|UN General Assembly|
December 11 1948|
A/RES/194 (III) (Document)|
Palestine—Progress Report of the United Nations Mediator|
35 voted for|
15 voted against
United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 was adopted on December 11, 1948, near the end of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. The Resolution defined principles for reaching a final settlement and returning Palestine refugees to their homes. It resolved that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.” (Article 11)
The resolution also called for the establishment of the United Nations Conciliation Commission to facilitate peace between Israel and Arab states, continuing the efforts of UN Mediator Folke Bernadotte, following his assassination.
Of the 58 members of the United Nations at that time, the resolution was adopted by a majority of 35 countries, with 15 voting against and 8 abstaining. Significantly, all six Arab League countries then represented at the UN – Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen, all of which were parties to the conflict in question – voted against the resolution. The other significant group which voted against comprised the Communist bloc member countries: Byelorrusian SSR, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Ukrainian SSR, USSR, Yugoslavia, all of which had already recognised Israel as a de jure state. Israel was not a member of the United Nations at the time, and objected to many of the resolution's articles. The Palestinians were not directly consulted.
The resolution, especially Article 11, has been cited in United Nations General Assembly Resolution 302 establishing the UNRWA and other UN resolutions. It has also been invoked in support of claims of Palestinian right of return, claims which have been rejected by Israeli governments.
The resolution consists of 15 articles:
|| Recognition of the work of Mediator Folke Bernadotte.|
|| Establishment of a Conciliation Commission.|
|| Addressed the ways that Jerusalem and surrounding villages and towns should be demilitarized, and how an international zone or jurisdiction would be created in and around Jerusalem. As well as calling for protection and free access to the Holy Places.|
|| Addressed the issue of refugees and compensation for those whose property was lost or damaged.|
|| Functioning of the Conciliation Commission.|
International reception and interpretation
Many of the resolution's articles were not fulfilled, since these were opposed by Israel, rejected by the Arab states, or were overshadowed by war as the 1948 conflict continued until Armistice in 1949 between Israel and Transjordan.
UN Resolution 273 admitted Israel to the United Nations on May 11, 1949, "taking note of the declarations and explanations made by the representative of the Government of Israel" in respect of implementation of resolutions 194 and 181, to which Israel did not commit itself to any specific action or timeframe. Israel has since rejected any resolution calling on it to allow the Palestinians to come to Israel. Since General Assembly resolutions are not binding, and only serve as advisory statements, there can be no obligation or enforcement of Resolution 194.
The exact meaning and timing of enforcement of Article 11 (see below) were disputed from the beginning.
Since the late 1960s, Article 11 has increasingly been quoted by those who interpret it as a basis for the right of return of Palestinian refugees. The UN General Assembly has reaffirmed Resolution 194 every year since 1949. Multiple subsequent resolutions from the United Nations have reaffirmed the right of return, including General Assembly Resolution 169 (1980), and Security Council Resolution 237 (1967).
Israel has usually contested this reading, pointing out that the text merely states that the refugees "should be permitted" to return to their homes at the "earliest practicable date" and this recommendation applies only to those "wishing to... live at peace with their neighbors". The one exception was at the Lausanne Conference, 1949, where a Joint Protocol was accepted by the Israeli government and the Arab delegates on May 12, 1949. After Israel had become a member of the United Nations, Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett offered to repatriate 100,000 refugees, but this number included 50,000 refugees who already found their way back to their homes in Israel. This offer was quickly withdrawn by Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.
The General Assembly,
Having considered further the situation in Palestine,
- Expresses its deep appreciation of the progress achieved through the good offices of the late United Nations Mediator in promoting a peaceful adjustment of the future situation of Palestine, for which cause he sacrificed his life; and
Extends its thanks to the Acting Mediator and his staff for their continued efforts and devotion to duty in Palestine;
- Establishes a Conciliation Commission consisting of three States Members of the United Nations which shall have the following functions:
- To assume, insofar as it considers necessary in existing circumstances, the functions given to the United Nations Mediator on Palestine by resolution 186 (S-2) of the General Assembly of 14 May 1948;
- To carry out the specific functions and directives given to it by the present resolution and such additional functions and directives as may be given to it by the General Assembly or by the Security Council;
- To undertake, upon the request of the Security Council, any of the functions now assigned to the United Nations Mediator on Palestine or to the United Nations Truce Commission by resolutions of the Security Council; upon such request to the Conciliation Commission by the Security Council with respect to all the remaining functions of the United Nations Mediator on Palestine under Security Council resolutions, the office of the Mediator shall be terminated;
- Decides that a Committee of the Assembly, consisting of China, France, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, shall present, before the end of the first part of the present session of the General Assembly, for the approval of the Assembly, a proposal concerning the names of the three States which will constitute the Conciliation Commission;
- Requests the Commission to begin its functions at once, with a view to the establishment of contact between the parties themselves and the Commission at the earliest possible date;
- Calls upon the Governments and authorities concerned to extend the scope of the negotiations provided for in the Security Council's resolution of 16 November 1948 and to seek agreement by negotiations conducted either with the Conciliation Commission or directly with a view to the final settlement of all questions outstanding between them;
- Instructs the Conciliation Commission to take steps to assist the Government and authorities concerned to achieve a final settlement of all questions outstanding between them;
- Resolves that the Holy Places—including Nazareth—religious buildings and sites in Palestine should be protected and free access to them assured, in accordance with existing rights and historical practice that arrangements to this end should be under effective United Nations supervision; that the United Nations Conciliation Commission, in presenting to the fourth regular session of the General Assembly its detailed proposal for a permanent international regime for the territory of Jerusalem, should include recommendations concerning the Holy Places in that territory; that with regard to the Holy Places in the rest of Palestine the Commission should call upon the political authorities of the areas concerned to give appropriate formal guarantees as to the protection of the Holy Places and access to them; and that these undertakings should be presented to the General Assembly for approval;
- Resolves that, in view of its association with three world religions, the Jerusalem area, including the present municipality of Jerusalem plus the surrounding villages and towns, the most Eastern of which shall be Abu Dis; the most Southern, Bethlehem; the most Western, Ein Karim (including also the built-up area of Motsa); and the most Northern, Shu'fat, should be accorded special and separate treatment from the rest of Palestine and should be placed under effective United Nations control;
Requests the Security Council to take further steps to ensure the demilitarization of Jerusalem at the earliest possible date;
Instructs the Conciliation Commission to present to the fourth regular session of the General Assembly detailed proposals for a permanent international regime for the Jerusalem area which will provide for the maximum local autonomy for distinctive groups consistent with the special international status of the Jerusalem area;
The Conciliation Commission is authorized to appoint a United Nations representative who shall cooperate with the local authorities with respect to the interim administration of the Jerusalem area;
- Resolves that, pending agreement on more detailed arrangements among the Governments and authorities concerned, the freest possible access to Jerusalem by road, rail or air should be accorded to all inhabitants of Palestine;
Instructs the Conciliation Commission to report immediately to the Security Council, for appropriate action by that organ, any attempt by any party to impede such access;
- Instructs the Conciliation Commission to seek arrangements among the Governments and authorities concerned which will facilitate the economic development of the area, including arrangements for access to ports and airfields and the use of transportation and communication facilities;
- Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible;
Instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation, and to maintain close relations with the Director of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees and, through him, with the appropriate organs and agencies of the United Nations;
- Authorizes the Conciliation Commission to appoint such subsidiary bodies and to employ such technical experts, acting under its authority, as it may find necessary for the effective discharge of its functions and responsibilities under the present resolution;
The Conciliation Commission will have its official headquarters at Jerusalem. The authorities responsible for maintaining order in Jerusalem will be responsible for taking all measures necessary to ensure the security of the Commission. The Secretary-General will provide a limited number of guards for the protection of the staff and premises of the Commission;
- Instructs the Conciliation Commission to render progress reports periodically to the Secretary-General for transmission to the Security Council and to the Members of the United Nations;
- Calls upon all Governments and authorities concerned to cooperate with the Conciliation Commission and to take all possible steps to assist in the implementation of the present resolution;
- Requests the Secretary-General to provide the necessary staff and facilities and to make appropriate arrangements to provide the necessary funds required in carrying out the terms of the present resolution.
The result of the voting was the following:
Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, Liberia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela.
Afghanistan, Byelorrusian SSR, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Ukrainian SSR, USSR, Yemen, Yugoslavia.
Bolivia, Burma, Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, India, Iran, Mexico.