Recognition: A Case Study on the Original Understanding of Executive Power

Robert J. Reinstein *

Let’s fast-forward to a point in the near future. The President has given up on unsuccessful American mediation attempts to secure a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians. To resolve this longstanding impasse, the President offers his own peace plan for the Middle East, which includes the creation of the State of Palestine with defined borders, including the partition of Jerusalem, and the settlement of other outstanding issues that have divided the parties. The plan is accepted by the Palestinian Authority but not by Israel. The Palestinian Authority then declares the independent State of Palestine that has the borders and other conditions prescribed in the President’s proposal. The President quickly announces that the United States recognizes the State of Palestine with those borders and conditions. Does he have the constitutional power to so bind the United States? And suppose that Congress passes legislation to override the President’s decision. Is that legislation constitutional?

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* Clifford Scott Green Professor of Law, Temple University Beasley School of Law. My thanks to my colleagues Jeffrey Dunoff, David Hoffman, and Gregory Mandel for their helpful suggestions, and to Michael Connett and Matthew Adler for their extraordinary research assistance.