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To UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan's and Security Council Resolution 242

November 30, 2003

To the editor of the Guardian

Subject: "UN's chief says fence must go"

Re "UN's chief says fence must go" Nov. 29, UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan's declaration that Israel is in violation of international law for flouting a UN resolution calling for dismantling of its "security fence" is patently incorrect. Rather, it is the UN resolution, to which he refers, that clearly flouts international law, violating, as it does, Security Council Resolution 242, which, unlike GA resolutions, is binding.

No better authority for clarification of 242, need be sought than the late Eugene Rostow who participated in producing it. In an article published in The New Republic on October 21, 1991, he explained unambiguously that Resolution 242 allows Israel to administer the territories it occupied in 1967 until "a just and lasting peace in the Middle East" is achieved. Resolutions calling for withdrawals from "all" the territories were defeated for the explicit reason that there was no intention to force Israel back to the "fragile" and "vulnerable" Armistice Demarcation Lines. Rather, it was intended that Israel retire, once peace was made, to what Resolution 242 called "secure and recognized" boundaries, agreed to by the parties.

Your readers are surely entitled to expect that the UN Secretary General acquaint himself with the aforementioned implications of 242. While the fence to which Mr. Anan objects may, or may not, be wise or desirable, it is clearly not illegal and one may hope that Mr. Anan will withdraw his mistaken declaration about the legality of Israel's anti-terror barrier.


Maurice Ostroff

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