United Nations Resolution 242

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United Nations Resolution 242

United Nations Security Council Resolution 242
(November 22, 1967)

Reprinted in Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict
Edited by Charles D. Smith
Published in 2001

"The Security Council, expressing its continuing concern with the grave situation in the Middle East...and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every state in the area can live in security...."

Ever since its founding in 1945, the United Nations has had a special relationship with Palestine and the problems the country faced. Among its first actions as an organization was the creation of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), which in 1947 recommended the division of Palestine into two independent states, one Jewish and one Arab. On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 181, which set in place a plan to partition, or divide, Palestine into two states. That partition did not take place. Arabs denied that partition was a valid solution to the problem, and Arabs and Jews fought a war to control Palestine. The Jews won, and succeeded in creating the state of Israel and, in May 1949, Israel was admitted as a member of the United Nations.

Over time, the United Nations sought to play a mediating role in the conflict that existed between Israel and its Arab neighbors. It passed Resolution 194 in 1948, which called on Israel to allow Palestinian refugees to return to homes they had abandoned during the war, or to compensate those who did not wish to return. In the 1950s and 1960s the United Nations appointed special mediators to help resolve minor conflicts, and in 1956 it created a United Nations Emergency Force to help keep peace between Israelis and Egyptians in the Sinai Peninsula area. When the Six-Day War broke out in 1967 between Israel and the combined forces of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, the United Nations scrambled to call a ceasefire to end the war.

The Israeli victory in the Six-Day War of 1967 was a decisive moment in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. With its conquest of the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula, Israel finally felt that it had gained the security it had long lacked. These new territories gave Israel what it considered to be buffer zones or areas of safety between major Israeli cities and enemy military positions. But the war also created problems, for Israel had taken control of territories that were home to huge numbers of Palestinians—Arabs who claimed historical ties to Palestine. Though the United Nations had been unable to prevent the conflict of 1967, it worked throughout the summer following that war to negotiate a resolution that would allow all sides to step away from the brink of continual conflict. Security Council Resolution 242 was the result.

The United Nations Security Council

The United Nations Security Council is the most powerful organization within the United Nations. It is comprised of five permanent members—the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the Russian Federation, and the People's Republic of China—and ten other member nations, half of which are replaced every year. The Security Council's purpose under the United Nations Charter is the maintenance of international peace and security. It is the only body of the United Nations that is authorized to use force against an aggressor nation. (The U.N. Security Council has authorized the use of force just twice in its existence: in the Korean War of 1950 and the first Gulf War in 1991.)

One of the primary ways that the United Nations Security Council notifies the world of its intentions is through numbered Security Council Resolutions. Security Council Resolutions can authorize the use of force, call on a member nation to perform an action, or establish a framework for the resolution of a conflict. Security Council Resolutions bear the force of law, but that does not mean that they are always followed.

Things to remember while reading "United Nations Security Council Resolution 242"

  • United Nations Security Council Resolutions generally reflect the opinion of the major world powers. No resolution can pass over the objection of any one of the five permanent Security Council members: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the Russian Federation, and the People's Republic of China.
  • During the course of the Six-Day War, the United Nations Security Council passed five resolutions calling for an end to the war and for the reasonable treatment of civilians in war zones.
  • In the aftermath of the Six-Day War, the political status of the captured territories was unclear. Most of the land was considered classified as occupied territory, meaning it was controlled by the Israeli military forces but not officially part of the state of Israel. Only East Jerusalem was annexed, or claimed as part of the state of Israel.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 (November 22, 1967)

The Security Council,

Expressing its continuing concern with the grave situation in the Middle East,

Emphasizing theinadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every state in the area can live in security,

Emphasizing further that all Member States in their acceptance of the Charter of the United Nations have undertaken a commitment to act in accordance with Article 2 of the Charter,

1. Affirms that the fulfillment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:

(i) Withdrawal of Israel[i] armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;

(ii) Termination of all claims or states ofbelligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.

2. Affirms further the necessity

(a) For guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area;

(b) For achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem;

(c) For guaranteeing the territorialinviolability and political independence of every State in the area, through measures including the establishment of demilitarized zones;

3. Requests the Secretary-General to designate a Special Representative to proceed to the Middle East to establish and maintain contact with the States concerned in order to promote agreement and assist efforts to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement in accordance with the provisions and principles in this resolution;

4. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council on the progress of the efforts of the Special Representative as soon as possible.

What happened next ...

United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 did not bring immediate peace to the Middle East. Egypt and Jordan interpreted the resolution as a call for Israel to withdraw to pre-1967 borders before any peace negotiations could take place. Israel interpreted the resolution as calling for Arab states to enter into direct negotiations with Israel. Syria rejected the resolution altogether, according to The Question of Palestine and the United Nations, "maintaining that the resolution had linked the central issue of Israeli withdrawal to concessions demanded from Arab countries." And the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the political body of Palestinians, rejected the resolution for simplifying and downgrading the question of Palestine to the single issue of the refugee problem. In short, every country directly impacted by the resolution found fault with parts of it.

In the short term, the Arab-Israeli conflict continued. Arab states refused to recognize or negotiate with Israel until the mid-1970s. Periodic clashes along borders occurred through the late 1960s and early 1970s, and open warfare broke out again in 1973, when Israel was attacked by Egypt and Syria. As in the past, the United Nations brokered a ceasefire, this time with Security Council Resolution 338, and established a second United Nations Emergency Force to resolve land claims resulting from the war. Because neither Israel nor the Arab countries had gained or lost any significant land in the 1973 war, the Emergency Force continued to focus on the territories taken by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967.

Security Council Resolution 338

On October 22, 1973, as a means of concluding the sixteen-day conflict between Israel and Egypt and Syria known as the Yom Kippur War, the United Nations Security Council issued resolution number 338. Resolution 338's call for a ceasefire was accompanied by the demand that all parties begin peace negotiations aimed at realizing the goals of Security Council Resolution 242. Those negotiations remained an ongoing feature of Middle Eastern politics into the 2000s.

Security Council Resolution 338

The Security Council,

1. Calls upon all parties to the present fighting to cease all firing and terminate all military activity immediately, not later than 12 hours after the moment of the adoption of this decision, in the positions after the moment of the adoption of this decision, in the positions they now occupy;

2. Calls upon all parties concerned to start immediately after the ceasefire the implementation of Security Council Resolution 242 (1967) in all of its parts;

3. Decides that, immediately and concurrently with the ceasefire, negotiations start between the parties concerned under appropriate auspices aimed at establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East.

Resolution 242 did have important long-term effects, however. It helped initiate peace talks between Egypt and Israel that led to a peace agreement between those nations in 1979, and it was the basis for a peace agreement with Jordan that was signed in 1994. According to Charles Smith, author of Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 242 "has remained the official basis of negotiating efforts to the present." Certain phrases from Resolution 242—"the need to work for a just and lasting peace," and "live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force"—have been consistently referred to by all sides in the conflict during peace negotiations in the 1990s and early 2000s. With the election of Mahmoud Abbas (1935–) as president of the Palestinian National Authority in 2005 and the historic talks between Abbas and Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon (1928–), there is renewed hope that a lasting peace may be secured.

Did you know ...

  • United Nations Security Council resolutions are numbered in the order that they are created. The first resolution was issued on January 25, 1946; Security Council Resolution 1584—concerning the weapons embargo, or prohibition of trade, in the African nation of Cote d'Ivoire in the hopes of stopping their civil war—was issued early in 2005. To find the latest resolution, check the Security Council Web site—http://www.un.org/Docs/sc/.
  • The Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors occurred at a time of world crisis. Not only were the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in the Cold War (the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union from 1945 to 1991 over the ideological differences between democracy and communism), but the United States had also committed its military to fighting the Vietnam War (1954–75; a war between the forces of North Vietnam supported by China and the Soviet Union and the forces of South Vietnam supported by the United States). Both the United States and the Soviet Union did not want to get drawn into further violent conflicts in the Middle East, so they worked through the United Nations to try to bring about peace.

Consider the following...

  • Critics sometimes complain that United Nations Security Council resolutions are ineffective in influencing a conflict or a nation's policies. Is this true in relation to Israel? What would motivate the countries involved in this conflict to pay attention to these resolutions?
  • Historians sometimes try to understand the past by posing counterhistorical questions—questions that ask what would have happened if conditions were different. For example, what would have happened if the Security Council had not pressured Israel and the Arab states to end the Six-Day War? Or, would peace have come more quickly to the Middle East without the involvement of the United Nations? Explore these questions, or invent counterhistorical questions that explore other aspects of this conflict.

Inadmissibility: Unacceptable situation.

Belligerency: Being at war.

Inviolability: Security from attack.

For More Information


Brand, Laurie A. Palestinians in the Arab World: Institution Building and the Search for State. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.

Farsoun, Samih K., with Christina E. Zacharia. Palestine and the Palestinians. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1997.

Smith, Charles D., ed. Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History with Documents. 4th ed. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2001.

Wagner, Heather Lehr. Israel and the Arab World. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2002.

Worth, Richard. Israel and the Arab States. New York: F. Watts, 1983.

Web Sites

The Question of Palestine & the United Nations.http://www.un.org/Depts/dpi/palestine/ (accessed on June 24, 2005).

United Nations Security Council.http://www.un.org/Docs/sc/ (accessed on June 24, 2005).

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United Nations Resolution 242

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United Nations Resolution 242