Recognition of Acquiring Disputed Land in a Defensive War

On November 13, 2015, several resolutions were put forth at the United Nations to advance the cause of a Palestinian State.  Some of the statements made in the resolutions are self-contradictory and undermine the very foundation of the claims that Israel occupies “Palestinian territory.”

Claim of Israel’s Illegal Acquisition
of Land by War

In the Resolution Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine (A/70/L.13), there is a claim that Israel illegally took control over Palestinian land:

“Reaffirming the principle of
the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war

This statement underlies the argument that many people have against Israel’s settlements in the “West Bank”: that Israel enlarged its boundaries when it “seized” (to quote the New York Times) Palestinian land in the Six-Day War in 1967.  The claim stems from some international laws in the United Nations:

  • UN Charter (1945) Article 2: Paragraph 3: “All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that peace and security, and justice are not endangered.”
  • UN Charter (1945) Article 2: Paragraph 4: “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”
  • Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations (1970) Principle 1: “Every State has the duty to refrain in its international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations. Such a threat or use of force constitutes a violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations and shall never be employed as a means of settling international issues.

What is peculiar in the condemnation of Israel, is that the UN and Palestinians already acknowledge that Israel “seized Palestinian land” in 1949 and have endorsed it, as detailed below.

In the very same November 2015 UN resolution, the various countries that put forth the resolution (Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Comoros, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and State of Palestine), stated the following:

“Noting with concern that it has been 68 years since the adoption of its resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947 and 48 years since the occupation of Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, in 1967,” 

Note that “the occupation of Palestinian territory” is claimed to have started in 1967.  If there is a valid claim that Israel seized “Palestinian” land , the argument should extend to territory that Israel acquired in 1948-9. Yet the Palestinians curiously omit such claim not because they don’t view everything as Palestinian land, but because Israel has not sought to annex the West Bank.

November 29, 1947 to June 10, 1967

On July 24, 1922, the League of Nations (precursor to the UN) drafted a resolution that recognized “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home… [and] will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home… [and] shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish agency referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.” It was on this basis that the world joined in the Zionist dream of further encouraging Jewish aliyah to Israel to create a Jewish homeland.

After several decades of Arabs fighting the law and seeking the end of Jewish immigration to Palestine, the British who oversaw the territory turned to the United Nations to implement a compromise solution.  On November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted to partition Palestine into distinct Jewish and Arab states. UN resolution 181 (which was specifically mentioned by the parties above in the 2015 UN resolution), was passed with 33 votes affirming; 13 against; and 10 countries abstaining.

On May 14 1948, as the British left Palestine, Israel declared itself as an independent state along the borders that were approved by the United Nations.  Several countries recognized the country including the US; the Soviet Union; Poland; Ireland; Yugoslavia; and South Africa, among others.  For their part, the Palestinian Arabs did NOT announce their own country along the UN stated borders.

1947 partition
Borders approved in UN resolution 181
November 29, 1947

Instead, with the approval of the Palestinian Arabs, several Arab countries – principally Jordan; Egypt; Syria; and Iraq, with forces also from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Yemen – invaded Israel.  In doing so those countries broke several international laws passed by the United Nations listed above about the “use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State.

At war’s end, Israel took additional land from the region that was originally allocated by the UN to be a Palestinian Arab state.  Armistice agreements between Israel and the various warring parties were executed in 1949 which included language that the Armistice lines were NOT to be construed as final borders.  Egypt assumed control of the Gaza Strip and Jordan took control of Judea and Samaria, later annexing it into an area referred to as the “West Bank” in a move that was never recognized by the United Nations.

israel 1949 map
Borders after 1948-9 War

The world recognized the incremental land that Israel captured in its defensive war against the Arab armies in 1949.  That incremental land was disputed, and not part of any independent country or member state of the UN.

Since June 10, 1967

Even with the Armistice agreements meant to assure peace, Egypt and Syria made many provocative statements and actions that threatened Israel in early 1967.  In response to those threats, Israel launched a preemptive attack on Egypt and Syria in June 1967.  Despite warnings to remain out of the conflict, Jordan (together with Palestinian Arabs who were granted Jordanian citizenship in 1950) launched an attack on Israel from its illegal territory in the “West Bank.”

Once again, the Arab countries broke international law as well as the Armistice agreements they had in place with Israel.  As in the 1948-9 War, Israel legally defended itself and captured additional land:

  • Gaza (held by Egypt but not legally part of any country);
  • Sinai (part of Egypt)
  • Judea and Samaria/ West Bank (annexed illegally by Jordan, but not legally part of any country);
  • the Golan Heights (from Syria)

Additional land added to Israel after
1967 Six Day War

When the Palestinian Arabs today discuss “the occupation of Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, in 1967,”  they are referring to land that is NOT, nor has it ever been part of a Palestinian state.  They are referring to lands that have been disputed for decades, that they would LIKE to have as a future Palestinian state.


The world accepted the acquisition of additional land by Israel in 1949.  The lands acquired were not “seized” in an offensive war against another country, but were disputed lands taken in a defensive war.  The West Bank and Gaza were taken similarly in 1967 (note that Israel left Gaza completely on its own in 2005).  The Sinai peninsula was returned to Egypt in 1982.

The Palestinians refused to accept Resolution 181 on November 29, 1947 and never declared an independent state.  While Israel has thus far only annexed the eastern part of Jerusalem that was divided in the 1948-9 War, it has left open the possibility of dividing Judea and Samaria, even though it was acquired in exactly the same manner as lands taken in 1948-9.

It is peculiar that countries acting on the Palestinian Arab’s behalf today should call out “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war,” when several of those countries illegally warred against Israel in 1948-9, and the world gave Israel incremental disputed land at that time.  Arab countries repeated their illegal wars against Israel in 1967 and are now trying to recast history when the situation was identical to 1948-9.

The world accepted the additional land acquired by Israel in 1949 and the Palestinians admit as much when they only refer to land “occupied” since 1967.  The global community should accept Israel’s annexation of additional land when Israel chooses to annex it, and stop mischaracterizing the disputed land as “Palestinian territory,implying a history with claims that do not exist.

Related First.One.Through articles:

The Legal Israeli Settlements

The Green Line

Names and Narrative: The West Bank / Judea and Samaria

Names and Narrative: Palestinian Territories/ Israeli Territories

The Narrative that Prevents Peace in the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Palestinians agree that Israel rules all of Jerusalem, but the World Treats the City as Divided

Real and Imagined Laws of Living in Silwan

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33 thoughts on “Recognition of Acquiring Disputed Land in a Defensive War

  1. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t United Nations resolution 181 nothing more then another rejected recommendation to alter the allocation of all land of the former NON-ARAB Ottoman Empire west of the Jordan River for the reconstituted Jewish state? And like Peel Commission, Whitehead Commission, Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, and others before it, wasn’t it rendered null and void by its rejection by Arab leadership? As part of the 1922 two-state solution, wasn’t the entire of western Palestine the allocation for the reconstituted Jewish state while the three times larger eastern Palestine allocated for another Arab state with no Jews allowed? Weren’t Ben Gurion and the other Zionist leaders aware of these facts?

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is so. 181 was eventually recognised as dead by the UN on July 30, 1949 when it stated that:
      “The Arabs rejected the United Nations Partition Plan so that any comment of theirs did not specifically concern the status of the Arab section of Palestine under partition but rather rejected the scheme in its entirety.”
      Those same Arabs simply cherry pick international ratifications as it suits their needs of the moment.
      Real life has never worked like that.


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  7. Could you please explain how the world has recognized Israel Annexing territory in 1949, and why that means we should accept Israel Annexing territory after the six day war?

    Your argument basically boils down to “You ignored when Israel violated international law in 1949, so you have no right to complain when we violated it later”


    • All countries that recognize Israel today also recognize Israeli law and sovereignty over all lands taken in the war of independence. The very nature of the debate about “occupied Palestinian land” since June 1967 also inherently recognizes Israeli rights on lands west of the Green Line


    • Frankly, that part of the article is nonsense. Israel did not annex any territory belonging to a sovereign nation in 1948/49. They simply laid legal claim to the land that was rightfully theirs already, as a consequence of the Palestine Mandate.
      UN Resolution 181 had no legal force. The UN had no authority to alter the terms of the Mandate in the first place, and even if they did, the Arabs rejected the offer, so the prior legal situation (that those lands were designated for the Jewish state) still holds force.

      Also, for the same reasons, Judea, Samaria, and Gaza are not occupied territory – they are simply lands that were promised to the Jewish state, through a legally binding agreement, and they were illegally and temporarily seized by Egypt and Jordan. Israel’s resumed control is neither illegal, nor is it an occupation.

      Liked by 1 person

      • So, the Brits had every right to give away land that didn’t belong to them. That’s like the U.S. giving part of Ireland to Norway. It doesn’t make any sense. Which is why Israel declared their state a day before the mandate even ended. They knew it was bogus from the get go.


      • The Brits didn’t do this. This was an international decision by several countries in the san remo conference of 1920. It wasn’t just Palestine that was carved up but the entire region including Lebanon, Syria and Iraq

        Liked by 1 person

      • Isn’t the “prior legal situation” that those lands are whatever those lands were BEFORE they were designated for the Jewish state?

        How could the partition plan hold water if the Palestinian’s living there rejected it?


      • You’re right that Israel had rights to all the land of the British Mandate for Palestine west of the Jordan river. However when Israel declared independence it said it was “within frontiers approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its Resolution of November 29, 1947”. Since the UN General Assembly resolution had no standing in international law, having not been adopted by both sides of the conflict, why did Israel foolishly claim only the 1947 partition plan boundaries? This is inexplicable to me. They had rights to all the lands of the Mandate, as long as they abided by the other terms, namely safeguarding the civil and religious rights of the Arab residents of the land, which Israel did, with few exceptions, mainly around Jerusalem and a few miles to the west, which they needed for security reasons.


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  10. Thank you for an informative article! A few comments:
    1. Concerning “The world recognized the incremental land that Israel captured in its defensive war”: I believe some international agreement confri this right. Your article would be strengthened if you could refer to that.
    2. In the third last paragraph: “The Palestinians refused to accept Resolution 181 on November 29, 1947 – – ” Instead of ‘Palestinians’, better to use ‘Arabs / Arab states’.
    3. The same paragraph: “While Israel has thus far only annexed the eastern part of Jerusalem”. Wrong. Israel also has annexed the Golan heights.
    4. A question: In March 1949, what were the reasons Israel did NOT conquer Samaria and Judea? Benny Morris writes in his book “1948” that most higher army officers supported such a conquest, and officer in charge for the southern command, Allon, even wrote a letter to Ben-Gurion, proposing this. The reason was obvious. Israel was very narrow in the middle, and Jordanian / Iraqi forces could easily break through. The country needed territorial depth, and the Jordan river would be a better border. He stated that the territory could be taken relatively quickly, and added: ‘Time is working against us’. Looking at it nearly 70 years later, I acknowledge Allen was totally right.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a common occurrence all over the world (civilian leaders overruling military generals). The world’s power elite seem to like stalemates that stop short of liberation to serve as conflict points to set up future wars and justify further power elite meddling. General Patton said the same thing after WWII, that he could have driven the Soviet Army all the way to Moscow and liberated Eastern Europe, but our civilian leaders (Roosevelt and Churchill) declined his offer. General MacArthur wanted to push the communists out of North Korea into China and liberate the north, but he was forced to allow communist supplies to cross the bridges over the Yalu River to keep the war going and result in a stalemate. He wanted to bomb the bridges, but was prevented by Truman Acheson and Marshall I believe. Getting back to Israel, in 1982 Israel caved into the international community’s demands for a cease-fire when they had the PLO cornered in Beirut and could have finished them off, but they were allowed to escape to Tripoli on ships and rebuild the PLO for future conflict. Similar story in the 2006 Lebanon War – Israel was forced into an early cease-fire before they could deal a decisive blow against Hezbollah. Why do the people of Israel and US continue to elect these kinds of leaders? I guess they have no choice – no politician can stand up to the international bankers and corporations and live. Look at JFK for just one example.


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