Carter Misrepresents Longstanding U.S. Policy, U.N. Resolution 242

Not for the first time, former President Jimmy Carter misrepresents the contents of U.N. Resolution 242, passed in the wake of the 1967 Six Day War. In an Op-Ed last week in the International Herald Tribune, Carter recycles falsehoods from his book and deceives readers (“The unchanged path to Mideast peace,” May 26, 2011):

U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 of Nov. 22, 1967, concluded the war of that year and has been widely acknowledged by all parties to be the basis for a peace agreement. Its key phrases are, “Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war,” and “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” These included the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, plus lands belonging to Lebanon, Egypt and Syria. . . .

Significantly, Carter does not quote the “key phrase” of the resolution calling for the withdrawal of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, because the resolution does not even mention them. Those were the President’s own additions. Given that the drafters of U.N. Resolution 242 did not intend for Israel to withdraw to its pre-1967 boundaries, the resolution very deliberately refers to withdrawal from “territories,” and not “the territories.”  Indeed, the fact that U.N. Resolution 242 does not call for withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem was made clear in a series of correction published in 2000 by the New York Times, which owns and publishes the International Herald Tribune. The three corrections follow:

Correction (9/8/00): An article on Wednesday about the Middle East peace talks referred incorrectly to United Nations resolutions on the Arab-Israeli conflict. While Security Council Resolution 242, passed after the 1967 Middle East War, calls for Israel’s armed forces to withdraw “from territories occupied in the recent conflict,” no resolution calls for Israeli withdrawal from all territory, including East Jerusalem, occupied in the war.

Correction (8/24/00): An article on Aug. 19 about efforts by the American envoy Dennis Ross to revive Israeli-Palestinian talks misstated terms of United Nations Security Council resolutions passed after the 1967 Middle East war. While Resolution 242 called for Israel’s armed forces to withdraw “from territories occupied in the recent conflict,” no resolution called for Israel to hand over all of east Jerusalem to a future Palestinian state.

Correction (7/14/00): The chart on Tuesday listing issues to be discussed in the Middle East peace talks at Camp David referred incorrectly to Resolution 242 of the United Nations Security Council, which was approved after the Middle East war of 1967. It calls for the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces “from territories occupied in the recent conflict”; it is the Palestinians who associate that language with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

While the Palestinians, along with President Carter, are free to associate the resolution’s language with east Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, the International Herald Tribune does its readers a disservice by allowing the deception on its pages. (In addition, Carter cites the introduction to Resolution 242 which talks about the inadmissability of the acquisition of territory by force, meaning the acquisition of sovereignty by force. But Israel’s claims to sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza are not based on the results of the war, but on the rights of Jews under the Palestine Mandate. The war only restored the ability of Jews to exercise those rights, which had been illegally denied to them by the forceful occupation of those territories by Jordan and Egypt.)

Carter also deceives, again, not for the first time, with respect to the 1978 Camp David accords, writing:

Specifically concerning the West Bank and Gaza, the Israelis and Egyptians mutually agreed: “In order to provide full autonomy to the inhabitants under these arrangements the Israeli military government and its civilian administration will be withdrawn as soon as a self-governing authority has been freely elected by the inhabitants of these areas. …” As a result of the Oslo Accords of 1993, a self-governing authority was freely elected in January 1996, with Yasir Arafat as president and 88 Parliament members.

Again, Carter’s omission is deceptive. A “key phrase” of the Egyptian-Israeli accord stipulated:

When the self-governing authority (administrative council) in the West Bank and Gaza is established and inaugurated, the transitional period of five years will begin. As soon as possible, but not later than the third year after the beginning of the transitional period, negotiations will take place to determine the final status of the West Bank and Gaza and its relationship with its neighbors and to conclude a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan by the end of the transitional period. (Emphasis added.)

Furthermore, Carter does not mention the March 26, 1979 letter signed by Egypt’s then President Sadat and Israel’s then Prime Minister Begin and addressed to Carter himself. It was attached to the Egyptian-Israeli treaty, and it spelled out the many steps that would have to take place before Israel would withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza. The letter, attached to the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, stated:

This letter confirms that Israel and Egypt have agreed as follows:

The Governments of Israel and Egypt recall that they concluded at Camp David and signed at the White House on September 17, 1978, the annexed documents entitled “A Framework for Peace in the Middle East agreed at Camp David” and “Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt.”

For the purpose of achieving a comprehensive peace settlement in accordance with the above-mentioned Frameworks, Israel and Egypt will proceed with the implementation of those provisions relating to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. They have agreed to start negotiations within a month after the exchange of the instruments of ratification of the Peace Treaty. In accordance with the “Framework for Peace in the Middle East,” the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is invited to join the negotiations. The Delegations of Egypt and Jordan may include Palestinians as mutually agreed. The purpose of the negotiations shall be to agree, prior to the elections, on the modalities for establishing the elected self-governing authority (administrative council), define its powers and responsibilities and agree upon other related issues. In the event Jordan decides not to take part in the negotiations, the negotiations will be held by Israel and Egypt.

The two Governments agree to negotiate continuously and in good faith to conclude these negotiations at the earliest possible date. They also agree that the objective of the negotiations is the establishment of the self-governing authority in the West Bank and Gaza in order to provide full autonomy to the inhabitants.

Israel and Egypt set for themselves the goal of completing the negotiations within one year so that elections will be held as expeditiously as possible after agreement has been reached between the parties. The self-governing authority referred to in the “Framework for Peace in the Middle East” will be established and inaugurated within one month after it has been elected, at which time the transitional period of five years will begin. The Israel military government and its civilian administration will be withdrawn, to be replaced by the self-governing authority, as specified in the “Framework for Peace in the Middle East.” A withdrawal of Israeli armed forces will then take place and there will be a redeployment of the remaining Israeli forces into specified security locations. (Emphases added.)

Thus, before any Israeli withdrawal would take place — the extent of which was to be determined by negotiations — the following steps were required: 1) the start of negotiations (within one month); 2) the completion of talks (one year); 3) elections (as quickly as possible) after the end of the one-year talks; the establishment and inauguration of the self-governing authority; 4) the five-year transitional period, including the withdrawal of the civil administration and then the withdrawal of military. If each step were to be implemented successfully, an Israeli withdrawal could take place within six years time, at the minimum, not six months. And, again, the extent of the withdrawal was to be determined by negotiations, and the implementation dependent on all the aforementioned preliminary steps. Indeed, Egypt and Israel never concluded their negotiations, which stretched beyond the May 1980 target date, and which saw multiple suspensions on the part of Sadat. (The PLO and Jordan refused to participate in the talks.) Thus, the election of the Palestinian Authority in 1996 years later is hardly relevant to the terms agreed upon by Egypt and Israel in 1979.

In a broader misrepresentation, President Carter argues that the policy laid out in President Obama’s May 19 speech is a continuation of longstanding American policy. He begins his article:

It was not a new U.S. policy concerning the borders of Israel, nor should it have been surprising to Israeli leaders, when President Obama stated: “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”

In addition to citing U.N. Resolution 242 as supposedlly buttressing his claim (it does not, as explained above), he also invokes the April 2003 “road map” for peace, stating:

The International Quartet’s Roadmap for Peace in April 2003, supported by President George W. Bush, began with these words: “A settlement, negotiated between the parties, will result in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors. The settlement will resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and end the occupation that began in 1967. . . “

The “road map,” like U.N. Resolution 242, (which the “road map” invokes), does not specify the extent and contours of an Israeli withdrawal. Nor does it mention the Gaza Strip and West Bank with reference to Israeli withdrawals. Rather, the third phase of the peace plan calls for an international conference involving the Quartet, Israel, and Palestinians to launch a process “leading to a final, permanent status resolution in 2005, including on borders, Jerusalem, refugees, settlements. . .”   In other words, borders, and the extent of the Israeli withdrawals are a matter to be determined via negotiations, and are not dictated by the “road map” itself, contrary to President Carter’s suggestion. Even a partial withdrawal from West Bank lands could “end the occupation that began in 1967” if, by the course of a bilateral agreement, a Palestinian state were founded on part of the territory with the remainder being annexed by Israel.

It is telling that while arguing that President Bush’s policy on Israel withdrawals is the same as President Obama’s, President Carter ignores the April 14, 2004 Bush Letter which stated:

As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities. (Emphasis added.)

As CAMERA’s Alex Safian notes, Obama’s speech is a departure from longstanding American policy. He writes:

Prior policy has been not to publicly spell out what the territorial outcom e should be, since this would tend to harden positions and make compromise between the parties more difficult. . . .

In his letter President Bush didn’t put forth any baseline, and was careful to refer only in negative terms to the 1949 Armistice lines, saying that these would not be the final outcome of negotiations.

It is also important to note that the Bush Letter was endorsed overwhelmingly by the House and the Senate in a non-binding concurrent resolution, H. Con. Res. 460. (Among those voting in favor was then Senator Hillary Clinton.) . . .

Similarly, at the Camp David negotiations in 2000, when President Clinton tried to synthesize the positions of the parties and offer what he felt were viable compromises, he dictated the “Clinton Parameters” to the parties in private without giving them copies, and without a map of the proposed land swaps. Here in a FoxNews interviewis Dennis Ross’s detailed description of how and why this was done:

BARNES: I have two other questions. One, the Palestinians point out that this was never put on paper, this offer. Why not?

ROSS: We presented this to them so that they could record it. When the president presented it, he went over it at dictation speed. He then left the cabinet room. I stayed behind. I sat with them to be sure, and checked to be sure that every single word.

The reason we did it this way was to be sure they had it and they could record it. But we told the Palestinians and Israelis, if you cannot accept these ideas, this is the culmination of the effort, we withdraw them. We did not want to formalize it. We wanted them to understand we meant what we said. You don’t accept it, it’s not for negotiation, this is the end of it, we withdraw it. So that’s why they have it themselves recorded. And to this day, the Palestinians have not presented to their own people what was available.

BARNES: In other words, Arafat might use it as a basis for further negotiations so he’d get more?

ROSS: Well, exactly.

HUME: Which is what, in fact, he tried to do, according to your account.

ROSS: We treated it as not only a culmination. We wanted to be sure it couldn’t be a floor for negotiations.

Thus, in presenting his proposal and preferred outcome in public, President Obama has markedly departed from President Clinton’s strategy, which was intended to avoid providing the baseline for future negotiations should his peace efforts fail.

Significantly, in the 2000 Camp David negotiations as well as in subsequent talks, Israel made unprecedented proposals in which more than 95 percent of the West Bank would have been ceded to the Palestinians, with land swaps to make up for much of the remainder territory. The Palestinians, of course, rejected these offers, raising questions about President Carter’s assertion that “For more than three decades, Israel’s occupation of Arab land has been the key unresolved issue.”

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