1967: UN Security Council Resolution 242
United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242, adopted in 1967 after the Six Day War, defines guidelines to arrive at the desired goal of a peaceful environment in the Middle East. It aims to establish ‘a just and lasting peace in the Middle East’ between Israel and its neighbours. Israel has accepted these resolutions, and recognises them as the basis for all peace negotiations for an Arab-Israeli peace settlement. Resolution 242 is a remarkably succinct document (291 words) with key provisions and principles. It has become the central document of the Middle East diplomatic effort.
The language of Resolution 242, painstakingly drafted and carefully worded by its British sponsors, was the product of long and exhaustive debate in the United Nations. Resolution 242 applies to ‘every state in the area’ of the Middle East, and therefore does not refer to Palestinians because it applied only to existing states. It explicitly calls for the Israeli armed forces to withdraw ‘from territories occupied’ in the June 1967 war – specifically not from ‘the territories’ or ‘all the territories’.
The omission of the definitive article ‘the’ in front of ‘territories’ in the binding English version of the resolution is of the highest significance, and should not be derided as mere wordplay or legal acrobatics. Some five and a half months of debate and diplomacy over the resolution’s wording produced several draft versions – such as ‘from the territories occupied’ (the Arab states) and ‘all territories occupied’ (the Soviet Union). All such versions were defeated in the UN General Assembly and Security Council, and the British version was unanimously adopted on 22 November 1967. Thus, the debate over which version of Resolution 242 is binding – the English or French version (which uses a definitive article – ‘des territories’) – is less complex than usually thought. In the UN, the binding version of any resolution is the one that is submitted to the voting body. In the case of Resolution 242, the English version takes precedence over the French version.
In other words, the resolution calls for a withdrawal from an undefined portion of territory, and only to the extent required by ‘secure and recognised boundaries’ in order for Israel to establish defensible borders. There is no demand on Israel to withdraw from all the territories captured in 1967.
In fact, Lord Caradon, Britain’s UN representative at the time and the principal author of Resolution 242, said, ‘It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967…That’s why we didn’t demand that the Israelis return to them and I think we were right to do so.’ Furthermore, the resolution requires ‘respect for and acknowledgment of…[every State’s] right to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries.’ Eugene Rostow, US undersecretary of state for political affairs between 1966 and 1969 and a key player in the production of Resolution 242, has written, ‘Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 rule that the Arab states and Israel must 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 terms of peace.’
1973: UN Security Council Resolution 338
In the later stages of the Yom Kippur War – after Israel thwarted the Syrian attack on the Golan Heights and established a bridgehead on the Egyptian side of the Suez Canal – international efforts to stop the fighting were intensified. US secretary of state Henry Kissinger flew to Moscow on 20 October and, together with the Soviet Union, the United States proposed a ceasefire resolution in the UN Security Council. The Security Council met on 21 October, and by 14 votes to none, adopted Resolution 338, which called on the warring parties to cease fighting and resume diplomatic efforts in accordance with Resolution 242. In fact, Eugene Rostow, US undersecretary of state for political affairs between 1966 and 1969 and a key player in the production of Resolution 242, has written, ‘Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 rule that the Arab states and Israel must 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 terms of peace.’
1974: Separation of Forces Agreement: Israel and Egypt
After the Yom Kippur War, efforts were made to reach an agreement on separation of forces between Israel and Egypt, and between Israel and Syria. Efforts to conclude an agreement on separation of forces between Israel and Egypt that were made at kilometre 101 and later in Geneva failed. US secretary of state Henry Kissinger successfully narrowed the gap between the parties, bringing about the conclusion of an agreement. Before the signing of the agreement, the Israeli government approved it and issued a statement. A day later, the agreement was signed at kilometre 101 by the chiefs of staff of the Israeli and Egyptian armies.
1975: Interim Agreement between Israel and Egypt
The Interim Agreement provided for a limited forces zone, a UN supervised buffer zone, an Israeli and an Egyptian electronic surveillance station and an additional station to be manned by 200 American civilian technicians as part of an early warning system. The American presence was specified in a separate agreement between the United States, Israel and Egypt. Egypt regained access to the Abu Rudeis oil fields. The duration of the agreement was to be at least three years, with an annual extension of the mandate of the UN Emergency Force (UNEF). The details were prepared by Israeli and Egyptian delegates who met in Geneva as a military working group.
1977: Israel’s Self-Rule Plan
In December 1977, Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin announced his autonomy plan. The plan for the first time formally suggested that the solution to the problem in the West Bank and Gaza Strip involved some combination of self-rule and shared rule. The plan called for administrative autonomy of the Arab residents in the West Bank and Gaza districts, and the election of an 11-member Administrative Council (among other provisions). Palestinian leaders rejected Begin’s self-rule plan.
1978: Camp David Accords
The Camp David Accords, mediated by US president Jimmy Carter, brought together Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to negotiate a framework agreement that led to the Israel-Egypt peace treaty (signed in 1979). The negotiations – which were based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 – were concluded by the signing of two frameworks.
The first agreement (the ‘Framework for Peace in the Middle East’) established a framework by which to pursue a negotiated peace between Israel and the Arab states and their neighbours. It offered a gradual approach, by means of an interim agreement. In addition, it established a format for conducting negotiations for the establishment of an autonomy regime in the West Bank and Gaza for the Palestinians. The second agreement (the ‘Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty Between Egypt and Israel’) stipulated a full Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt promised full diplomatic relations with Israel, and to allow Israeli passage through the Suez Canal, the Straits of Tiran and the Gulf of Aqaba.
1979: Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty
The Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt led to the signing of a negotiated peace treaty on 26 March 1979. The agreement was signed in Washington, DC by US president Jimmy Carter, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israel prime minister Menachem Begin. It was the first peace treaty signed between Israel and any of its Arab neighbours. Sadat and Begin shared the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize for their historic agreements. The peace treaty led to a full Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula by April 1982, in exchange for full diplomatic relations and the demilitarisation of the Sinai.