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
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 decadesand in all the
discussions and elaborations which ensuedthe 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.
Adopted in the wake of the June 1967 War, started when
Arabs blockaded Israel at the Straits of Tirana casus
belliand 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 occupantTransjordanwhich
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 inas
the Records of the Permanent Mandates Commission and other
documentation showfrom 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
afterwardsuntil recentlythe 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 statesecond
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
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 positionsespecially 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
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
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
insteadnever tying the two togetherlook 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
Our special thanks to the author for submitting this article. A. G. S.