Saturday, June 9, 2007


Land for peace: 'secure and recognized boundaries' . . .

Most debate regarding 242 surrounds a phrase found in the first operative clause of the resolution requiring a 'withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict'

The absence of the definite article 'the' placed before the word 'territories' creates the clearest split in interpretation of 242's purpose. The Palestinian side produced a slew of legal, semantic, and logical arguments explaining how the missing word does not alter Israel's obligation under 242 to withdraw to the pre-Six-Day War borders. But when asked to illuminate their intentions regarding the controversial omission, every drafter and relevant diplomat has supported two points: 1) that the ambiguity of the phrasing was entirely deliberate and 2) that the pre-Six-Day War borders were considered neither sufficient nor permanent.

In effect, the clause implicitly urges the conflicting parties to negotiate their own borders, thus, their own peace. Which leads directly to the next part of 242's first operative clause:

'(ii)Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement 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'

With the evolving complexity of terrorist networks and the prospect of a nuclear Iran, the phrase 'secure and recognized boundaries' is perhaps in need of a radical reassessment. The notion, like the one voiced by Ronald Reagan below that Israel requires a certain amount of territory simply to protect itself from outside aggressors is being turned on its head:

'In the pre-1967 borders Israel was barely 10 miles wide at its narrowest point. The bulk of Israel's population lived within artillery range of hostile Arab armies. I am not about to ask Israel to live that way again.'

In 2007 such a view appears maudlin and completely at odds with the nature of today's threats. 'Secure and recognized' has never seemed so redundant a phrase as it does now.

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