The six-day war and resolution 242
In discussing the implications of the six-day war,
UN Security Council resolution 242 cannot be avoided. Much has been said
and written about its intention and meaning, mostly centered on the
sentence “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories
occupied in the recent conflict”. Does this sentence require
withdrawal from all or only some of the territories?
Obviously the most reliable sources from whom to seek clarification are
the persons who played key roles in drafting the resolution, British
Ambassador to the UN, Lord Caradon, American Ambassador, Arthur Goldberg
and US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Eugene Rostow.
In an article in The New Republic, “Resolved: are the settlements legal?
Israeli West Bank policies,” (Oct. 21, 1991) Rostow wrote
“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 Israel was not to be
forced back to the “fragile” and “vulnerable” Armistice
Demarcation Lines, but should retire once peace was made to what
Resolution 242 called “secure and recognized” boundaries, agreed to by
the parties. In negotiating such agreements, the parties should take into
account, among other factors, security considerations, access to the
international waterways of the region, and, of course, their respective
Goldberg has clarified that although the French and Soviet texts
differ from the English in this respect, the Security Council voted on the
English text, which is thus determinative. He Caradon and Rostow have
stated categorically that in drafting resolution 242, they deliberately
omitted a demand for Israel to return to the pre-1967 borders.
In an interview in the Beirut Daily Star on June 12, 1974, Caradon stated:
"It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to
its positions of June 4, 1967 because these positions were undesirable and
artificial. After all, they were just the places where the soldiers on
each side happened to be on the day the fighting stopped in 1948. They
were just armistice lines. That's why we didn't demand that the Israelis
return to them, and I think we were right not to."
Professor Julius Stone, one of the twentieth century's leading authorities
on the Law of Nations concurred with Rostow that the Jewish right of
settlement in the territories is equivalent in every way to the right of
the existing Palestinian population to live there.
In his work “Israel and Palestine - Assault on the Law of Nations"
“International law forbids acquisition by unlawful force, but not
where, as in the case of Israel's self-defence in 1967, the entry on the
territory was lawful. It does not so forbid it, in particular, when the
force is used to stop an aggressor, for the effect of such prohibition
would be to guarantee to all potential aggressors that, even if their
aggression failed, all territory lost in the attempt would be
automatically returned to them. Such a rule would be absurd to the point
of lunacy. There is no such rule….”
According to Rostow , the Armistice Lines of 1949, which are part of
the West Bank boundary, represent nothing but the position of the
contending armies when the final cease-fire was achieved in the War of
Independence. And the Armistice Agreements specifically provide, except in
the case of Lebanon, that the demarcation lines can be changed only by
agreement when the parties move from armistice to peace. Resolution 242 is
based on that provision of the Armistice Agreements and states certain
criteria that would justify changes in the demarcation lines when the
parties make peace.
If suggestions for a settlement are to be meaningful, the misleading
expression 'end the occupation' must be avoided and replaced by the
concept of 'territorial compromise' as contemplated in the careful wording
of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. These resolutions require the
Arab states and Israel to make peace, and that when "a just and
lasting peace" is reached in the Middle East, Israel should withdraw
from some but not all of the territory it occupied in the course of the
1967 war. The Resolutions leave it to the parties to agree on the peace
Articles by the Late Eugene W. Rostow, US Undersecretary of State for
Political Affairs between 1966 and 1969 who played a leading role in
producing the famous Resolution 242.
For the text of
resolution 242 please click here
more articles by Maurice Ostroff
Mr. Ostroff's website: http://maurice-ostroff.tripod.com