Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



A UN official, commenting on the designation of Swedish diplomat Gunnar Jarring as the Security Council's representative to work for a Middle East peace, observed that both Ralph Bunche and Lester B. Pearson had already received Nobel Prizes for bringing peace to this region. If anything is to be learned from the most recent Middle East conflict, it is that a cessation of hostilities cannot be equated with a peace; that a true peace involves the resolution of basic conflicts of interests.

Almost from its very inception, the United Nations has been deeply involved in Middle East problems. Just over twenty years ago, at the request of Great Britain which was anxious to rid itself of the burdensome Palestine mandate, the General Assembly considered the Palestine question. That Assembly passed its historic resolution of November 29, 1947 supported by both the US and the USSR, providing for the partition of Palestine into two sovereign states, one Arab and one Jewish. Successful implementation of partition by the UN proved impossible due to lack of Arab cooperation, and at midnight on May 14, 1948, the date the British had set to terminate their mandate, Jewish leaders in Palestine proclaimed the existence of the new state of Israel.

While both the US and USSR extended recognition, the five neighboring Arab states formally announced that they would send forces "to restore order," and full scale war ensued. The UN made several attempts to bring an end to hostilities, but it was only by the summer of 1948, after a resolution was passed finding a threat to the peace and ordering cessation of hostilities, that a "lasting" truce came about. By then, Israel had decisively defeated its Arab neighbors and was in control of more territory than allocated to it by the UN partition plan. A UN Conciliation Commission was unable to bring about a final settlement, but by the following Spring, UN mediator Ralph Bunche was able to arrange separate armistice agreements between Israel and each of the Arab states. The United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), created to observe and maintain the cease-fire, was to assist the Mixed Armistice Commissions established by the agreements to investigate incidents and complaints.