UN Middle East Peace, 1949-1956

UN Middle East Peace, 1949-1956In our first article, UN Middle East Peace, from the perspective of the UN resolutions, we reviewed the historical highlights of Peace in the Middle East from the Balfour Declaration issued by the British Government in 1917, expressing support for the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, till the UN General Assembly Resolution 273 in 1949, admitting Israel to membership of the UN.

In this article today, we will continue our review of the historical highlights of Peace in the Middle East in the period from 1949 to the landmark year 1956.

First, it is not only a historical fact, but also the core reason for war and conflict in the Middle East; it is the fact that since 1946 till the date of this article, Israel continues to expand, annex more land, and build more and more settlements on the Palestinian land which keeps shrinking as a result of Israel aggression and expansion by force, by annexation, by occupation and by settlements.

The year 1956 marks a historical turning point, not only for the UN and the Middle East, but also globally.

Late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970) had plans for a mega project to build the Aswan High Dam in order to regulate irrigation from the River Nile, generate electrical energy to transform Egypt from agrarian economy into a versatile industrial economy. The Aswan High Dam was also one of the first dreams and plans of the 1952 Egyptian Revolution.

President Nasser sought to get loans form USA, England and the World Bank for the High Dam project, they initially agreed to funding the project, but with conditions that were not readily acceptable to Nasser. After Egypt recognized communist China, the Soviet Union made a loan offer to Egypt. As a result of Egypt’s recognition of China and the consideration of  the Soviet loan offer to Egypt, the USA withdraw its loan offer to Egypt; England and the World Bank followed the USA early in July 1956.

Nasser got the news about loan withdrawals when he was returning from a meeting with Nehro and Tito. Nasser retaliated on July 26, 1956, on the fourth anniversary of expelling the last Monarch of Egypt, King Faruk. During a 3 hour speech, in Alexandria, Nasser said the code words, “de Lesseps” which was the signal for Egyptian engineers and pilots to takeover of the Suez Canal. Later in the same speech Nasser announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal Company, which was an international company with headquarters in Paris. To escalate the confrontation, Britain and France froze the Egyptian assets in their banks and initiated military maneuvers in the Mediterranean Sea.

As Nasser expected, the Soviet Union, the East European allies and other Third World countries supported Egypt, while  the United States moved away from Britain and France and stated that while it opposed Egypt’s nationalization of the Suez Canal, the US was against the use of force against Egypt. The Tripartite Invasion of Egypt by Britain, France and Israel started on October 28, 1956. Israeli troops invaded Sinai while Britain bombed and destroyed the Egyptian Air Force, at the same time British and French paratroopers were dropped over Port Fuaad and Port Saeed. The Egyptians resisted and fiercely fought door to door.

There was almost a complete international condemnation of that invasion. The Soviet Union threatened Britain and France with a rocket attack if they did not withdraw. The United States put pressure on Britain and France to withdraw. That invasion lasted almost 2 months before the British and the French finally withdrew on December 22, 1956. Israel had occupied all of Sinai and was reluctant to withdraw. US President Dwight D. Eisenhower threatened Israel with sanctions if it did not withdraw from Sinai completely. Reluctantly, Israel withdrew destroying all the infra-structure of Sinai.

That war was hailed as a major victory for Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, that was also touched off the liberation movements in all the occupied countries and the old colonies in Africa and in Asia, and finally, that war marked the end of an era when England and France were the super-powers and marked that start of a new era where the USA and the USSR became the new super-powers.

In its First Emergency Special Session, 1-10 November 1956, the UN General Assembly adopted these Resolutions, 997 (ES-I) to 1002 (ES-I) – (Document A/3354):

Resolution 997 (ES-I)

The General Assembly,
Noting the disregard on many occasions by parties to the Israel-Arab armistice agreements of 1949 of the terms of such agreements, and that the armed forces of Israel have penetrated deeply into Egyptian territory in violation of the General Armistice Agreement between Egypt and Israel of 24 February 1949,
Noting that armed forces of France and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are conducting military operations against Egyptian territory,
Noting that traffic through the Suez Canal is now interrupted to the serious prejudice of many nations,
Expressing its grave concern over these developments,

  1. Urges as a matter of priority that all parties now involved in hostilities in the area agree to an immediate cease-fire and, as part thereof, halt the movement of military forces and arms into the area;
  2. Urges the parties to the armistice agreements promptly to withdraw all forces behind the armistice lines, to desist from raids across the armistice lines into neighbouring territory, and to observe scrupulously the provisions of the armistice agreements;
  3. Recommends that all Member States refrain from introducing military goods in the area of hostilities and in general refrain from any acts which would delay or prevent the implementation of the present resolution;
  4. Urges that, upon the cease-fire being effective, steps be taken to reopen the Suez Canal and restore secure freedom of navigation;
  5. Requests the Secretary-General to observe and report promptly on the compliance with the present resolution to the Security Council and to the General Assembly, for such further action as they may deem appropriate in accordance with the Charter;
  6. Decides to remain in emergency session pending compliance with the present resolution.

562nd plenary meeting,
2 November 1956.

Resolution 998 (ES-I)

The General Assembly,
Bearing in mind the urgent necessity of facilitating compliance with its resolution 997 (ES-I) of 2 November 1956,
Requests, as a matter of priority, the Secretary-General to submit to it within forty-eight hours a plan for the setting up, with the consent of the nations concerned, of an emergency international United Nations Force to secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities in accordance with all the terms of the aforementioned resolution.

563rd plenary meeting,
4 November 1965

Resolution 999 (ES-I)

The General Assembly,
Noting with regret that not all the parties concerned have yet agreed to comply with the provisions of its resolution 997 (ES-I) of 2 November 1956,
Noting the special priority given in that resolution to an immediate cease-fire and, as part thereof, to the halting of the movement of military forces and arms into the area,
Noting further that the resolution urged the parties to the armistice agreements promptly to withdraw all forces behind the armistice lines, to desist from raids across the armistice lines into neighbouring territory, and to observe scrupulously the provisions of the armistice agreements,

  1. Reaffirms its resolution 997 (ES-I), and once again calls upon the parties immediately to comply with the provisions of the said resolution;
  2. Authorizes the Secretary-General immediately to arrange with the parties concerned for the implementation of the cease-fire and the halting of the movement of the military forces and arms into the area, and requests him to report compliance forthwith and, in any case, not later than twelve hours from the time of adoption of the present resolution;
  3. Requests the Secretary-General, with the assistance of the Chief of Staff and the members of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, to obtains compliance of the withdrawal of all forces behind the armistice lines;
  4. Decides to meet again immediately on receipt of the Secretary-General’s report referred to in paragraph 2 of the present resolution.

563rd plenary meeting,
4 November 1956.

Resolution 1000 (ES-I)

The General Assembly,
Having requested the Secretary-General, in its resolution 998 (ES-I) of 4 November 1956, to submit to it a plan for an emergency international United Nations Force, for the purposes stated,
Noting with satisfaction the first report of the Secretary-General on the plan, and having in mind particular paragraph 4 of that report,

  1. Establishes a United Nations Command for an emergency international Force to secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities in accordance with all the terms of the General Assembly resolution 997 (ES-I) of 2 November 1956;
  2. Appoints, on an emergency basis, the Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, Major-General E. L. M. Burns, as Chief of the Command;
  3. Authorizes the Chief of the Command immediately to recruit, from the observer corps of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, a limited number of officer who shall be nations of countries other than those having permanent membership in the Security Council, and further authorizes him, in consultation with the Secretary-General, to undertake the recruitment directly, from various Member States other than the permanent member of the Security Council, of the additional number of officers needed;
  4. Invites the Secretary-General to take such administrative measures as may be necessary for the prompt execution of the actions envisaged in the present resolution.

565th plenary meeting,
5 November 1956.

Resolution 1001 (ES-I)

The General Assembly,
Recalling its resolution 997 (ES-I) of 2 November 1956 concerning the cease-fire, withdrawal of troops and other matters related to the military operations in Egyptian territory, as well as its resolution 998 (ES-I) of 4 November 1956 concerning the request to the Secretary-General to submit a plan for an emergency international United Nations Force,
Having established by its resolution 1000 (ES-I) of 5 November 1956 a United Nations Command for an emergency international Force, having appointed the Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization as Chief of the Command with authorization to him to begin the recruitment of officers for the Command, and having invited the Secretary-General to take the administrative measures necessary for the prompt execution of that resolution,
Noting with appreciation the second and final report of the Secretary-General on the plan for an emergency international United Nations Force as requested in in General Assembly resolution 998 (ES-I), and having examined that plan,

  1. Expresses its approval of the guiding principles for that organization and functioning of the emergency international United Nations Force as expound in paragraphs 6 to 9 of the Secretary-General’s report;
  2. Concurs in the definition of the functions of the Force as stated in paragraph 12 of the Secretary-General’s report;
  3. Invites the Secretary-General to continue discussions with Governments of Member States concerning offers of participation in the Force, toward the objective of its balanced composition;
  4. Requests the Chief of the Command, in consultation with the Secretary-General as regards size and composition, to proceed forthwith with the full organization of the Force;
  5. Approves provisionally the basic rule concerning the financing of the Force laid down in paragraph 15 of the Secretary-General’s report;
  6. Establishes an Advisory Committee composed of one representative from each of the following countries: Brazil, Canada, Ceylon, Colombia, India, Norway and Pakistan, and requests this Committee, whose Chairman shall be the Secretary-General, to undertake the development of those aspects of the planning for the Force and its operation not already dealt with by the General Assembly and which do not fall within the area of the direct responsibility of the Chief of the Command;
  7. Authorizes the Secretary-General to issue all regulations and instructions which may be essential to the effective functioning of the Force, following consultation with the Committee aforementioned, and to take all necessary administrative and executive actions;
  8. Determines that, following the fulfillment of the immediate responsibilities defined for it in operative paragraphs 6 and 7 above, the Advisory Committee shall continue to assist the Secretary-General in the responsibilities falling to him under the present and other relevant resolutions;
  9. Decides that the Advisory Committee, in performance of its duties, shall be empowered to request, through the usual procedures, the convening of the the General Assembly and to report to the Assembly when-ever matters arise which, in its opinion, are of such urgency and importance as to require consideration by the General Assembly itself;
  10. Requests all Member States to afford assistance as necessary to the United Nations Command in the performance of its functions, including arrangements for passage to and from the area involved.

567th plenary meeting,
7 November 1956.

Resolution 1002 (ES-I)

The General Assembly,
Recalling its resolutions 997 (ES-I) of 2 November 1956, 998 (ES-I) and 999 (ES-I) of 4 November 1956 and 1000 (ES-I) of 5 November 1956, adopted by overwhelming majorities,
Noting in particular that the General Assembly, by its resolution 1000 (ES-I), established a United Nations Command for an emergency international Force to secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities in accordance with all the terms of its resolution 997 (ES-I),

  1. Reaffirms the above-mentioned resolutions;
  2. Calls once again upon Israel immediately to withdraw all its forces behind the armistice lines established by the General Armistice Agreement between Egypt and Israel of 24 February 1949;
  3. Calls once again upon the United Kingdom and France immediately to withdraw all their forces from Egyptian territory, consistently with the above-mentioned resolutions;
  4. Urges the Secretary-General to communicate the present resolution to the parties concerned, and request him promptly to report to the General Assembly on the compliance with this resolution.

567th plenary meeting,
7 November 1956.

We listed the above 6 resolutions in their entirety not only because of their historical significance to peace in the Middle East; but also for facilitating academic reference in text format, as these resolutions are not readily available in the UN records in text format, moreover, they are not easily converted to text format either.

Additionally, the UN Emergency Force (UNEF I) sites states:
“UNEF is a telling example of the importance of United Nations peacekeeping forces and their limitations. Its establishment in October 1956 put an end to a destructive war and, for more than 10 years, it effectively maintained peace in one of the most sensitive areas of the Middle East. But in the absence of a complementary peacemaking effort, the root cause of the conflict between Egypt and Israel remained unresolved. Moreover, because Israel refused to accept UNEF on its territory, the Force had to be deployed only on the Egyptian side of the border, and thus its functioning was entirely contingent upon the consent of Egypt as the host country. Once that consent was withdrawn, its operation could no longer be maintained.”

Focusing on the Arab-Israeli issue, in the general context of peace in the Middle East, let us look at these statements from the above 6 resolutions:

  1. Noting the disregard on many occasions by parties to the Israel-Arab armistice agreements of 1949 of the terms of such agreements, and that the armed forces of Israel have penetrated deeply into Egyptian territory in violation of the General Armistice Agreement between Egypt and Israel of 24 February 1949,”  Resolution 997 (ES-I)
  2. “Requests, as a matter of priority, the Secretary-General to submit to it within forty-eight hours a plan for the setting up, with the consent of the nations concerned, of an emergency international United Nations Force to secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities in accordance with all the terms of the aforementioned resolution.” Resolution 998 (ES-I)
  3. Requests the Secretary-General, with the assistance of the Chief of Staff and the members of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, to obtains compliance of the withdrawal of all forces behind the armistice lines;” Resolution 999 (ES-I)
  4. Establishes a United Nations Command for an emergency international Force to secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities in accordance with all the terms of the General Assembly resolution 997 (ES-I) of 2 November 1956;” Resolution 1000 (ES-I)
  5. Recalling its resolution 997 (ES-I) of 2 November 1956 concerning the cease-fire, withdrawal of troops and other matters related to the military operations in Egyptian territory,” Resolution 1001 (ES-I)
  6. “Calls once again upon Israel immediately to withdraw all its forces behind the armistice lines established by the General Armistice Agreement between Egypt and Israel of 24 February 1949;” Resolution 1002 (ES-I)

If you have not already reviewed our article UN Middle East Peace, now is a good time to review it, especially this paragraph:

The United Nations admitted Israel as a member of the world organization based on the following conditions:

  1. Israel’s implementation of Resolution 181 which aims to create two independent States; a Palestinian State in the green colored areas of the partition map above, and a Jewish State in the white colored areas of the partition map above
  2. Israel’s implementation of Resolution 194 which aims, among other things, to guarantee the right of return of the Palestinians to their homeland
  3. Additional conditions contained in Resolution 273: Israel is a peace-loving State and is able and willing to carry out the obligations contained in the Charter… the declaration by the State of Israel that it unreservedly accepts the obligations of the United Nations Charter and undertakes to honour them from the day when it becomes a member of the United Nations.

The events of 1956 in the Middle East raised serious questions about the effectiveness of the UN, who admitted Israel to its membership based on  the conditions that “Israel is a peace-loving State and is able and willing to carry out the obligations contained in the Charter…” However, when that supposedly “peace-loving State” (Israel) invades a neighboring country (Egypt), occupies Sinai for over 5 months, refuses to allow the UN International Peacekeeping Force (UNEF) to operate from its side, and destroys Sinai’s infrastructure; after all these Israeli atrocities and violations of the UN Charter and international law; the UN failed to enforce any sanctions against Israel; such as forcing Israel to pay retributions to Egypt for the damage in Sinai, or enforcing the operation of UNEF from the Israeli side, or revoking Israel’s membership in the United Nations.

Our next article on UN Middle East Peace will cover the period from 1956 to 1967.

M. Alaadin A. Morsy

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2 Replies to “UN Middle East Peace, 1949-1956”

  1. Excellent recap of historical events.
    As a friend of the Middle East World I somehow felt that the unending conflicts in the area has been basically due to break-down in effective communication, trust, human understanding and respectful-mutual-relationships.
    In my own rather simplistic orientation, I think that passing UN resolutions time and again have achieved little, because of inter alia lack of mutual respect and emotional understanding on the ground level. Importantly the lack of cohesion and unity of purpose in the Arab world toward ensuring a safe and recognised home for the Palestenians, and for Isreali citizens. Mobilizing world opinion and support for just solution cannot happen by just passing UN resolutions and/or armed resistance on the ground.
    Maybe it is time using the rapid technological advances, the leadership and people of the ME should reach out to the whole world citizens and seek understanding and support to build peace, progress and prosperity in the trouble region. When the whole world speak out, the conflicting parties will have to listen and see the fallacy of confrontation resulting in only daily death and destruction. Maybe the realisation will dawn: “we are the world, we are all “one” family of people in different shapes, sizes and forms to live a purposeful life”.

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