Jun. 13, 2019
- I participated in the drafting of UN Security Council Resolution 242 back in 1967, when Justice Arthur Goldberg was the U.S. Representative to the UN. I had been Justice Goldberg’s law clerk, and he asked me to come to New York to advise him on some of the legal issues surrounding the West Bank. The major controversy was whether Israel had to return “all” or only some of the territories captured in its defensive war against Jordan.
- The end result was that the binding English version of the resolution deliberately omitted the crucial word “all,” which both Justice Goldberg and British Ambassador Lord Caradon publicly stated meant that Israel was entitled to retain some of the West Bank. Moreover, under Resolution 242, Israel was not required to return a single inch of captured territory unless its enemies recognized its right to live within secure boundaries.
- U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman is right in two respects: (1) Israel has no right to retain all of the West Bank, if its enemies recognize its right to live within secure borders; (2) Israel has “the right to retain some” of these territories. The specifics are left to negotiation between the parties.
- The reality is that Israel will maintain control over traditionally Jewish areas, as well as the settlement blocs close to the Green Line. I know this because Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has told me this on more than one occasion when we have met.
- The attack on Ambassador Friedman is mere posturing by the Palestinian leaders and their supporters. The realpolitik, recognized by all reasonable people, is that Israel does have a right to retain some, but not all, of the West Bank.
- The Palestinians can end the untenable status quo by agreeing to compromise their absolutist claims, just as Israel will have to compromise on its claims. The virtue of Ambassador Friedman’s statement is that it recognizes that both sides must give up their absolutist claims, and that the end result must be Israeli control over some, but not all, of the West Bank.
The writer is Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School.