Not long after the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 242, Jordan and Israel accepted the resolution.

Israel’s position was that in order to implement 242, the parties would have to meet face-to-face and negotiate a peace treaty. To that effect, Israel’s foreign minister explained that the resolution was “not … a substitute for specific agreement, but … a list of principles on which the parties could base their agreement.”

Egypt, too, noted its acceptance of Resolution 242 — or more precisely, its own interpretation of the Resolution, which Nasser claimed required Israel to withdraw from all of the territories occupied in the Six Day War. Still, Egypt stubbornly refused to negotiate with Israel the terms of any peace agreement. (In response, Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban protested that “peace cannot be advanced by recitations [by Egypt that they accept Resolution 242] accompanied by refusal to negotiate viable agreements.”)

Nasser also made clear that he believed Resolution 242 did not contradict his hardline position, communicated most famously in the Khartoum Declaration of 1967, that there will be no peace with, negotiations with, or recognition of Israel. According to Middle East scholar Yoram Meital:

[Resolution 242’s] principal aim, in Cairo’s view, was to bring about an Israeli withdrawal; there was nothing in it intended to lead to a peace agreement. Cairo rejected altogether Israel’s claim that the resolution necessitated direct negotiations between it and each Arab State. This argument enabled Cairo to assert that acceptance of the resolution did not imply any deviation from the limits of political action as Egypt understood them and as the Khartoum Summit had fixed them.

In the Egyptian view, therefore, implementing Resolution 242 would lead neither to direct negotiations nor to a peace treaty that would put an end to the conflict between the parties. (Meital, Egypt’s Struggle for Peace: Continuity and Change, 1967-1977)

Nasser’s own words on the subject were more succinct. In July 1968, he stated:

The following principles of Egyptian policy are immutable:

1) No negotiation with Israel
2) No peace with Israel
3) No recognition of Israel
4) No transactions will be made at the expense of Palestinian territories or the Palestinian people.

The statement was made after Egypt had signed on to Resolution 242.

Egypt’s ostensible acceptance of 242 nonetheless was a noteworthy contrast to the more rejectionist positions of Syria and the Palestinians, both of whom flatly rejected the resolution (as did Iraq, Libya and other Arab countries not directly involved in the war.)

According to The Syrian Arab Republic: A Handbook:

Syria did not accept the resolution and continued its adamant opposition to it throughout the period. It gave its negative reaction to the five-point general plan for peace advanced by President Lyndon B. Johnson on June 19, 1967 and also refused to accept the reactivation of the negotiations as provided for in Resolution 242 through the offices of U.N. representative Dr. Gunnar Jarring. It also refused to consider the Rogers peace proposals of June 25, 1970.

President [Hafez] Assad declared that Syria would reject Resolution 242 and all other proposals for securing an Arab-Israeli settlement through the U.N. or great power guarantees, which were all only “another form of occupation.” The government continued to obstruct the work of UNRWA, as it had done in the past … on the ground that any attempt to resettle or rehabilitate the refugees would prejudice their right to repatriation and would be an acknowledgment of Israel’s existence. (Anne Sinai and Allen Pollack, eds.)

The book also notes examples of the belligerent anti-Israel statements that emanated from Syria after it rejected the Security Council’s call for peace. One such statement highlighted not only Syria’s rejectionist position immediately after the Six Day War, but also the cause of continued anti-Israel antagonism in future generations. A letter sent by the Syrian minister of education to the director-general of the UNESCO stated that “The hatred which we indoctrinate into the minds of our children from their birth is sacred” (Reprinted in Al-Thawra, May 3, 1968).

The Palestinian National Council (PNC), the legislative arm of the Palestine Liberation Organization, convened in July 1968 for its first meeting after the United Nations passed Resolution 242. At that gathering, according to the Journal of Palestine Studies, “the PNC called for the total liberation of Palestine. It condemned the idea of a Palestinian entity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip” (Vol. 16, No. 4, Summer 1987).

Indeed, the Palestinian National Charter drawn up during that meeting left unchanged the uncompromising anti-Israel positions of the Palestinian’s earlier (1964) charter, and represents an unambiguous rejection of 242’s principles:

Palestine is the homeland of the Arab Palestinian people; it is an indivisible part of the Arab homeland, and the Palestinian people are an integral part of the Arab nation.

Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit. …

Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. This it is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase. The Palestinian Arab people assert their absolute determination and firm resolution to continue their armed struggle … .

General references

  1. Egypt’s Struggle for Peace: Continuity and Change, 1967-1977, Yoram Meital, 1997
  2. The Syrian Arab Republic: A Handbook, The American Academic Association for Peace in the Middle East, edited by Anne Sinai and Allen Pollack, 1997