Resolution 242 calls for the recognition of Israel's right to exist, an end to the state of war maintained by the Arab world against Israel and secure and recognized boundaries for Israel.
Resolution 242 does NOT require Israel to return to the non-secure borders of pre-1967.
Arthur J. Goldberg, an author of U.N. Resolution 242, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (1965-1967):
It calls for respect and acknowledgment of the sovereignty of every state in the area. Since Israel never denied the sovereignty of its neighbouring countries, this language obviously requires those countries to acknowledge Israel's sovereignty."
The notable omissions in regard to withdrawal are the word 'the' or 'all' and 'the June 5, 1967 lines'… the resolution speaks of withdrawal from occupied territories, without defining the extent of withdrawal." - "The Meaning of 242" - June 10, 1977Lord Caradon, an author of U.N. Resolution 242, U.K. Ambassador to the United Nations (1964-1970):
We didn't say there should be a withdrawal to the '67 line; we did not put the 'the' in, we did not say all the territories, deliberately… We all knew – that the boundaries of '67 were not drawn as permanent frontiers, they were a cease-fire line of a couple of decades earlier… We did not say that the '67 boundaries must be forever." -- MacNeil/Lehrer Report – March 30, 1978Eugene V. Rostow, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs (1966-1969):
"Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338… rest on two principles, Israel may administer the territory until its Arab neighbors make peace; and when peace is made, Israel should withdraw to 'secure and recognized borders', which need not be the same as the Armistice Demarcation Lines of 1949." "The Truth About 242" - November 5, 1990Lyndon B. Johnson, U.S. President (1963-1968):
"We are not the ones to say where other nations should draw lines between them that will assure each the greatest security. It is clear, however, that a return to the situation of June 4, 1967 will not bring peace." -- September 10, 1968What does 242 say?
"Termination of all claims or states of belligerency… "
"…respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence of every State in the area… "
"…[every State's] right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force."
"Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories in the recent conflict."
What does 242 mean?
The Arab states must end the state of war initiated and maintained by them since 1948.
The Arab states must recognize Israel's right to exist. Israel is entitled to clearly defensible borders. This is not a privilege, but rather a right guaranteed by international law. Israel should withdraw from some, not all, of the territories captured in the 1967 Six-Day War. Israel's indefensible pre-1967 borders provided no security. The Arab states should sit down with Israel, without preconditions, to negotiate peace.
For further information, see Palestinian Time Machine, from the May 1999 Middle East Digest.