On December 20th, 1997 President of Egypt Anwar Sadat makes a historic trip to Jerusalem and offers the Israelis a complete peace in exchange for their full withdrawal from Sinai. A year later a peace agreement is signed at Camp David. President Sadat is called a traitor by an Arab League and eventually assassinated by Muslim Brotherhood in 1981.




Interpretation of Resolution 242

When dealing with Arab-Israeli conflict, the most frequently quoted historic document is UN Resolution 242. The Security Council unanimously voted for this document on November 22, 1967. It took five months of very difficult negotiation to arrive at the final draft.

The UN had a very difficult task. As a result of the Six Day War, Israel ended up with the Sinai, Golan Heights, West Bank and East Jerusalem under their control. They were willing to negotiate with the Arabs the settlement that would produce a peace in the region, but the Arabs shot that opportunity down during the Khartoum Conference where they refused to negotiate with Israel even at the cost of their lost territories.

The war was over but the belligerence was not. There were constant skirmishes between the Arabs and Israelis and many believed that another war was inevitable. That forced the UN to intervene and try to produce a document that would stop the military activities and help the warring parties with a roadmap to peace.

One of the main principles of the resolution was the "withdrawal of the Israeli forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict". What that meant was that Israel would withdraw from the lands occupied during the Six Day War in exchange for recognition and secure borders. That’s how the "Land for Peace" formula came about. The big argument preceding the final draft of the resolution was the wording of the paragraph one.

The Arabs and Russians were arguing for the sentence to read "withdrawal from all the territories" occupied during the Six Day War, while the Israelis and Americans were pushing for the sentence to read "withdrawal from territories" which would leave them some flexibility when defining the final borders. At the end "withdrawal from territories" won out and was unanimously voted for.

Even though the English was the official language in which the resolution was drafted, French was the second language of the UN and when translated into French the document somehow ended up with "the" article in the sentence. Of course the Arab side when quoting resolution 242, and they quote it often, always refers to the French translation while the Israelis refer to the official English version. Lord Caradon of the United Kingdom was one of the main sponsors of the resolution.

When asked about this debate years later his answer was unequivocally clear "We didn’t say there should be withdrawal to 1967 line; we did not put "the" in, we did not say all the territories deliberately. We knew that the boundaries of 1967 were not drawn as the permanent frontiers, they were a cease-fire line of a couple of decades earlier.

We did not say that the 1967 boundaries must be forever". In addition, the withdrawal from territories principal is tied directly to the right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries. That means Israel is not obligated to withdraw from the territory if the neighboring country does not offer a secure and officially recognized border.

The land for peace formula has worked partially. In 1977 the president of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, made a historic trip to Jerusalem and offered the Israelis a complete peace in exchange for their full withdrawal from Sinai. A year later the peace agreement was signed at Camp David. The principle outlined in Resolution 242 was met.

Egypt got all their land back, while Israel got a defendable and recognized border in return. Israel and Egypt are not best of friends, but 242 was not about making friends but rather about neighbors who can respect each others borders. Israel has made peace with another adversary, the Kingdom of Jordan. Realizing the kind of danger the governance of the West Bank would cause to their existence, Jordanians withdrew their claims to the West Bank and East Jerusalem and in 1994 signed a peace treaty with Israel with their border running along the Jordan river.

That leaves Syria and the Palestinians as two neighbors still technically at war with Israel. There is also Lebanon, but Israel did not occupy any Lebanese land in 1967. Syria takes the word belligerency to another level. They lost the strategically important Golan Heights during the Six-Day War. The Golan Heights are the mountainous region bordering with Israel in the north.

The Syrians used it as a military stronghold from which its troops would randomly shell at Israeli civilians in the valley below. Right after the Six Day War, Israel offered the Syrians the return of the Golan Heights in exchange for a peace treaty, which Syria promptly declined. The Syrians along with Iraqis also rejected Resolution 242. Only a few months earlier they walked out of the Khartoum.

Conference that was anything but conciliatory to Israel, after their demands for continued military actions were rejected by other Arab countries. Only after the defeat in the Yom Kippur war of 1973 did they grudgingly recognize the principles of Resolution 242. When Egypt unilaterally signed the peace agreement with Israel it was Hafez al-Asad of Syria and Yasser Arafat the PLO Chairman who were the most vocal in calling for Sadat’s head. Syria demands that Israel must withdraw from all of the Golan Heights unconditionally before they will even consider negotiations.

Turning the Golan Heights over to Syrians without an agreement would place Israel at a great strategic disadvantage. In fact, Israelis would be absolutely insane to believe that the Syrians would negotiate in a good faith after they started three wars. Resolution 242 requests secure and recognizable borders as well as establishment of demilitarized zones.

The fact that the Golan Heights need to be demilitarized, just like the Sinai in Egypt, goes without saying. In addition in order to have a secure border Israel may need to hold on to the part of the Golan Heights. That’s what withdrawal from "territories" means, moving to the defendable borders. Belligerency has a price. Israel’s relations with Lebanon are a perfect example of what it’s like to unilaterally withdraw without an agreement in place. Israel withdrew from Lebanon in May of 2000.

According to the UN, Israel is in full compliance and does not currently occupy any Lebanese land. Yet Hezbollah, which is supported by Iran and Syria, still considers itself at war with Israel claiming the ownership of Shabaa Farms. Even if Israel decides tomorrow to hand over the disputed land, Hezbollah will claim another piece of land in order to continue its war against Israel. While demanding an Israeli pullout, it was Syria who occupied Lebanon for decades and only recently was forced to withdraw from there after the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister.

It is the Syrian border that is used by the jihadies from all over the world to sneak in and out of Iraq, where they fight the American soldiers and kill scores of innocent civilians on the daily basis. In addition, every known Palestinian terrorist organization has headquarters in Damascus. Then of course there are the places of the biggest contention, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. Egyptians who controlled the Gaza Strip until 1967 have since withdrawn any claim to it. Israel is expected to leave it in 2005.

Resolution 242 does not specifically mention Palestinians. It speaks about "achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem". That was the reason Yasser Arafat and the PLO rejected it outright. The other reason for the rejection was that by accepting 242 the PLO would accept the right of Israel to exist. At that time they were not prepared for that. The PLO recognized 242 only twenty years later, in 1988, as the basis for further negotiations with Israel. Resolution 242 was the most often referred to document during the Oslo Accords.

The Palestinian refugee issue has always been one of the most difficult to resolve in all Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Palestinians demand the full right-of-return of almost three million refugees to Israel-proper, while Israel argues that refugees can return to a Palestinian State once it is established. Palestinian refugees have gotten worldwide attention for living in deplorable conditions in refugee camps of Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Gaza Strip.

Nobody ever mentions that 856,000 Jews were forced to flee Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen in an exodus that began after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and ended about 1970. In many cases they were forced out, leaving behind all their possessions. Jewish communities in those countries date back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Tiny Israel absorbed most of them.

While Jewish refugees became Israeli citizens and fully integrated into Israeli society the best the Arab countries, with their vast territories, could offer to Palestinian refugees were the deplorable refugee camps, that breed poverty and hatred. Arab leadership condemned these people to this miserable existence so they could be used as pawns in their war against Israel.

Desperate people make willing suicide bombers and the rundown refugee camps are a great propaganda tool against Israeli aggressors. How else can one explain the plight of Palestinians in the refugee camps in Lebanon? They have no right to own a home, hold a job or own a business. For the last sixty years they are being told that they need to sit there and wait until they can return to their homes in Israel.

The just settlement for Palestinians would be to be integrated into the Palestinian State when it’s created, just like Israel integrated Jews kicked out of the Arab countries. Then there is a question of borders with the Palestinian State when it is established. Israel’s border with the West Bank, at its narrowest point, is nine miles.

Just nine miles from Israel’s most densely populated coastal cities, like Tel Aviv. How can nine miles represent a secure border when on the other side you have a highly hostile population for whom their standing in the society is based on how many Israelis their sons or daughters kill in suicide bombings. In addition, like in Lebanon, there is no one particular authority that can be responsible for the actions of its citizens.

The Lebanese government does not control Hezbollah, who takes orders from Iran and Syria. The Palestinian Authority can only publicly condemn the suicide bombing. It does not control the terrorist organizations and does very little to stop them. If there is no one entity on the Palestinian side that can uphold the agreement then there is no basis for Resolution 242 or any other agreement to be implemented at this time. One of the main principles of 242 is "territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace".

It speaks for itself. Even though Resolution 242 was drafted almost forty ago, it is still a very powerful document. If Israel is ever to reach a full peace with the Arabs it will be done only when the principles of 242 are met by both sides.