UN Resolution 242
UN Resolution 242
Date: November 22, 1967
About the Author: The United Nations Security Council is a sub-committee of the United Nations whose mandate is the maintenance of international peace and security. The committee is made up of representatives from UN member nations and is invested with the power to arbitrate international conflicts, make recommendations (binding or non-binding) in the form of resolutions, issue cease-fire orders and provide military presence in the form of UN peace keeping forces. In November of 1967, the Security Council President was Mr. Mamadou Boubacar Kanté of Mali. Resolution 242 was drafted and put forward by the British ambassador, Lord Hugh Caradon, and received unanimous assent from the representatives of Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Denmark, Ethiopia, France, India, Japan, Mali, Nigeria, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Kingdom of Great Britain for Northern Ireland and the United States of America.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 was adopted on November 22, 1967 and was directed at finding a peaceful settlement to the conflict between the state of Israel and its Arab neighbors, Egypt, Syria and Jordan. The resolution was the direct response to the Six Day War, fought between June 5 and 10, 1967, and the Israeli occupation of Syria's Golan Heights, the West Bank of the Jordan River (including East Jerusalem), the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip in Egypt. Although the Security Council's resolution intended the return of annexed territory to its rightful occupants, the ambiguous language of the recommendations and a lack of enforcement resulted in Israel's non-compliance with the Security Council's proposal. Resolution 242 has become one of the most cited and referenced documents in the controversy over land rights in the Middle East because it is believed that the failure of the resolution contributed in large part to the perpetuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israel eventually withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula in 1979, and from the Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank in September of 2005, but the Middle East remains a site of much tension and conflict.
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The notion of "land for peace" is the most important concept coming out of resolution 242. The Security Council suggested that Israel be willing to return conquered lands in exchange for peace with Egypt, Jordan and Syria. However, due to problems of ambiguous language and Israel's preoccupation with the resolution's second point—"the termination of all claims or states of belligerency"—Israel refused to end the occupation of Arab territories until their demands for the cessation of hostilities and terrorism had been met, while the Arab states interpreted the resolution to mean that it was incumbent upon Israel to first return the occupied territories.
The wording of the resolution was deliberately non-specific in its recommendations, requiring the involved parties to negotiate a mutually acceptable solution. An earlier draft put forward by the USSR with support from the Arab states that required Israel to fully withdraw from all territories occupied after June 4, 1967 was vetoed by the United States of America, who were in favor of a less binding resolution. As a compromise, the British representative, Lord Caradon, put forward a draft that referred to the "withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict." The main innovation in this draft was the removal of the words "all the" from the previous draft, thereby refusing to make a definitive statement about exactly which territories should be returned. The British draft, however, added the statement "emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war," thereby codifying the United Nation's position on the occupation and annexation of land through armed conflict, and pointing to the need for Israel's complete return of the conquered territory. The British draft was adopted as resolution 242 and the statement on the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war has since been referenced repeatedly as protecting the land rights and integrity of nations and their citizenry in the event of an armed conflict.
According to analysts, the major mistake made by the Security Council in resolution 242 was its failure to specifically mention the situation and interests of the Palestinians as a part of the peace settlement. Following the Holocaust and the Second World War, the 2.3 million Jewish people who had survived in Europe had no place to go and no homes to return to. The United Nations, agreeing that the Jewish people needed an independent state, decided to partition Palestine into a Jewish state, an Arab state and a Neutral UN territory containing the city of Jerusalem, which is sacred to Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The state of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948 and immediately thrown into conflict. Palestinians fled or were forcibly exiled from Israel and the rest of the Arab world immediately attacked Israel in an attempt to destroy the new country. By 1949, when the dust settled, Israel had twice as much land as the UN had originally given them, Egypt had taken the Gaza Strip, Jordan had claimed the West Bank and the Palestinians had nothing. They became a people without a place—their country had effectively been taken from them.
Those Palestinians who remained in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were poorly treated, the subjects of religious hatred and violence, living in refugee camps with no citizenship rights. Many fled to neighboring Arab nations. In the late 1950s, Yasser Arafat founded the militant group al-Fatah to fight for the destruction of Israel and the liberation of Palestine, causing a surge in violence and acts of terrorism by Palestinians against Israelis. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in 1964 to organize the wide variety of fractured Palestinian groups fighting against Israel. Israeli soldiers returned aggression, resulting in continuous violence and acts of terrorism in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that persist to this day.
The aftermath of the Six Days War and the creation of resolution 242 provided an opportunity for the United Nations, through the Security Council, to redress the harm done by the division of Palestine and the displacement of the Palestinians. Following the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza strip in 1967, Palestinians in refugee camps were even more poorly treated by the Israelis who began to settle the land that the Palestinians hoped to reclaim for their own. Instead of directly addressing the state of the Palestinian people as a nation without land, the Security Council referred to them as the "refugee problem" and offered no concrete solutions for reparation and repatriation of their homeland. Rather, the resolution offers the vague suggestion of a "just settlement of the refugee problem," refusing to acknowledge the Palestinian people as a nation with a right to an equal say in the Middle East peace settlement.
Since their exile in 1948, Palestinians have been adamant about their right to return to the lands that were taken from them by the United Nations' division of their country, although the Jewish people argue that they have a historic claim to the land that predates the nation of Palestine. The Palestinians maintain that according to the stipulations of resolution 242, Israel must return their land and only then will the Palestinians cease hostilities and aggression. They wish to be recognized as a nation and to reclaim the rights of citizens and the land rights that accompany sovereignty. The ambiguity and non-binding nature of resolution 242 has prolonged the dispute over the occupied territories and indirectly contributed to the continued violence between Palestinians and Israelis. Although Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip on September 12, 2005, they continue to maintain their occupation of the West Bank territory, which contains the sacred city of Jerusalem. Palestinian interpretation of resolution 242 still requires the complete withdrawal of Israel from the territories taken in the 1967 Six Days War to cease hostilities and recognize Israel, while Israel maintains that an end to the state of war and Palestinian recognition of Israeli sovereignty are necessary before they will withdraw from the West Bank. The specter of resolution 242 continues to haunt the Middle East peace process.
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