Forty years ago this November, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 242, aimed at resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict—most immediately, the consequences of the June 1967 war, during which Israel seized territories from Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. Though it did not address the older and more complex conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people, the resolution has since become the benchmark for solving not only the interstate but also the core Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Clearly, 242 was more satisfactory in addressing the interstate conflict. Its explicit call for the “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” and its emphasis on the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” were the basis for Israel’s withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula under the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. Resolution 242 was also the basis of the 1994 Israeli-Jordanian peace agreement, although because Jordan had already renounced its claims to the West Bank the territorial issue was left aside. (Similarly, the Gaza Strip, administered but never claimed by Egypt, was left out of the Egyptian-Israeli talks.) The resolution’s call for the “termination of all claims” and for respecting the right of all states of the region “to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries” is similarly unproblematic in interstate negotiations. Whenever Israel, Syria, and Lebanon are ready to reach agreements, their talks will undoubtedly be guided by these same principles.
Given the interstate focus of 242, it is perhaps not surprising that it has thus far been unsuccessful in dealing with the core Israeli-Palestinian issue and the tangled consequences of the 1948 war. (Indeed, there is no explicit mention in 242 of the Palestinian people or their rights aside from the call for “a just settlement of the “refugee problem.”) At the time 242 was drafted, Palestinian statehood was entirely off the international agenda despite the fact that UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 181 of 29 November 1947 had called for an Arab state alongside a Jewish state in Palestine. The 1947 UNGA resolution was the legal basis of the claim for an Israeli state (andwas so specified in Israel’s Declaration of Independence of 14 May 1948), just as it is today the legal basis of the Palestinian claim for a state (and was so specified in the Palestinian Declaration of Independence of 15 November 1988). Resolution 242 mentions neither UNGA Resolution 181 nor UNGA Resolution 194 of December 1948, which specifies that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property.” This was, and is, the internationally recognized basis for resolving the problems caused by the expulsion of over half of the Palestinian people from their homes in what became Israel in 1948. By ignoring these two UNGA resolutions, 242 thus leaves in limbo the central issues crucial not only to the Palestinians but to a just and lasting solution to the entire conflict.
Whatever its omissions, flaws, and ambiguities, 242 is a seminal document. JPS decided to mark the fortieth anniversary of the resolution’s passage with five papers offering legal interpretations of its various aspects. Michael Lynk details the drafting process of the resolution, read through the lens of international law. Omar Dajani assesses the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the procedural mechanisms and substantive recommendations spelled out in the resolution. Richard Falk examines the evolution of the peace vision under 242 and the consequences, both negative and positive, of the resolution’s quasi-canonical status. John Quigley focuses on the refugee clause of the resolution. Finally, Jamil Dakwar discusses new proposals for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement that involve Palestinian citizens of Israel (who are not covered in 242), notably land-population swaps. The five papers are the basis of presentations at an IPS panel organized by JPS Editorial Committee member George Bisharat at the November 2007 annual conference of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) in Montreal.
Also in commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of the June 1967 war, JPS is publishing in this issue a special file of documents mainly relating to the capture of East Jerusalem. These include firsthand accounts by the Jordanian-appointed governor of Jerusalem of the surrender of the city, and by the West Bank’s highest religious official (who became the first Palestinian deported by Israel) of what could be called his prolonged “showdown” with the occupation authorities. Also included is a memorandum by the mayor of Jerusalem detailing Israeli measures with regard to East Jerusalem and the holy places.
This issue contains a report on the July 2007 conference of Christians United for Israel, a major new vehicle for Christian Zionist support for the hardest-line Israeli positions. Also of note are two documents: the damning and eloquent End of Mission Report of Alvaro de Soto, former UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, and the latest United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) overview of the declining economy of the occupied Palestinian territories. Both make grim reading, and both reveal underlying negative dynamics of the situation of Palestine, which continue to evolve despite ephemeral political developments.
- Rashid I. Khalidi