Correcting President Obama: 242 does not set the size of the land mass under
Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA 22 May 2011
Speaking at the AIPAC Conference in Washington President Obama argued that
by mentioning land swaps, President Obama did not actually call for Israel
to withdraw to the indefensible '67 lines since Israel can trade [off huge
chunks of the Negev] to avoid the '67 line.
But that's not really the point.
The point is that President Obama handed the Palestinians a tremendous
concession by embracing the Palestinian assertion that it somehow has the
implicit right to every square millimeter beyond the Green Line and thus
must be compensated on a 1:1 basis for any adjustment to the line so that
the final land mass under its control remains the same.
This was not - repeat not - the meaning of UNSC 242.
And the record on this is absolutely clear.
The framers of 242 were well aware that secure borders for Israel would be
achieved by Israel retaining territory beyond the '67 lines - and this
without any requirement of some quid pro quo in return to the Arabs to
somehow compensate for the retention of said land.
[See below for references]
There is no reference in the series of Oslo documents, that serve as the
basis and framework continuing from 242, to the concept that the size of
the land mass to be ultimately under Palestinian control is not subject to
Let there be no confusion here.
Israel never asked President Obama to say that he endorses Israel swapping
the Negev for parts of the West Bank.
Israel has instead every right to make it crystal clear that we completely
reject attempts to change the rules of the game - in particular after we
have made so very many extremely painful and expensive concessions based on
promises and commitments regarding the rules of the game.
Let's not forget that the tens of thousands of assault rifle armed
Palestinians are deployed today in the West Bank along with many thousands
of rockets in the Gaza Strip along with Israeli graveyards packed with
"sacrifices for peace" because we decided to take a chance for peace and
lifted Yasser Arafat from the dung heap of history - bringing him from his
exile in Tunis. Israel's security situation at the time was nothing short
Each month the size of the "terrorist wanted list" got shorter as Israeli
security forces captured or killed terrorists faster that the Arabs could
produce new one.
Nothing on the Arab side compelled Israel to agree to Oslo.
President Obama argues that some previously democratically elected Israeli
Governments engaged in negotiations that reflected the concept that any
change from the '67 lines would be offset with transferring sovereign
Israeli land to the Palestinians.
But that's not the point.
These negotiations were not concluded.
And in point of fact, the Israelis engaged in negotiations warned their
Palestinian counterparts that if they failed to cut a deal with them before
Israeli elections they ran the very real risk that the Israeli democratic
process would erase whatever gains they may have made in talks not
Because while we cannot rescind a treaty we have already signed via the
ballot box, we can most certainly revise our negotiating positions.
And that is just what we did.
So when President Obama tells Israelis that former PM Olmert embraced the
positions he now wishes to dictate, we Israelis have a simple answer:
Olmert's Kadima Party is not in power.
The Palestinians walked away from Olmert "negotiating stall" and thought he
[or Livni who replaced him at the head of Kadima]would keep offering more.
But instead the Israeli People spoke on Israeli election day and put a
coalition headed by Binyamin Netanyahu in charge.
Israel has absolutely no obligation to promise the Palestinians that they
will end up with a land mass equal in size to every square millimeter beyond
the Green Line.
242, and in turn Oslo, never predetermined the size of the land mass under
That, like everything else is a matter for negotiations - not American
Statements Clarifying the Meaning of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242
Even before the beginning of the Jarring Mission (the Special Representative
as mentioned in the Resolution), the Arab States insisted that Security
Council Resolution 242 called for a total withdrawal of Israeli forces from
territories occupied in the Six-Day War. Israel held that the withdrawal
phrase in the Resolution was not meant to refer to a total withdrawal.
Following are statements including the interpretations of various
delegations to Resolution 242:
A. United Kingdom
"...withdrawal should take place to secure and recognized boundaries, and
these words were very carefully chosen: they have to be secure and they have
to be recognized. They will not be secure unless they are recognized. And
that is why one has to work for agreement. This is essential. I would defend
absolutely what we did. It was not for us to lay down exactly where the
border should be. I know the 1967 border very well. It is not a satisfactory
border, it is where troops had to stop in 1947, just where they happened to
be that night, that is not a permanent boundary... "
Lord Caradon, interviewed on Kol Israel in February 1973
Mr. Michael Stewart, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth
Affairs, in reply to a question in Parliament, 17 November 1969:
Question: "What is the British interpretation of the wording of the 1967
Resolution? Does the Right Honourable Gentleman understand it to mean that
the Israelis should withdraw from all territories taken in the late war?"
Mr. Stewart: "No, Sir. That is not the phrase used in the Resolution. The
Resolution speaks of secure and recognized boundaries. These words must be
read concurrently with the statement on withdrawal."
Mr. Michael Stewart, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth
Affairs, in a reply to a question in Parliament, 9 December 1969:
"As I have explained before, there is reference, in the vital United Nations
Security Council Resolution, both to withdrawal from territories and to
secure and recognized boundaries. As I have told the House previously, we
believe that these two things should be read concurrently and that the
omission of the word 'all' before the word 'territories' is deliberate."
Mr. George Brown, British Foreign Secretary in 1967, on 19 January 1970:
"I have been asked over and over again to clarify, modify or improve the
wording, but I do not intend to do that. The phrasing of the Resolution was
very carefully worked out, and it was a difficult and complicated exercise
to get it accepted by the UN Security Council. "I formulated the Security
Council Resolution. Before we submitted it to the Council, we showed it to
Arab leaders. The proposal said 'Israel will withdraw from territories that
were occupied', and not from 'the' territories, which means that Israel will
not withdraw from all the territories." (The Jerusalem Post, 23.1.70)
B. United States of America
Mr. Arthur Goldberg, US representative, in the Security Council in the
course of the discussions which preceded the adoption of Resolution 242:
"To seek withdrawal without secure and recognized boundaries ... would be
just as fruitless as to seek secure and recognized boundaries without
withdrawal. Historically, there have never been secure or recognized
boundaries in the area. Neither the armistice lines of 1949 nor the
cease-fire lines of 1967 have answered that description... such boundaries
have yet to be agreed upon. An agreement on that point is an absolute
essential to a just and lasting peace just as withdrawal is... " (S/PV.
1377, p. 37, of 15. 11.67)
President Lyndon Johnson, 10 September 1968:
"We are not the ones to say where other nations should draw lines between
them that will assure each the greatest security. It is clear, however, that
a return to the situation of 4 June 1967 will not bring peace. There must be
secure and there must be recognized borders. Some such lines must be agreed
to by the neighbours involved."
Mr. Joseph Sisco, Assistant Secretary of State, 12 July 1970 (NBC "Meet the
"That Resolution did not say 'withdrawal to the pre-June 5 lines'. The
Resolution said that the parties must negotiate to achieve agreement on the
so-called final secure and recognized borders. In other words, the question
of the final borders is a matter of negotiations between the parties."
Eugene V. Rostow, Professor of Law and Public Affairs, Yale University, who,
in 1967, was US Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs:
a) "... Paragraph 1 (i) of the Resolution calls for the withdrawal of
Israeli armed forces 'from territories occupied in the recent conflict', and
not 'from the territories occupied in the recent conflict'. Repeated
attempts to amend this sentence by inserting the word 'the' failed in the
Security Council. It is, therefore, not legally possible to assert that the
provision requires Israeli withdrawal from all the territories now occupied
under the cease-fire resolutions to the Armistice Demarcation lines."
(American Journal of International Law, Volume 64, September 1970, p. 69)
b) "The agreement required by paragraph 3. of the Resolution, the Security
Council said, should establish 'secure and recognized boundaries' between
Israel and its neighbours 'free from threats or acts of force', to replace
the Armistice Demarcation lines established in 1949, and the cease-fire
lines of June 1967. The Israeli armed forces should withdraw to such lines
as part of a comprehensive agreement, settling all the issues mentioned in
the Resolution, and in a condition of peace." (American Journal of
International Law, Volume 64, September 1970, p. 68)
Mr. Vasily Kuznetsov said in discussions that preceded the adoption of
"... Phrases such as 'secure and recognized boundaries'. What does that
mean? What boundaries are these? Secure, recognized - by whom, for what? Who
is going to judge how secure they are? Who must recognize them? ... There is
certainly much leeway for different interpretations which retain for Israel
the right to establish new boundaries and to withdraw its troops only as far
as the lines which it judges convenient." (S/PV. 1373, p. 112, of 9.11.67)