39. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter 1


  • UN Resolutions on the Middle East

In view of the controversy surrounding some of our recent statements on the Middle East, I thought it would be worth emphasizing the following two points:

UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 provide the only agreed upon framework for negotiations, but the resolutions were deliberately vague on the nature of peace, the extent of withdrawal, and the Palestinian question. As we have tried to urge the parties toward a settlement, our own statements have gone beyond the UN resolutions in their concreteness. We have no reason to back away from the positions we have taken, but we should be careful not to imply that the UN resolutions are identical to the views we have expressed.

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There is no UN Resolution that we have ever supported that specifically calls for a “Palestinian homeland.” If we try to anchor the concept in the November 1947 UN partition resolution, we will be opening up an entirely new set of issues with potentially serious consequences. By contrast, we are on perfectly sound footing in reaffirming the policy of every previous Administration in supporting the idea of compensation for refugees. The most recent official endorsement of UN General Assembly Resolution 194, which calls for repatriation or compensation for refugees, came in a resolution introduced by us in the General Assembly on November 23, 1976. The vote for the resolution was 115 in favor, none opposed, with Israel abstaining.2 Thus, it is fair to say that we have consistently upheld the principle of compensation, but we cannot maintain that this is part of the agreed framework of negotiations, since Israel has reserved its position on this point.

Over the next several weeks, I believe we should continue to emphasize that UN Resolutions 242 and 338 provide the general framework for a peace settlement. In addition, in an effort to move the parties toward greater concreteness, we should continue to stress that we favor a comprehensive approach to peace based on full normalization of relations, withdrawal and security arrangements, and a homeland for the Palestinians.

One possibly helpful consequence of the misunderstandings of the past week is that the Israelis are now embracing UN Resolutions 242 and 338 more ardently than ever. Our policy is consistent with the framework provided by those UN Resolutions, but where those resolutions are imprecise on peace, withdrawal and the Palestinians, we have tried to be more specific. Although the UN Resolutions say nothing about open borders, trade, and diplomatic recognition, I believe that we have added a useful dimension to the diplomatic process by identifying these as necessary elements of peace. In the same fashion, by referring to a Palestinian homeland and compensation, we have elaborated upon Resolution 242 which merely calls for a “just settlement of the refugee problem.” But we should be careful not to imply that those countries that have supported Resolutions 242 and 338 have also endorsed the more specific ideas that we have been exploring in the past several months.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East File, Subject File, Box 2, Arab-Israeli Peace Settlement 1977: Volume II [I]. Secret. Sent for information. In the top right corner of the first page, Carter wrote, “Show to VP. C.”
  2. A reference to General Assembly Resolution 31/15A–D.