Even before the war broke out, and certainly after it ended, the world was hard at work trying to find a solution to the crisis in the Middle East.
There was a shared belief in much of the international community, and in Israel, that the way to prevent future hostilities between the Arab world and the Jewish state was through a peace settlement, as opposed to the armistice agreements and third party arrangements that had ended previous wars.

But consensus was difficult to reach, with the Soviet Union and the Arab countries at odds with the West, Israel and others over how to move forward. In the wake of the war, the Soviets and Arabs insisted that blame for the conflict should rest exclusively with Israel. They demanded that Israel unconditionally withdraw to the pre-war lines, and argued that the international community should not expect an end to the state of belligerency nor Arab recognition of Israel’s right to exist. The U.S. and others saw the greater part of the blame resting with the Arabs and were not eager merely to return to the combustible situation that had existed before the war. “If ever there were a prescription for renewed hostilities, the Soviet draft resolution is that prescription,” argued the American ambassador to the United Nations, Arthur Goldberg.

The positions of the so-called non-aligned bloc and Latin America fell somewhere between these two stances, with the non-aligned countries somewhat closer to the Arab position and the Latin Americans leaning toward the Western perspective.

Map: The battle in the Sinai

A Nov. 23, 1967 New York Times headline announces results of 242 vote

The positions of the so-called non-aligned bloc and Latin America fell somewhere between these two stances, with the non-aligned countries somewhat closer to the Arab position and the Latin Americans leaning toward the Western perspective.

An attempt shortly after the war to pass a resolution in the United Nations Security Council failed. When the matter was moved to the General Assembly, there was still no agreement on a resolution. The following November, Ambassador to the United Nations Arthur Goldberg proposed before the Security Council that a final peace agreement should be worked out between the parties. It should involve a withdrawal of Israeli troops from territories it occupied in the conflict – he did not specify the extent of the withdrawal – as well as recognition of all states within secure and recognized boundaries. Although neither the Soviet Union nor Arab and non-aligned countries were ready for Goldberg’s resolution to pass, it would become the basis for the eventually successful language put forward by British Ambassador Lord Caradon.

Caradon’s language built on the basic principles of Goldberg’s resolution — it called for an Israeli withdrawal without specifying the lines of that withdrawal, and for the  “[t]ermination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” The introductory paragraphs of the resolution included a comment on the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” But the drafters of the resolution also stated explicitly that Israel should not be obliged to return to the pre-war armistice lines and that for the Jewish state to do so would leave it vulnerable and invite further hostilities.

The Soviets, perhaps understanding that Caradon’s compromise resolution was the only one that had a chance of being passed, voted along with the rest of the Security Council in favor of the resolution, even as the Soviet ambassador to the United Nations bitterly acknowledged that the resolution avoids imposing specific boundaries to which Israel must withdraw:

KUZNETSOV: … “secure and recognized boundaries”. What does that mean? What boundaries are these? Secure, recognized – by whom, for what? Who is going to judge how secure they are? Who must recognize them? … there is certainly much leeway for different interpretations which retain for Israel the right to establish new boundaries and to withdraw its troops only as far as the lines which it judges convenient. (S/PV.1373, p. 112, of 9.11.67)

General references

  1. United Nations Security Council Official Records, Twenty-Second Year, 1358th Meeting: 13 June 1967
  2. United Nations Security Council Official Records, Twenty-Second Year, 1377th Meeting: 15 November 1967
  3. “The Making of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, David A. Korn, Institute for the Study of Diplomacy