Resolution 242 Revisited: New Evidence on the Required Scope of Israeli Withdrawal

25 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2014 Last revised: 4 Sep 2015

See all articles by Eugene Kontorovich

Eugene Kontorovich

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School

Date Written: December 4, 2014


United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, passed in November 1967, in the wake of the Six Day War, is widely regarded as among the most important ever. But its meaning is also the most debated. The resolution famously called for “Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” The meaning of this provision – in particular, the extent of the required withdrawal – has been contested ever since. This article presents new evidence on the resolution’s meaning – an issue that has gained new relevance amidst current diplomatic efforts for a Security Council resolution that could effectively supersede 242. The article does not engage all the myriad disputes and questions about the resolution, nor aim at a comprehensive evaluation of it. Rather, it adds two important but previously unappreciated dimensions that bear on how 242 should be read. First, the article examines the meaning of 242’s withdrawal provision by comparing it to all other such territorial withdrawal demands issued by the Security Council. It finds that the language of 242 differs notably from the other 18 distinct territorial withdrawal demands, all of which explicitly require a complete withdraw from the territory in question. An examination of these resolutions supports the view that 242’s unusual wording was a meaningful and substantive drafting choice. Second, the article examines contemporaneous understandings in the United Nations about the rules concerning territorial. Discussions in the International Law Commission, involving the leading international law jurists of the post-WWII era, demonstrates that it was generally agreed that the U.N. Charter introduced a new prohibition on territorial changes as a result of war, a principle referred to in the preamble of 242. Yet the same discussions also make clear that this rule was understood to have significant limitations and exceptions.

Note: Copyright 2015 Chicago Journal of International Law

Keywords: international law, war, conflict, Israel

JEL Classification: K10, K19, K33

Suggested Citation

Kontorovich, Eugene, Resolution 242 Revisited: New Evidence on the Required Scope of Israeli Withdrawal (December 4, 2014). 16 Chicago Journal of International Law 127 (2015), Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 14-57, Available at SSRN:

Eugene Kontorovich (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School ( email )

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703-993-8151 (Phone)

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