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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The UN tried to take Israeli territory in 1957

From Yaacov Lozowick's "Israel's Documented Story" blog:
As noted earlier this week, only once between 1956 and 1958 was there a discussion of any real interest in the Ministers' Committee for Foreign Affairs and Security - but that once it was very interesting. The most interesting part of all was when Foreign Minister Golda Meir reported about tensions with the United Nations.

...The armistice agreements of 1949 had left some patches of territory inside Israel's borders as demilitarized zones.

...Golda and her colleagues were convinced the UN was trying to undermine Israeli sovereignty in those areas (within the 1967 borders, of course). So, August 11th 1957:

Golda Meir: For a while now there's been tension and a sort of struggle with the UN officials including with Mr. Hammarskjold. Recently however Hammarskjold has stepped back a bit and he operates through Leary. General [Eedson] Burns [Leary's predecessor, whom we've already met here] filled Hammarskjold's orders, but he did so with charm. Leary doesn't know how to do that.
It's clear that Hammarskjold intends to demonstrate with facts that the demilitarized zones are not the same as the rest of Israel. His position is that these areas have a special status, and the UN has enhanced authority in them. He's never said so openly, nor has he asked us to agree with him, but his actions make clear that he sees it that way, for example when he insists the UN obsevers enjoy greater independence in those areas and need not liase with IDF officers.
Recently he [Leary] wanted to station observers above the [B'not Yaacov] Bridge [over the Jordan on the Syrian border]. We said: no, there's no need. He said, OK, so there will be visits of observers. We agreed to visits. So what did he do? He came one day and announced  he'd put an observer there. Joseph Tekoa, of the Foreign Ministry, responded: What do you mean you're announcing. You must ask. He said it's demilitarized and he was announcing, not asking. Tekoa told him that wouldn't work and brought the matter to me. Of course we told [Leary] there was no such option: no observers and no special authority in that area. He went back to saying observers would visit. I said OK. What's he doing now? Fist an observer stood there an hour then left. A bit later another one came and stood there an hour. Now he has them standing there four hours, to be repalced by someone else for four hours. We told him again we would not allow it to become an observers position.
Our problem is that no outsider will understand what we're quarreling with them for. Possibly even some Israelis won't understand.
Justice Minister Pinchas Rosenne: I'm one of those.
Golda Meir: I'm surprised at you. At a different place we quarreled with them about another little detail. The wanted to raise the UN flag over one of the positions. One of our officers was positioned there too, we said it's Israeli territory, there's an IDF officer there, there's no way you're going to fly the UN flag. There's no precedent for such behavior. If you insist on a UN flag there will be an Israeli flag above it. They said no, that would anger the Syrians. We said Fine, so no flag at all. So they raised the UN flag, and when we saw that we raised our flag above it. He was angry and reported to Hammarskjold, who must also have been angry. They took their flag down, and then we took ours down, too. Then he wanted his observers to spend the night there. We said we don't see any sense in that but if they wish, fine. Leary then said the overnight observers must be armed. We said none of them are armed anywhere else in the country and they won't be armed there either... What Hammarskjold is trying to achieve is that the demilitarized zone isn't under full Israeli sovereignty, and once he suceeds at that he'll apply the same reasoning to the demilitarized zone on the Egyptian border.
I found some similar issues discussed in Foreign Relations of the United States from 1960, also with comments from Golda Meir:

Pass OSD, Army, Navy, and Air. Joint Embassy, Army and Air Attaché message. Reference Embassy telegram 729.2 In long discussion evening February 1 Foreign Minister made following points about southern demilitarized zone (DMZ) situation:

1. Decision to “clean up military base” old Tawafiq taken by Cabinet afternoon January 31.

2. In reply my query whether Israeli action not contrary to paragraph 5(B) Article V armistice agreement, she did not disagree but said it was necessary prevent further loss of life and in “interests self-defense within our border.” She also mentioned Article 51 UN Charter.

3. Israeli Army not going attack and will take no action except in self-defense. I inquired whether Israel as UN member would act in conformity Articles I and II UN Charter, to which she responded, “of course.” I then asked whether reported northward movement troops and equipment might not be misinterpreted. She stated she had not asked Prime Minister particulars these movements but she believed he would do what was necessary, and further that it was better to be alive and misinterpreted than be dead and eulogized.

4. On DMZ history Mrs. Meir said Israel had made over 700 complaints to UN and MAC. “UN more to blame than Syrians” and should have made an attempt to get Syrians to stop work. Last Saturday she had sent personal word to Von Horn and to Cordier through Tekoah urging return to “status quo” and Israel’s complete willingness discuss matter. GOI considered DMZ as much of Israel as Tel Aviv and would not discuss with Syrians anything pertaining to DMZ. Israel would discuss with Syrians questions border tranquility and would discuss with chairman of MAC or Von Horn Arab cultivation and grazing rights in DMZ if Arabs had previously cultivated land. Mrs. Meir added one thing certain these Syrians “not farmers” and action “pure and simple attempt to get foothold in Israel territory called DMZ.”

Comment: At end of meeting I again urged on Mrs. Meir the need for fullest cooperation with UN, the danger of misinterpretation by other countries over reported substantial troop movements even if defensive in character, and the need to find a constructive peaceful solution to present situation. She said Israel “day or night would be prepared for discussion,” but that the “UN should tell the Syrians to stop this.” She was willing to see Von Horn “any time.” Mrs. Meir concluded, we are concerned with “self-defense of our people; not looking for a war.”
There was tension along the DMZ in 1964 as well.