Friday, June 8, 2007


Land for peace: 'the acquisition of territory by war' . . .

It wasn't inevitable that Resolution 242 would remain a central reference point in Arab-Israeli negotiations for nearly forty years. More than anything else, the 'land for peace' formula is what earns 242 this place. But what relevance remains in the document is also due in part to the recognition by its drafters' that they couldn't appear to award land outright to any party. So while the Arab states and Palestinians demanded Israel to draw its borders back to their pre-June '67 lines, 242 sought to acknowledge this debt without actually crediting it.

'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 . . .' -UNSC 242

'The inadmissibility of the acquisition by war'. By placing this phrase in the preamble of 242 the Security Council muddied their own insistance against imposing a weak peace on the situation. But when considering these intentions, the drafters' seem to have given the idea of the 'aquisition of territory by war' too much prominence. Adopting 242 under Chapter VII would have made the resolution enforcable by a variety of sanctions - and the clause quoted above much hotter than it in fact was. The Security Council chose not to do that. 242 was adopted under Chapter VI, which only allows UN mediation and investigation.

This important detail is often overlooked or ignored by those who attempt to make the case that 242 stipulates Israel's return to the 01967 borders. More objective voices have criticized 242's seeming cross purposes. Yet, if the UN, the Security Council, and the British mission are to blame for anything, it's for an apparent nievete in being unable to observe and foresee the cluster of forces at work in the Middle East that have the least to gain by reconciliation.

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