego School of Law ( email )

5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States

Eugene Kontorovich (Contact Author)

Northwestern University Law School ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
(212) 503-0429 (Phone)

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