There are many misinterpretations of UN Security Council resolution 242. The most common one is the assertion that Israel has to give back all of the territories gained from the 1967 Six-Day War. To the contrary, the wording of this resolution was made deliberately vague, “after much negotiation,” regarding the return of territories. An excellent history of this resolution and the issues dealt with can be found in a JCPA paper by Ambassador Meir Rosenne.
Here is how the UN’s own documents (page 8) describe the resolution:
Later that year, on 22 November, the Security Council unanimously adopted, after much negotiation, resolution 242 (1967), laying down principles for a peaceful settlement in the Middle East. The resolution stipulated that the establishment of a just and lasting peace should include the application of two principles:
Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict; and
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.
The resolution also affirmed the territorial inviolability of every State in the region and called for “achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem”. Egypt and Jordan accepted resolution 242 (1967) and considered Israeli withdrawal from all territories occupied in the 1967 war as a precondition to negotiations. Israel, which also accepted the resolution, stated that the questions of withdrawal and refugees could be settled only through direct negotiations with the Arab States and the conclusion of a comprehensive peace treaty. Syria rejected the Council action, maintaining that the resolution had linked the central issue of Israeli withdrawal to concessions demanded from Arab countries. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) strongly criticized the resolution, which it said reduced the question of Palestine to a refugee problem.
Note that the resolution does not mention “Palestine” or a Palestinian state, only the prior existing states. Nor does it include a highly debated article “the” or adjective “all” which was requested but rejected in the resolution (as in “the territories” or “all territories”) – the final lines of state territories was to be determined through negotiation. Whether the “the” is indeed part of the resolution because of the French translation continues to stir debate, but is rejected by most English speaking countries, including the US, as well as Israel. The resolution passed unanimously.
Read the full resolution for yourself:
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 the recent conflict;
(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;
2. Affirms further the necessity:
(a) For guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area;
(b) For achieving a just settlement of 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.