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Understanding the Middle East: Key agreements and treaties

by Mike Fegelman


Key Agreements and Treaties

United Nations Resolution 242: Intentions and Results

In Brief: All proposals for Middle East Peace since 1967 have used United Nations Resolution 242 as a foundation. However, it is frequently referred to incorrectly or out of context by both diplomats and the media. UN Resolution 242 calls for Israeli withdrawal from some of the territories taken in 1967 in exchange for permanent peace and accepted borders by all the Arab nations and the Palestinians. To date, Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip legally fulfills the Israeli obligations. It is factually incorrect to say that Israel is in violation of 242.

In Detail: The following is based on a report by the American Israel Cooperative Enterprise.On November 22, 1967, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 242, establishing the principles that were to guide the negotiations for an Arab-Israeli peace settlement. By examining what was discarded as well as the language that appears, it is possible to discern the Security Council’s intent.

“Withdrawal of all the Israeli Armed Forces…”
– “all the” was not included in the official text

“termination of all claims or states of belligerency”
– “…all claims…” was included in the official text

The most controversial clause in Resolution 242 is the call for the “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” This is linked to the second unambiguous clause calling for “termination of all claims or states of belligerency” and the recognition that “every State in the area” has the “right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”

The resolution does not make Israeli withdrawal a prerequisite for Arab action. Moreover, it does not specify how much territory Israel is required to give up. The Security Council did not say Israel must withdraw from “all the” territories occupied after the Six-Day war. This was quite deliberate. The Soviet delegate wanted the inclusion of those words and said that their exclusion meant “that part of these territories can remain in Israeli hands.” The Arab states pushed for the word “all” to be included, but this was rejected. The Arab League then rejected the entire resolution. Nonetheless, it was approved by the Security Council.

The resolutions clearly call on the Arab states to make peace with Israel. The principal condition is that Israel withdraw from “territories occupied” in 1967, which means that Israel must withdraw from some, all, or none of the territories still occupied. Since Israel withdrew from 91% of the territories when it gave up the Sinai, it has already partially, if not wholly, fulfilled its obligation under 242.

UN Resolution 242
American Israel Cooperative Enterprise

The Oslo Accords: From Madrid to the Second Intifada

In brief: The Oslo Accords were based around the concept that Israel would recognize the PLO and that the PLO would eschew violence against Israel. All issues such as Israeli settlements, Palestinian statehood, refugees, and Jerusalem were to be negotiated without precondition. A series of interim agreements attempted to move the process forward and give the Palestinians governing control over the areas in which the majority of their population lived. Although Israel withdrew from most of these areas, there has never been a concerted campaign by the Palestinian Authority to stop terror attacks and dismantle terrorist organizations. In addition, anti-Semitism and incitement against Jews continues to permeate Palestinian media and culture. The Oslo Era effectively ended when Yassir Arafat launched the second Intifada after rejecting Israeli proposals at Camp David. Through the end of 2005, 1,367 people have been killed by Palestinian terror attacks since the signing of Oslo.

In Detail: The following is based on palestinefacts.org.

On September 13, 1993 representatives of the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signed the “Declaration of Principles On Interim Self-Government Arrangements”, a document also known as the “Oslo Accords”. They were signed at a Washington ceremony hosted by US President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1993, during which Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin ended decades as sworn enemies with an uneasy handshake.

The Oslo Accords contain a set of mutually agreed-upon general principles regarding a five year interim period of Palestinian self-rule. So-called “permanent status issues” are deferred to later negotiations, to begin no later than the third year of the interim period. The permanent status negotiations were intended to lead to an agreement that would be implemented to take effect at the end of the interim period.

The main points of the Oslo Accords

Transfer of Powers to the Palestinians

An agreement in principle regarding a transfer of power and responsibilities to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, so they may have control over their own affairs. Israel complied with this provision so that over 90 percent of all Palestinians live in areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

The deferment of all permanent status issues, such as Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements and border.

An agreement that Israel will remain responsible for security along the international borders and the crossing points to Egypt and Jordan. Israel will also retain responsibility for the overall security of Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza, the Israeli settlements in those areas, and freedom of movement on roads.

Arafat’s Commitments

A letter on key issues of the PLO and Israel, addressed to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was signed by Yasser Arafat on September 9, 1993. The letter says specifically that:

  • The PLO recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security.
  • The PLO accepts United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 (U.N. Resolution 338, adopted after the Yom Kippur War calls for all sides to implement 242)
  • The PLO commits itself to the Middle East peace process… all outstanding issues … will be resolved through negotiations
  • … the PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence and will assume responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance, prevent violations and discipline violators
  • … the PLO undertakes to submit to the Palestinian National Council for formal approval the necessary changes in regard to the Palestinian Covenant which deny Israel’s right to exist.

Despite these pledges, Arafat not only did nothing to curtail the activities of terror groups, but he openly incited Palestinians to attack Israeli targets. In fact, Arafat’s government was directly implicated in the financial support of terror activities.

Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements
UN Resolution 338

The Road Map to Middle East Peace

In Brief: After the failure of Oslo (or specifically, the failure of the Palestinian Authority to reign in the terrorist groups), the United States, United Nations, European Union, and Russian Federation proposed the Middle East Road Map. Israel accepted the Road Map with 14 conditions. One of these conditions is a requirement for the Palestinian Authority to act against terror organizations before Israel would undertake any actions of its own.

Full performance will be a condition for progress between phases and for progress within phases.The first condition for progress will be the complete cessation of terror, violence and incitement.

The main points of the Road Map are for the Palestinians to end terror and incitement against Israel and for Israel to accept in principle the concept of a Palestinian State, to dismantle unauthorized settlement outposts and to freeze settlement construction. However, similar to what happened with Oslo, the Palestinian Authority leadership has repeatedly declared that they will not try to disarm terror groups operating freely in areas under their control. On the other hand, Israel has accepted the two state solution, has started dismantling unauthorized outposts, and has pledged not to create any new settlements. Although not mandated by the Road Map, Israel also withdrew from all Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and four in the northern West Bank.

In Detail: The following is based on a report by Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute for Near East policy. The Road Map envisions three “phases” of activity: During the first stage, it is envisioned that Palestinians would prepare the legal basis for elections, draft a new constitution “for statehood,” and begin retraining and rebuilding their security forces. Palestinians were asked to take three steps toward Israel:

  • issue an “unequivocal statement reiterating Israel’s right to exist in peace and security and calling for an immediate end to the armed Intifada and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere”
  • end all incitement; and
  • “begin phased resumption of security cooperation as agreed in the Tenet work plan.”

At the same time, Israel was asked to:

  • facilitate Palestinian Authority official travel “without restriction”;
  • transfer tax revenues;
  • lift curfews and ease travel between Palestinian areas;
  • dismantle settlement outposts erected since the start of the Sharon government; and
  • end actions “that undermine trust,” including attacks in civilian areas and deportations (what the roadmap calls “punitive measures”).

Meanwhile, Arab states will “move decisively” to cut off funding of extremist groups. During the second stage, “as comprehensive security performance moves forward” and Palestinians meet “agreed judicial, administrative and economic benchmarks,” it is envisioned that Israel “freeze all settlement activity,” reopen closed Palestinian economic institutions in “East Jerusalem,” and withdraw its forces progressively to pre-intifada positions, enabling Palestinian legislative elections to be held. At the close of this phase, Egypt and Jordan would return their ambassadors to Israel.

The second and third phases discuss the “possible creation of a Palestinian state with provisional borders.” It involves a great deal of involvement from the international community. It calls for a final end to not just the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians but between Israel and the Arab world.

The Israeli conditions are an integral part of the Road Map. The Palestinians were already obligated in the Oslo Accords to end terror and incitement. It would not make sense if Israel, which has already given up significant territory, was required to continue giving up land without the Palestinians fulfilling their basic obligations from over ten years ago.

The Middle East Road Map



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