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UN RESOLUTION 242

 

By Professor Paul Eidelberg
November 26, 2009
NewsWithViews.com

Dr. Zalman Shoval, former Israel ambassador to the US, who currently heads the Prime Minister’s forum of US-Israel Relations, perpetuates an old and widespread error in his Jerusalem Post article of November 19, 2009. He refers to UN Security Council Resolution 242, which, he says, “is the only agreed basis for all the agreements and initiatives to bring about a settlement of the conflict between Israel and its neighbors, including the Palestinians (and, of course Syria), also determined that Israel was not required to withdraw from all the territories it holds as a result of repulsing Arab aggression in 1967, and that future borders should be based on considerations of security. In the words, the dividing line between a future Palestinian state and Israel would not necessarily be commensurate with the former temporary armistice line called the ‘Green Line.’”

Unfortunately, Mr. Shoval compounds a number of errors related to Resolution 242. First, the Palestinians never agreed to this Resolution. Second, the Resolution makes no mention whatsoever of a “Palestinian state.” Moreover, Shoval overlooks a fundamental contradiction inherent in Resolution 242, which the present writer elucidated in an article written more than 30 years ago and subsequently included in Sadat’s Strategy (1978). Suffice to replicate the main passages of this article.

“UN Resolution 242 is an attempt to resolve the territorial disputes resulting from the Six Day War of June 1967 when, in self-defense, Israel [regained] the Golan Heights, Judea and Samaria (misleadingly called the West Bank), as well as the Sinai and the Gaza Strip. As noted in the text, the resolution requires ‘the application of both of the following principles:

(1) withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the war; and
(2) the right of every State in the area to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats and acts of force.’

“It has been pointed out [and implied by Shoval’s article] that the exclusion of the definite article ‘the’ before the word ‘territories’ in the resolution means that Israel is not obliged to return to the pre-1967 armistice lines. The question has arisen, however, as to whether Israel must withdraw, to whatever extent, on all the aforementioned fronts. The language of the first principle is not entirely clear on this point. But even if it were unambiguously affirmative, the question of withdrawal on all fronts runs into a geopolitical contradiction when we turn to the second principle.


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“By confirming Israel’s right to ‘secure and recognized boundaries,’ the second principle is an attempt to square the circle. The simple truth—which democratic politicians and commentators are unwilling to confront candidly and courageously—is that ‘secure’ and ‘recognized’ boundaries are antithetical concepts given the hostile ideological character and intentions of Israel’s Arab neighbors. What Israel may reasonably regard as secure boundaries will not be recognized by her autocratic Islamic adversaries. Conversely, the boundaries which her adversaries would allegedly recognize—say the pre-1967 ones—can hardly be regarded as secure or defensible by Israel (or indeed by any unbiased observer). Despite this geopolitical dilemma, it is of crucial importance to raise the question of which of the two antithetical concepts takes legal as well as moral precedence?

“According to the United Nations Charter and international law in general, every nation has an inherent right to self-preservation. (James Madison, the father of the American Constitution, referred to national self-preservation as ‘the transcendent law of nature and of nature’s God’—this, in Federalist 43,) But inasmuch as no one is more concerned about a particular nation’s self-preservation or security than that nation itself, it follows that each nation must be the ultimate judge of what is required for its preservation or security. Hence the concept of secure boundaries takes precedence over the concept of recognized boundaries.

“… it may be objected that Israel will not be secure until it has boundaries recognized by its neighbors. But this begs the fundamental issue. The objection presupposes that the Arab states [as well as the Arab Palestinians] can be trusted to remain content to have Israel withdraw to the 1949-1967 armistice lines, that these Arabs have renounced their oft-repeated objective of annihilating the Jewish State of Israel whose humane and democratic way of life stands in stark contrast to the harsh feudalism of Islamic autocracies. We have assembled incontrovertible evidence refuting this wishful thinking.

Furthermore, the objection fails to consider the fact that whereas the recognition of international boundaries is primarily legal matter dependent on the will of others—in this case the fluctuating will of transient or deposable Arab autocracies [or despots]—secure and defensible boundaries is primarily a military matter dependent on permanent geographic factors on the one hand, and one’s own will and resources on the other. Here again we see why secure boundaries takes precedence over recognized boundaries.”

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It is to be regretted that Mr. Shoval does not address the logical flaws and related ideologically dilemmas of UN Resolution 242—to say nothing of whether the Palestinians have any right, under objective international law, to establish a state any part of Eretz Israel.

2009 Paul Eidelberg - All Rights Reserved

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Internationally known political scientist, author and lecturer, Eidelberg is the founder and president of The Foundation for Constitutional Democracy with offices in Jerusalem.

Prof. Eidelberg served in the United States Air Force where he held the rank of first lieutenant. He received his doctoral degree at the University of Chicago. He designed the electronic equipment for the first brain scanner at the Argonne Cancer Research Hospital.

Before immigrating to Israel in 1976, Prof. Eidelberg wrote a trilogy on America’s founding fathers: The Philosophy of the American Constitution, On the Silence of the Declaration of Independence, and a Discourse on Statesmanship.

In 1976 he joined the faculty of Bar-Ilan University in Israel. He has written several books on the Arab-Israel conflict and on Judaism. Demophrenia: Israel and the Malaise of Democracy analyses the mentality of Israel’s ruling elites. Jewish Statesmanship: Lest Israel Fall, which has been translated into Hebrew and Russian, reveals the flaws inherent in Israel’s system of governance and how they may be remedied. A Jewish Philosophy of History investigates the world-historical events leading to the rebirth of Israel in 1948.

His latest publication, The Myth of Israeli Democracy, provides an abbreviated version of a Constitution which shows how to make Israel a genuine democracy based on a Jewish conception of freedom and equality.

Eidelberg is on the Advisory Council of the Ariel Center for Policy Research, which has published many of his policy papers. In addition to writing more than 1,000 articles for newspapers and scholarly journals in the U.S. and Israel, he has a weekly program on Israel National Radio.

Prof. Eidelberg has been lecturing throughout Israel and the United States. He conducts seminars on constitutions, diverse parliamentary electoral systems, Jewish law, and related topics at the Jerusalem center of the Foundation for Constitutional Democracy.

Web site: Foundation for Constitutional Democracy

E-Mail: eidelberg@foundation1.org


 

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According to the United Nations Charter and international law in general, every nation has an inherent right to self-preservation.