Struggles for a Sustainable Ceasefire

  February 16, 2022   Read time 2 min
Struggles for a Sustainable Ceasefire
22 October was subsequently given as the date for the ceasefire to become operative. On 26 October, however, the Council was called together again. Although there had been agreement on the question of convoys to the settlements, there had been no withdrawal of forces, nor any effective ceasefire.

The Israeli representative stated categorically that in Israel's view the main aim of the previous resolution had been to ensure that outbreaks of fighting in the area were not renewed, and a simple return to the status quo ante could not secure this. The acting mediator reported on 28 October that Israel had made a similar communication to him. He suggested that the time had come when the Council should assert itself and make clear that resort to force would not be tolerated.

Britain and China proposed that the Council should set up a committee to consider the use of sanctions under Chapter VII of the Charter, as the previous resolution had threatened, to ensure compliance with the Council's resolutions and with the orders of the acting mediator. The Council took several days to consider the exact form that such a resolution should take. Eventually, on 4 November, it simply called on the parties to withdraw any forces which had advanced beyond the positions of 14 October, and to establish, through direct negotiations or through intermediaries, permanent truce lines and demilitarised zones, failing which these were to be established by the acting mediator. It also, however, set up a committee to study the use of sanctions in the case of non-compliance, as Britain and China had proposed.

This now made clear that a withdrawal was to precede the negotiations. That interpretation was, however, contested by Israel. In any case, the resolution failed to have much effect. Israeli forces did not withdraw and the situation on the ground remained disturbed. Bunche now began to become convinced that only an overall settlement of all outstanding issues would succeed in restoring peace. This might involve a substantial withdrawal of forces and the creation of broad demilitarised zones. On 9 November he reported this at two private meetings of the Council (one of the rare occasions till recently that private meetings of the Council have taken place). The Soviet Union, still Israel's strongest supporter, demanded that such negotiations should be direct, and not merely through the acting mediator (the opposite of the position she was to adopt twenty years later), and that they should be aimed at a final peace rather than an armistice only.

Most other members were less ambitious in what they thought could be achieved. On 16 November, therefore, the Council adopted a resolution proposed by Canada, Belgium and France which decided that, to facilitate the transition to permanent peace, an armistice should be established in all sectors in Palestine. It called on the parties to agree, either through direct negotiations or through the acting mediator, the delineation of the armistice lines and the withdrawal and reduction of their forces so as to ensure the maintenance of the armistice. Though it was said in the preamble to the resolution that it was 'without prejudice to the implementation' of the 4 November resolution calling for withdrawal, in effect it clearly replaced it. It thus let Israel completely off the hook so far as withdrawal from the area of the Negev she had occupied was concerned.

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