United Nations Resolutions and the Middle East Peace Process
July 25, 2017
- The terms of reference for the Middle East peace process launched in Madrid in 1991, and officially adopted in Washington in September 1993, remain to this day United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolutions 242, 338, and the "land for peace" equation. These principles, which are explained here, form the basis for a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
- UN General Assembly Resolution 181 provides the legal foundation for a two-state solution, and is, therefore, a vital factor to a final settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. UN General Assembly Resolution 194 makes clear reference to the legitimate "right of return" of the Palestinian refugees.
- UN Security Council Resolution 242 was adopted unanimously on November 22nd 1967 after the Arab-Israeli war in June 1967. It calls on Israel to withdraw its military forces to the boundaries prior to that war, thus, to return all Palestinian territories it occupied by force.
- In practical terms, UN Resolution 242 is the legal foundation for the Middle East peace process. It calls on Israel to withdraw its military and civilian presence from all of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem.
- It also implies that all Israeli settlements built on Palestinian territory after the June 1967 War are illegal, and therefore, must be dismantled unconditionally. This is also emphasised in the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which clearly states that "…the occupying power [Israel] cannot make demographic or territorial" changes to the territory it occupies by force. Please see Settlements fact sheet for more information.
- UN Security Council Resolution 338 was adopted by 14 votes to none (China did not vote) on October 22nd 1973 after the outbreak of the "October War." It calls on all parties involved in the conflict to cease fighting. It also calls upon the parties to implement, after the cease-fire, UN resolution 242 in all of its parts.
- This resolution re-enforces the provisions of 242, and, more importantly, gives it international legitimacy by its decision that "…negotiations shall start between the parties concerned under the appropriate auspices aimed at establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East.
- UN General Assembly Resolution 181 was adopted on 29th November 1947. It provides the legal basis for a two-state solution. It offers a foundation upon which a Palestinian state could be established, with clear boundary definitions (including the city of Jerusalem), administrative powers of a Palestinian government, religious, civic, and political rights, as well as other legal and political foundations.
- As mentioned above, the value of this resolution today is to provide the legal and political grounds for a two-state solution. Whereas UN resolution 242 determines the boundaries of a would-be Palestinian state, this resolution underpins and re-enforces the principle behind its establishment.
- UN General Assembly Resolution 194 was adopted on 11th December 1948 after the first Arab-Israeli war. It came after the dispossession of more than 805,000 Palestinians from their homes, and provides the legal foundation for their right to return. The number of these refugees today is estimated at 5 million. Please see Refugees fact sheet for more information.
- The dispossession of the Palestinians in 1948 and 1967 is a major cause in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; therefore, their return is a key factor in its resolution.
- UN General Assembly Resolution 66/225 was adopted on March 29th 2012, wherein the UN General Assembly reaffirmed the sovereignty of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and of the population in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights over their natural resources. It called on Israel to stop its exploitation and depletion of those natural resources.
- UN Security Council Resolution 2234 was adopted on December 23rd 2016. It states that Israeli settlements on the Occupied Palestinian Territories is not legally valid and is a violation of international law. It calls on Israel to fulfill its duties under the Fourth Geneva convention, and demands the halt of all settlement activity.
The resolutions mentioned above summarise the main legal and political foundations for ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In short, the Palestinian red lines for peace with Israel are: the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes, full Palestinian sovereignty on all of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem, as well as the dismantlement of all Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land occupied by Israel in 1967.
For the most recent developments in the current Palestinian-Israeli final status talks, please go to: Remarks and Questions from the Palestinian Negotiating Team Regarding the United States Proposal