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Resolution To Kill The Resolution

by Gerald A. Honigman

At a daily briefing on January 9, 1992, State Department spokesperson Margaret Tutwiler was asked about accepting the word "Palestinian" when referring to the territories of the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem. Her answer was that the U.S. had accepted this usage since 1979, but that it was for "descriptive" purposes only. Typical Foggy Folk gobbledygook and such.

When later asked, "if it's a long-standing policy, why wasn't the word 'Palestinian' used in Security Council Resolution 338...or in 242 which underpins the current peace process?," Tutwiler replied," I do not know why, and I'll be happy to ask somebody for you."

Some five years later, in a May 21, 1997 briefing, State's spokesman Nicholas Burns focused on the "settlements" issue.

Interesting, don't you think, that in numerous such State Department briefings over the decades—and in all the discussions and elaborations which ensued—the ties seem to be never made between those settlements and the spirit and intent of 242. Perhaps a coincidence, perhaps not.

It seems to have taken Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to remind his State Department counterparts in an August 6, 2002 speech, "If you have a country that is a sliver and you can see three sides of it from a high hotel building, you've got to be careful what you give away and to whom you give it to."

Much has been written about 242. Some claim it's ambiguous. It's not.

Adopted in the wake of the June 1967 War, started when Arabs blockaded Israel at the Straits of Tiran—a casus belli—and other well-documented hostile acts, 242 is as famous for what it did not say as for what it did.

As anyone who has studied this subject knows, among other things (and besides the references above), there was no mention of a total withdrawal by Israel to the 1949, U.N.-imposed armistice lines...lines which were never meant to be final political borders. This was reinforced by a call for the creation of "secure and recognized borders" to replace those lines...lines which turned Israel into a 9-mile wide rump state, forever at its neighbors' mercy, an easy target for terror and invasion.

A reading of Lord Caradon, Eugene Rostow, Arthur Goldberg, and other architects of 242 clearly shows that Israel was not expected to return to the deadly and absurd status quo ante.

As Ambassador Dore Gold and others have pointed out, President Lyndon Johnson summarized the situation this way on June 19, 1967:

" A return to the situation on June 4 (the day before outbreak of war) was not a prescription for peace but for renewed hostilities." He then called for "new recognized boundaries that would provide security against terror, destruction, and war."

Johnson was then backed up by General Earle Wheeler of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and many others as well. Here's a brief excerpt from Wheeler's Pentagon document prepared for Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara on June 29, 1967:

"...Israel would require retention of some captured Arab territory to provide militarily defensible borders."

Keep in mind that on the West Bank, Israel took these lands in a defensive war from an illegal occupant—Transjordan—which subsequently renamed itself Jordan as a result of its 1949 illegal acquisition of non-apportioned lands of the original 1920 Mandate west of the Jordan River that Jews as well as Arabs were legally entitled to live on. Indeed, Jews have thousands of years of history connecting them to these lands and owned property and lived there up until their massacres by Arabs in the 1920s and 1930s. Additionally, many, if not most, of the Arabs themselves were also relative newcomers, pouring in—as the Records of the Permanent Mandates Commission and other documentation show—from Syria, Egypt, and elsewhere in the region.

General Wheeler's document also envisioned Israel acquiring an adequate buffer zone atop the West Bank mountain ridge, in command of the high ground, giving it at least some semblance of in depth defense.

During President Richard Nixon's term in office, official U.S. policy seemed to erode vis-a-vis Johnson's position. Whether this was due to Nixon himself or the State Department's Arabists (who opposed Israel's rebirth in the first place) reasserting themselves, on December 9, 1969 Secretary of State William Rogers allowed for only "insubstantial alterations" regarding the 1949 armistice lines. After having to answer to Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson and others as well, soon afterwards—until recently—the U.S. refrained from such deviation from both the wording and intent of 242.

Moving ahead, and once again utilizing Ambassador Gold's useful summary, here's what President Ronald Reagan had to say about all of this on September 1, 1982:

"In the pre-1967 borders, Israel was barely 10-miles wide...the bulk of Israel's population within artillery range of hostile armies. I am not about to ask Israel to live that way again."

In 1988, Secretary of State George Shultz declared, "Israel will never negotiate from or return to the 1967 borders."

In the 1990s, during the Clinton years (and despite the later pressure brought to bear on Prime Minister Ehud Barak to sweeten the pot by offering Arafat far more than 242 called for at Camp David and Taba in 2000), official policy, as expressed by Secretary of State Warren Christopher in 1997, was that, "Israel is entitled to secure and defensible borders," a la 242.

So, what happened between the days of Reagan and his latter day successor and son of his vice-president?

From Reagan's 1982 statement that Israel would never be expected to return to its former vulnerable existence, we now have been given President George W. Bush's May 26, 2005 White House statement that the 1949 armistice lines must be the basis of peace between Israel and the 22nd Arab state—second Arab one in "Palestine"— which Dubya plans to create. Yet, just a year before, he echoed Reagan himself, stating virtually the opposite of his May 26th statement in a much publicized letter he gave to Prime Minister Sharon.

As Rogers and Hammerstein's King of Siam said, "Tis a puzzlement!"

Indeed.

Yet, there is one constant ingredient that seems to have worked for the erosion of support for both the vision and the spirit of 242: James A. Baker, III.

During Dubya's dad's days in office, good buddy Secretary of State Baker promised the butcher of Damascus, Hafez al-Assad, a total Israeli withdrawal from the strategically important (and once part of the original Palestine Mandate) Golan Heights...his idea about what to do with 242.

Baker has been in the background for decades, especially since his close friends, the Bushes, gained ascendancy in American politics. His law firm represents Saudi and other Arab interests in this country and typifies how people move through the revolving doors of businesses tied to Arab interests back and forth into government positions—especially those in Foggy Bottom. Baker's law partner, Robert Jordan, was appointed ambassador to Saudi Arabia by President Bush in 2001. Casper Weinberger and many others have been through these lucrative doors as well. Most often, their influence has spelled trouble for an Israel trying to get a fair hearing and has been involved in eroding such positive developments as Resolution 242 and so forth.

In a Time magazine article on February 13, 1989, Baker spoke of Israel as being a turkey to be hunted and carefully stalked. He has referred to Jews working for him and doing his bidding (including the current American Ambassador to Israel) as his "Jew boys."

But Baker is best known for his following piece of wisdom: "[Blank] the Jews, they don't vote for us anyway!"

And if you believe that Baker is alone among the power brokers with these attitudes, I have two bridges to sell you.

That, indeed, says it all regarding what Israel can expect from such circles. If you wonder why the vision of justice in 242 has been replaced by a constant bickering over settlements instead—never tying the two together—look no further.

Dubya's winning a second term in office and his appointment of Baker as his Special Middle East Envoy has combined with the recharged influence of the State Department's old and new generation Arabists and the Bush family's massive oil connections to negate any alleged influence of Evangelical Christians seeking justice for Israel. And Dubya can't run again...So he has nothing to lose.

Only time will tell how this will all play out.

But, at this point, Israel will have to depend on the integrity, courage, and fortitude of its own leaders, expecting them to act as the leaders of any other nation faced with the same circumstances would act. Only they can insist that Israel gets the justice Resolution 242 promised it.

And, while it would be nice to have support from elsewhere, that's the way it should be anyway.


Gerald A. Honigman is a Florida educator who has done extensive doctoral studies in Middle Eastern Affairs. He has created and conducted counter-propaganda programs for college youth, has lectured on numerous university campuses and other platforms, and has publicly debated many anti-Israel spokesmen. His articles and op-eds have been published in hundreds of newspapers, magazines, academic journals and websites around the world.

Our special thanks to the author for submitting this article. A. G. S.