How search for peace unfolded

November 25, 2007

In the 40 years since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war there has been a seemingly never-ending string of peace proposals, mandates and meetings, with few successes and many failures.

UN Resolution 242: On Nov. 22, 1967 the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 242, calling for the "withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict," 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." There was widespread disagreement about the meaning of the phrase calling for an Israeli withdrawal "from territories." The Israelis said this did not necessarily mean all territories, but Arab negotiators argued that it did. The resolution was written under Chapter VI of the UN Charter, under which Security Council resolutions are recommendations, not under Chapter VII, which means they are orders. Many peace proposals refer to 242.

UN Resolution 338: This called for a ceasefire in the war of October 1973 and urged the implementation of 242 "in all its parts."

Camp David Accords, 1978: During the war in October 1973, Egyptian forces crossed the Suez Canal. There followed a new mood for peace, at least between Israel and Egypt, as was shown by a historic visit to Jerusalem by Egyptian President Anwar el Sadat in November 1977. President Jimmy Carter capitalized on the new mood and invited President Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin for talks at the presidential retreat at Camp David. The talks lasted for 12 days and resulted in two agreements. The first was called "A Framework for Peace in the Middle East." It laid down principles for peace, expanding on Resolution 242, set out what it hoped was a way of resolving what it called the "Palestinian problem," agreed that there should be a treaty between Egypt and Israel and called for other treaties between Israel and its neighbors. The plan aimed to set up a "self-governing authority" in the West Bank and Gaza, leading to eventual "final status" talks, but the Palestinians were not party to the agreement. The second accord was the framework for the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. This followed in 1979, after an Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai. This was the first recognition of Israel as a state by a major Arab country. They probably stand as the most successful negotiations in the whole peace process. The treaty has lasted, and it substantially strengthened Israel's position. However the peace between Egypt and Israel has not been warm. President Sadat was himself later assassinated.

The Madrid Conference, 1991: Israeli and Palestinian/Jordanian negotiators met in Madrid in 1991. This conference, co-sponsored by the U.S. and the Soviet Union, was designed to follow up the Egypt-Israel treaty by encouraging other Arab countries to sign their own agreements with Israel. Jordan, Lebanon and Syria were invited as well as Israel and Egypt. The Palestinians were also represented, but as part of a joint delegation with Jordan and not by Yasser Arafat or other leading figures in the Palestine Liberation Organization, to whom the Israelis objected. The symbolism of Arab countries other than Egypt openly negotiating with Israel was probably the main achievement of the Madrid conference.

Oslo Agreement, 1993: The Oslo negotiations tried to tackle the missing element of all previous talks: a direct agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, represented by the PLO. Its importance was that there was finally mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO. The talks took place in secret under Norwegian auspices and the agreement was signed on the White House lawn on Sept. 13, 1993, witnessed by President Bill Clinton. The PLO's leader, Yasser Arafat, and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shook hands. The agreement was that Israeli troops would withdraw in stages from the West Bank and Gaza and that a "Palestinian Interim Self-Governing Authority" would be set up for a five-year transitional period, leading to a permanent settlement based on Resolutions 242 and 338. Hamas and other Palestinian rejectionist groups did not accept Oslo and launched suicide bomb attacks on Israelis. There was opposition within Israel from settler-led groups. Oslo was only partially implemented.

Camp David, 2000: Clinton sought to address the final status issues - including borders, Jerusalem and refugees - that Oslo had left on one side for later negotiation. The talks took place in July between Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. There was no agreement. The failure at Camp David was followed by a renewal of the Palestinian uprising or intifada.

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