(This resolution was adopted more than 30 years ago. It is yet to be enforced)

November 22, 1967


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:

      Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict1;

      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

      For guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area;

      For achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem2;

      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.

1- "The recent conflict": The Six-Day War (June 1967). These territories include the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and Sinai.
2 - "The refugee problem": The Palestinian refugees who had fled after each stage of Israel's expansion.


Famously, there is an inconsistent translation of section 1. Should withdrawal of Israeli forces be from "territories occupied in recent conflict" as above, or from "the territories..."?

The English translation is as above. Russian has no definite article, compounding the ambiguity. I don't know about French and Chinese versions. All are official versions, and none seems to take precedence...

This resolution is one of the foundational documents of the Israeli-Arab peace process, to which all future resolutions refer. However, it is so vague and its definition so contested - even after forty years - that it amounts to little more than an empty plea.

The resolution does not even mention the Palestinians and does not call for the establishment of a Palestinian state; the first Security Council resolution to do that, 1397, was only passed - thanks to the Bush administration - in 2002. The resolution calls for Israel to withdraw from occupied territory in exchange for "secure and recognized boundaries" and recognition. This was novel because in 1967, not one Arab state had recognized Israel's right to exist. However, the resolution makes clear that the deal on offer was not "land for peace", but "land for secure boundaries".

Israel's boundaries have not been secure since 1967 and so, even when the political will to get rid of the territories emerged in Israel, doing so proved harder than it looked. No Israeli government can hand the territories over to a Palestinian state - as is now presumed to be the solution, as Jordan and Egypt do not want the lands back, contrary to this resolution's suggestion - unless they are guaranteed these secure boundaries. The resolution also makes clear they are not expected to do so, and the UN has never called for an unconditional withdrawal.

While on the one hand this reflects the consensus-inspired wording typical of UN resolutions, it also highlights a more pertinent truism: without secure borders for every country in the region, including Israel, there can be no lasting peace. The acquisition of territory by force may be inadmissable, but so is a life under constant threat. Sustainability must lie at the heart of any solution.

BrevityQuest09

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