Adopted: November 22, 1967
by Eli E. Hertz
Resolution 242 is the cornerstone for what it calls "a just and lasting peace." It calls for a negotiated solution based on "secure and recognized boundaries" – recognizing the flaws in Israel's previous temporary borders – the 1948 Armistice lines or the "Green Line"1 – by not calling upon Israel to withdraw from 'all occupied territories,' but rather "from territories occupied."
The United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 242 in 1967 following the Six-Day War.2 It followed Israel's takeover of the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the West Bank from Jordan. The resolution was to become the foundation for future peace negotiations. Yet contrary to Arab contentions, a careful examination of the resolution will show that it does not require
Resolution 242 was approved on November 22, 1967, more than five months after the war. Although Israel launched a pre-emptive and surprise strike at Egypt on June 5, 1967, this was a response to months of belligerent declarations and actions by its Arab neighbors that triggered the war: 465,000 enemy troops, more than 2,880 tanks and 810 aircrafts, preparing for war, surrounded Israel in the weeks leading up to June 5, 1967. In addition,
The Arab measures went beyond mere power projection. Arab states did not plan merely to attack
• "We intend to open a general assault against
• "The sole method we shall apply against
• "I, as a military man, believe that the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation." (Syrian Defense Minister Hafez al-Assad, May 20, 1967)
• "The existence of
Arab declarations about destroying Israel were made preceding the war when control over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (or Sinai and the Golan Heights) were not in Israel's hands, and no so-called Israeli occupation existed.
That is why the UN Security Council recognized that
Although Resolution 242 refers to "the inadmissibility" of acquiring territory by war, a statement used in nearly all UN resolutions relating to Israel, Professor, Judge Stephen M. Schwebel, former President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague, explains that the principle of "acquisition of territory by war is inadmissible" must be read together with other principles:
"… namely, that no legal right shall spring from a wrong, and the Charter principle that the Members of the United Nations shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State."
Resolution 242 immediately follows to emphasize the "need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every state in the area can live in security."
While Resolution 242 may call upon
The Meaning of the Words "All" & "The"
As noted above, the UN adopted Resolution 242 in late November 1967, five months after the Six-Day War ended. It took that long because intense and deliberate negotiations were needed to carefully craft a document that met the Arabs' demand for a return of land, and Israel's requirement that the Arabs recognize Israel's legitimacy, to make a lasting peace.
It also took that long because each word in the resolution was deliberately chosen, and certain words were deliberately omitted, according to negotiators who drafted the resolution.
So although Arab officials claim Resolution 242 requires
The wording of UN Resolution 242 clearly reflects the contention that none of the territories were occupied territories taken by force in an unjust war.
Because the Arabs were clearly the aggressors, nowhere in UN Security Council Resolutions 242 is
The minutes of the six month 'debate' over the wording of Resolution 242, as noted above, showing that draft resolutions attempted to brand Israel an aggressor and illegal occupier as a result of the 1967 Six-Day War, were all defeated by either the UN General Assembly or the Security Council.
Professor Eugene Rostow, then U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, went on record in 1991 to make this clear:
"Resolution 242, which as undersecretary of state for political affairs between 1966 and 1969 I helped produce, calls on the parties to make peace and allows Israel to administer the territories it occupied in 1967 until 'a just and lasting peace in the Middle East' is achieved. When such a peace is made, Israel is required to withdraw its armed forces 'from territories' it occupied during the Six-Day War - not from 'the' territories nor from 'all' the territories, but from some of the territories, which included the Sinai Desert, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip."
Professor Rostow continues and describes:
"Five-and-a-half months of vehement public diplomacy in 1967 made it perfectly clear what the missing definite article in Resolution 242 means. Ingeniously drafted resolutions calling for withdrawals from 'all' the territories were defeated in the Security Council and the General Assembly. Speaker after speaker made it explicit that
Lord Caradon, then the
"We knew that the boundaries of '67 were not drawn as permanent frontiers; they were a cease-fire line of a couple decades earlier. We did not say the '67 boundaries must be forever."
Referring to Resolution 242, Lord Caradon added:
"The essential phrase which is not sufficiently recognized is that withdrawal should take place to secure and recognized boundaries, and these words were very carefully chosen: they have to be secure and they have to be recognized. They will not be secure unless they are recognized. And that is why one has to work for agreement. This is essential. I would defend absolutely what we did. It was not for us to lay down exactly where the border should be. I know the 1967 border very well. It is not a satisfactory border, it is where troops had to stop in 1947, just where they happened to be that night, that is not a permanent boundary ... "
In a 1974 statement he said:
"It would have been wrong to demand that
It is true, as Arab leaders correctly note, that certain suggested drafts of Resolution 242 exist that contain that tiny controversial "the" in reference to territories. Arab leaders say this proves that
Arthur J. Goldberg,8 the U.S. Ambassador to the UN in 1967 and a key draftee of Resolution 242, stated:
"The notable omissions in language used to refer to withdrawal are the words the, all, and the June 5, 1967 lines. I refer to the English text of the resolution. The French and Soviet texts differ from the English in this respect, but the English text was voted on by the Security Council, and thus it is determinative. In other words, there is lacking a declaration requiring
Political figures and international jurists have discussed the existence of "permissible" or "legal occupations." In a seminal article on this question, entitled What Weight to Conquest, Professor, Judge Schwebel wrote:
"A state [
"As between Israel, acting defensively in 1948 and 1967, on the one hand, and her Arab neighbors, acting aggressively, in 1948 and 1967, on the other, Israel has the better title in the territory of what was Palestine, including the whole of Jerusalem, than do Jordan and Egypt."
Professor Julius Stone, a leading authority on the Law of Nations, has concurred, further clarifying:
"Territorial Rights Under International Law. ... By their [Arab countries] armed attacks against the State of Israel in 1948, 1967, and 1973, and by various acts of belligerency throughout this period, these Arab states flouted their basic obligations as United Nations members to refrain from threat or use of force against
If the West Bank and
Eli E. Hertz
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.