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Myth and Fact: Can Territory Be Acquired in War?
Mitchell G. Bard

Myth

"According to Security Council Resolution 242, Israel’s acquisition of territory through the 1967 war is ‘inadmissible.'"

Fact

On November 22, 1967, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 242, establishing the principles that were to guide the negotiations for an Arab-Israeli peace settlement. This resolution was a tortuously negotiated compromise between competing proposals.

The first point addressed by the resolution is the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” Some people take this to mean that Israel is required to withdraw from all the territories it captured. On the contrary, the reference clearly applies only to an offensive war. If not, the resolution would provide an incentive for aggression. If one country attacks another, and the defender repels the attack and acquires territory in the process, the former interpretation would require the defender to return all the land it took. Thus, aggressors would have little to lose because they would be insured against the main consequence of defeat.

“This is the first war in history which has ended with the victors suing for peace and the vanquished calling for unconditional surrender.”
—Abba Eban, Abba Eban, (NY: Random House, 1977), p. 446

The ultimate goal of 242, as expressed in paragraph 3, is the achievement of a “peaceful and accepted settlement.” This means a negotiated agreement based on the resolution’s principles rather than one imposed upon the parties. This is also the implication of Resolution 338, according to Arthur Goldberg, the American ambassador who led the delegation to the UN in 1967 (Jerusalem Post, May 28, 1984). That resolution, adopted after the 1973 war, called for negotiations between the parties to start immediately and concurrently with the cease­fire.