Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Jerusalem in International Diplomacy:

The Religious

The Political

The 2000 Camp
  David Summit
  and Its

UN Res. 242
UN Res. 338
PLO Letter on
  Res. 181

Israel Letter on
  Res. 181

Map 1 -

Map 2 -
  Distribution of
  Beyond the

Map 3 -
  1949 Cease-
  Fire Line

Map 4 -
  Israeli United

Map 5 -

Jerusalem in International Diplomacy

Appendix 1

UN Security Council Resolution 242
November 22, 1967

The Security Council,

Expressing its continuing concern with the grave situation in the Middle East;

Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area lives in security;

Emphasizing further that all Member States in their acceptance of the Charter of the United Nations have undertaken a commitment to act in accordance with article 2 of the Charter;

  1. Affirms that the fulfillment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:

    1. Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;

    2. Termination 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;

  2. Affirms further the necessity:

    1. For guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area;
    2. For achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem;
    3. For guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every State in the area, through measures including the establishment of demilitarized zones;

  3. Requests the Secretary General to designate a Special Representative to proceed to the Middle East to establish and maintain contacts with the States concerned in order to promote agreement and assist efforts to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement in accordance with the provisions and principles in this resolution;

  4. Requests the Secretary General to report to the Security Council on the progress of the efforts of the Special Representative as soon as possible.

Appendix 2

UN Security Council Resolution 338
October 22, 1973

The Security Council,

  1. Calls upon all parties to the present fighting to cease all firing and terminate all military activity immediately, no later than 12 hours after the moment of the adoption of this decision, in the positions they now occupy;

  2. Calls upon the parties concerned to start immediately after the cease-fire the implementation of Security Council resolution 242 (1967) in all its parts;

  3. Decides that, immediately and concurrently with the cease-fire, negotiations start between the parties concerned under appropriate auspices aimed at establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East.

Appendix 3

Letter of March 25, 1999, to the UN Secretary-General from the PLO Observer Concerning UN General Assembly Resolution 181

   A S

General Assembly
Security Council

25 March 1999


Fifty-third session
Agenda items 39, 40 and 84
Fifty-fourth year

Letter dated 25 March 1999 from the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General

Yesterday, the Israeli representative to the United Nations made some comments to the media on the issue of General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947, as well as on a statement previously made by President Arafat on the subject. The Israeli representative repeated what the Israeli Foreign Minister said a few days ago, namely that resolution 181 (II) was "null and void". These are pathetic statements involving illegal positions with far-reaching and serious consequences.

For the Palestinian side, and since the strategic decision to forge a peace on the basis of coexistence, resolution 181 (II) has become acceptable. The resolution provides the legal basis for the existence of both the Jewish and the Arab States in Mandated Palestine. According to the resolution, Jerusalem should become a corpus separatum, which the Palestinian side is willing to take into consideration and to reconcile with the Palestinian position that East Jerusalem is part of the Palestinian territory and the capital of the Palestinian State. The Palestinian side adheres to international legitimacy and respects General Assembly resolution 181 (II), as well as Security Council resolution 242 (1967), the implementation of which is the aim of the current Middle East peace process.

Israel must comply with United Nations resolutions. It has no power to unilaterally annul any of those resolutions, particularly such a historic resolution as 181 (II). Israel's claim that the resolution is "null and void" is illegal, and it is also inadmissible given the history of the matter.

Prior to its admission to United Nations membership, Israel made clear pledges to the members of the United Nations that it would implement resolution 181 (II) and resolution 194 (III) of 1949, related inter alia to the rights of Palestine refugees. In actuality, resolution 273 (III) of 11 May 1949, admitting Israel to membership in the United Nations, recalled in its preamble both of those resolutions and took note of the declarations and explanations made by the representative of the Government of Israel before the Ad Hoc Political Committee with respect to the implementation of the said resolutions.

Furthermore, in the "Declaration of the State of Israel", it is clearly stated that Israel is prepared to cooperate with the agencies and representatives of the United Nations in implementing the resolution of the General Assembly of 29 November 1947. In fact, the declaration, at least in part, was made on "the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly".

Thus, while we are not sure whether or not the officials of the Israeli Foreign Ministry understand what they are stating and its implications, the international community should nevertheless take it seriously. Moreover, we believe that Israel must still explain to the international community the measures it took illegally to extend its laws and regulations to the territory it occupied in the war of 1948, beyond the territory allocated to the Jewish State in resolution 181 (II). Such a situation has not been accepted by the international community.

I should be grateful if you would arrange to have the text of the rpesent letter distributed as a document of the General Assembly, under agenda items 39, 40 and 84, and of the Security Council.

(Signed) Nasser AL-KIDWA
Permanent Observer of
Palestine to the United Nations

Appendix 4

Letter of March 30, 1999, to the UN Secretary-General from Israel Concerning UN General Assembly Resolution 181

   A S

General Assembly
Security Council

31 March 1999


Fifty-fourth session
Item 43 of the preliminary list
Fifty-fourth year

Letter dated 30 March 1999 from the Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General

I refer to the letter addressed to you from the Palestinian Permanent Observer dated 25 March 1999 (A/53/879-S/1999/334), concerning General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947.

General Assembly resolution 181 (II) was made null and void by the Arab States and the Palestinian leadership in the aftermath of its adoption on 29 November 1947. In statement after statement on the floor of the General Assembly, representatives of Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia not only refused to comply with its recommendations but also subsequently admitted to the use of armed force to overthrow its provisions.

With the termination of the British Mandate over Palestine on 14 May 1948, the armies of seven Arab States illegally attacked the newly born State of Israel. United Nations Secretary-General Trygve Lie termed this act "the first armed aggression which the world had seen since the end of the (Second World) War". It should be noted that the Arab League actually included the rejection of the General Assembly resolution of 29 November 1947 as a formal justification for its invasion.

The United Nations Palestine Commission, in its report to the Security Council on 16 February 1948, viewed the armed Arab invasion as an act intended to nullify resolution 181 (II): "Organized efforts are being made by strong Arab elements inside and outside Palestine to prevent the implementation of the Assembly's plan of partition and to thwart its objectives by threats and acts of violence, including armed incursions into Palestinian territory ... This Commission now finds itself confronted with an attempt to defeat its purposes, and to nullify the resolution of the General Assembly."

The War imposed on Israel was particularly difficult for Jerusalem. By the end of May 1948, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City had fallen. Its residents were expelled. Ancient synagogues had been destroyed or desecrated. The rest of Jerusalem was put under siege and surrounded by invading armies on three sides. Only the convoys of the newly formed Israel Defence Forces provided food and water to Jerusalem's residents. No United Nations body took any action to protect Jerusalem at this critical time.

For these reasons, Israel's first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion stated before the Knesset on 3 December 1949: "Thus we can no longer regard the United Nations resolution of 29th November as having any moral force. After the United Nations failed to implement its own resolution, we regard the resolution of the 29th November concerning Jerusalem to be null and void."

The fundamental act of international illegality was the invasion of the nascent State of Israel and the attempt to overturn a resolution of the General Assembly with armed force. That is why those seeking to critique Israel's position on the status of resolution 181 (II) are misdirected. For in fact, resolution 181 (II) was made irrelevant by the actions of the Arab States and the Palestinian leadership in 1948, whose refusal to accept the resolution altered the circumstances in the Middle East on which it was originally based.

By early 1949, with their invasion thwarted, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Transjordan entered into armistice agreements with the State of Israel. These agreements made no mention of 181 (II). Similarly, Security Council resolution 73 (1949) of 11 August 1949, which endorsed the armistice, made no reference to 181 (II). In short, from the perspective of Israel, resolution 181 (II) had been overtaken by the events of 1947-1949.

In order to respond to the new realities that emerged in the years and decades following the partition resolution, the United Nations abandoned the proposals contained in resolution 181 (II). In its place, the Security Council adopted resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) which provided a radically different formula for the settlement of the conflict. Indeed, this is the only formula that has been accepted by all concerned as the basis for permanent status negotiations.

In contrast, resolution 181 (II) has never been part of the agreed foundation for the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. The letters of invitation to the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991 and the Oslo Agreements signed between Israel and the PLO expressly provide that permanent status negotiations are to be based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). No other United Nations resolution is cited. The Palestinians have thus affirmed that a permanent solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be achieved by a negotiated settlement in West Bank and Gaza Strip territory that is the subject of those Security Council resolutions.

The resurrection of resolution 181 (II) by the PLO is a transparent effort to belatedly derive benefit from a resolution which the Palestinian leadership itself violently rejected 50 years ago. Repeated references to resolution 181 (II) are, moreover, part of an effort to completely alter the agreed terms of reference of the Arab-Israeli peace agreements, and thereby put the entire peace process at risk. Finally, it seeks to broaden the parameters of the discussion of Jerusalem far beyond what was ever conceived in the Oslo Accords. Let it be clear that, in any future discussions over the status of Jerusalem, the position of the Government of Israel remains firm that Jerusalem will continue to be the undivided capital of Israel.

These attempts to revive the defunct resolution 181 (II) can be added to a worrying list of recent Palestinian efforts to depart from the agreed peace process framework. These efforts include threats to unilaterally declare a Palestinian State, in violation of repeated Palestinian undertakings to refrain from unilateral acts that alter the status of the territories pending the outcome of permanent status negotiations (Interim Agreement, article XXXI.7). They involve also Palestinian Authority activity in Jerusalem, which is expressly prohibited by the provisions of the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement (article I.7).

If the peace process is to have any chance of success, the Palestinian side cannot be permitted to discard legal obligations whenever it is politically convenient to do so. The international community must insist that the Palestinians comply with the peace process framework to which they are committed and adhere to the legal undertakings they themselves have made.

I should be grateful if you would have this letter circulated as a document of the General Assembly, under item 43 of the preliminary list, and of the Security Council.

(Signed) Dore GOLD
Permanent Representative