Mixed Armistice Commissions
MIXED ARMISTICE COMMISSIONS
Equal numbers of military delegates met periodically under the chairmanship of the chief of staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) or his authorized representative. Informal civilian advisers often assisted the official military personnel. Their purpose was to provide for the implementation and supervision of the various articles of the GAAs. As hopes for political negotiations in other forums faded after 1949, the Mixed Armistice Commissions (MACs) also became, by default, one of the last channels through which Arabs and Israelis could communicate directly with each other—although not always with the result of relieving tensions or contributing to a positive atmosphere.
In dealing with a growing number of complaints, the commissions took on quasi-judicial functions, quickly becoming (in the words of one critic) "courts and scoreboards." In the early 1950s, the MACs proved unable to meet their peacekeeping functions effectively when faced with an increase of infiltrations, expulsions, cross-border raids, and reprisals. As time went on, both Arab and Israeli authorities made the tasks of MAC observers and investigators increasingly difficult. Offering lip service rather than true cooperation, the parties—Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria—became skilled at manipulating the MACs for the purpose of scoring political and propaganda points. The effectiveness of the MACs as organs for conflict management also suffered from periodic walkouts and boycotts, by one party or the other, and from recurring challenges to the impartiality and integrity of various UN officials who served as chairmen.
After the 1956 Arab-Israel War, the truce supervisory machinery was further weakened, with some MACs virtually inoperative. The MACs ceased to exist following the June 1967 Arab-Israel war. In 1974, Israel officially declared the four General Armistice Agreements, which had provided the legal basis for the MACs, to be null and void. During the 1970s and 1980s, the UNTSO (with a staff of 220 military observers and offices in Jerusalem, Amman, Beirut, and Gaza) continued to monitor Arab-Israeli frontier incidents.
Berger, Earl. The Covenant and the Sword: Arab-Israeli Relations, 1948–1956. London: Routledge and K. Paul, 1965.
Burns, E. L. M. Between Arab and Israeli. New York: I. Obolensky, 1963.
Pelcovits, Nathan A. The Long Armistice: UN Peacekeeping and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1948–1960. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993.