On 12/28/16, the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned that support of settlements in the West Bank by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would undermine any hope of a two state solution to resolve its decades-long conflict with the Palestinians. This policy of a two state solution which has been in effect for over 50 years, was what prompted the U.S. to support the recent censure of Israel by the United Nations for its continuing to build settlements in the West Bank. Shortly after Secretary Kerry’s speech, the republican President-elect Donald Trump tweeted that he would no longer allow Israel to be treated with disdain.
In short, the U.S. policy of a two state solution is a result of the U.N. Resolution 242 which was established after the 1967 Six Day War. Below is a copy of the resolution, followed up by the points of view regarding the West Bank from the perspective of Israel and Palestine.
This material was garnered from PBS Frontline’s published excerpts from Eric Black’s Book, “Parallel Realities” which details data about the West Bank. It was reprinted with the permission of both the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the author, under the title, “Resolution 242 And The Aftermath of 1967:”
The Text of U.N. Resolution 242
The Security Council,
Expressing its continuing concern with the grave situation in the Middle East, Emphasizing the inadmissibility 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 Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in recent conflict;
(ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment 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 for the refugee problem;
(c) For guaranteeing the territorial inviolability 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 contacts 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.
Adopted unanimously by the Security Council at the 1382nd meeting.
22 November 1967
The Israeli Position
“Israel contends that Resolution 242 requires each of its neighbors to recognize Israel’s right to exist and to negotiate bilaterally a secure border. That procedure, followed with Egypt in 1977-79, led to Egypt’s recognition of Israel and Israel’s withdrawal from the Sinai.”
“Israel always declared its readiness for a similar process with Jordan and Syria. But Israel generally insisted on bilateral negotiations with each of its neighbors. It rejected for years international negotiating formats that would have given a role to the Soviet Union or to the United Nations, arguing that in such a format Israel’s adversaries would gang up and force a settlement inconsistent with Israel’s security needs. One of the shortcomings of Resolution 242 was that it implied the need for a negotiated settlement, and suggested an endpoint for the negotiations, but it didn’t establish a mechanism or a forum for negotiations.”
“In the decade after 1967, it was widely believed that if Jordan or Syria had engaged in bilateral talks, Israel would have offered territorial concessions in exchange for recognition and peace. Neither Arab neighbor put Israel to the test on this possibility. But in recent years, the Likud government has specified that it has no plans to withdraw from any more of the land captured in 1967.”
“Arab states have argued that Israel’s position defies the language of Resolution 242 that calls on Israel to withdraw “from territories occupied in recent conflict.” But Israeli officials reply that the resolution does not specify that Israel must withdraw from “all territories” or even from “the territories” captured in 1967. This was no linguistic accident, Israel argues. It contends that the word “the” was deliberately omitted to leave open the possibility that Israel could fulfill its part of the resolution by withdrawing from some, but not all of the territory it occupied in 1967.”
“Several U.S. officials who participated in the birth of the resolution have sided with Israel on this issue. The late Arthur Goldberg, who was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in 1967, and Eugene Rostow, who was undersecretary of state, have written articles agreeing with Israel’s interpretation of the meaning of the missing “the.”
“The Sinai Peninsula, representing more than 90 percent of the acreage Israel occupied in the war, was returned to Egyptian sovereignty in the 1979 Egypt-Israel treaty. Therefore, Israel argues, it already has met its obligation to return some of the territory and is in compliance with Resolution 242. The parties in violation of the resolution are those Arab states who have refused to end their state of war and recognize Israel’s “right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries.”
The Palestinian Position
“Palestinian leaders were outraged by Resolution 242 when it was adopted. Palestinians had no voice at the United Nations. But the PLO gained great impetus from the feeling of betrayal that Palestinians felt over Resolution 242 and the belief that this was what came from letting non-Palestinians lead the Palestinian cause. The PLO built its popularity in the years after the war partly on its rejection of 242.”
“The resolution doesn’t mention the Palestinians. Instead, it mandates “a just settlement of the refugee problem.” Many Palestinians resent being identified as nothing more than a problem. Furthermore, on a practical level, the resolution offers no basis for a settlement. Nothing in the resolution so much as hints at what would constitute “a just settlement of the refugee problem.”
“The resolution also encourages the states of the Middle East to recognize one another’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence and right to live in peace. Since Israel is the only state in the region whose right to exist is in dispute, the resolution seems to call on the Arab states to recognize Israel. And since the Palestinians had no state, it doesn’t call on anyone to recognize their right to national self-determination.”
“For all of these shortcomings, the PLO rejected Resolution 242 for 20 years. In 1988, the Reagan administration announced that it would drop the long-standing U.S. refusal to talk to the PLO if that organization met several conditions, including an endorsement of Resolution 242. Arafat accepted Resolution 242, which led to a brief and ultimately fruitless U.S.-PLO dialogue. But at the same time, the PLO issued a declaration of independence for a Palestinian state to be formed from the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.”
“Palestinians acknowledge that nothing in the language of Resolution 242 suggests the creation of a Palestinian state, but contend that the resolution requires Israel to withdraw from all of the territory it occupied in 1967, which would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state.”
“Palestinians generally dismiss Israel’s argument about the missing “the” as legalistic, hair-splitting and note that the definite article is present in the official French translation of the resolution. Palestinians prefer the language in the first sentence of the resolution that emphasizes “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” This clearly suggests that Israel must withdraw from all of the land it captured in 1967.”