ARMISTICE AGREEMENTS
     
The 1949 Armistice Agreements are a set of agreements signed during 1949 between Israel and neighboring Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan,and Syria. The agreements ended the official hostilities of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and established armistice lines between Israel and the Jordanian-held West Bank, also known as the Green Line. The United Nations established supervising and reporting agencies to monitor the established armistice lines. In addition, discussions related to the armistice enforcement, led to the signing of the separate Tripartite Declaration of 1950 between the United States, Britain and France. In it, they pledged to take action within and outside the United Nations to prevent violations of the frontiers or armistice lines. It also outlined their commitment to peace and stability in the area, their opposition to the use or threat of force, and reiterated their opposition to the development of an arms race. These lines held until the 1967 Six-Day War.

Cease-fire line vs. permanent border

The areas under Israeli control, as set by the agreements, encompassed about 78% of mandatory Palestine as it stood after the independence of Transjordan (now Jordan) in 1946. From the early 1920s to 1946, the British mandate of Palestine had also encompassed Transjordan, ruled under different arrangements from the area west of the Jordan river. Israel inside the armistice lines composed about 18% of this larger area including Transjordan. The areas of Palestine not occupied by Israel (the Gaza Strip and West Bank) were occupied by Egypt and Jordan respectively until 1967. See the related articles Occupation of the Gaza Strip by Egypt and Occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem by Jordan.

The armistice agreements were intended to serve only as interim agreements until replaced by permanent peace treaties. However, no peace treaties were actually signed until decades later. The armistice agreements, except for the one with Lebanon, were clear (at Arab insistence) that they were not creating permanent or de jure borders. The Egyptian-Israeli agreement stated "The Armistice Demarcation Line is not to be construed in any sense as a political or territorial boundary, and is delineated without prejudice to rights, claims and positions of either Party to the Armistice as regards ultimate settlement of the Palestine question."

The Jordanian-Israeli agreement stated: "... no provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims, and positions of either Party hereto in the peaceful settlement of the Palestine questions, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations" (Art. II.2), "The Armistice Demarcation Lines defined in articles V and VI of this Agreement are agreed upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto." (Art. VI.9)

As the armistice lines were technically not borders, the Arabs considered that Israel was restricted in its rights to develop the DMZ and exploitation of the water resources. Further that as a state of war still existed with the Arab nations, the Arab League was not hindered in their right to deny Israel the freedom of navigation through the Arab League waters. Also it was argued that the Palestinians had the right of return and that the Israeli use of abandoned property was therefore not legitimate.

In the Knesset then Foreign Minister and future Prime Minister Moshe Sharett called the armistice lines "provisional boundaries" and the old international borders which the armistice lines, except with Jordan, were based on, "natural boundaries". Israel did not lay claim to territory beyond them and proposed them, with minor modifications except at Gaza, as the basis of permanent political frontiers at the Lausanne Conference, 1949. After the 1967 Six Day War several Israeli leaders argued against turning the armistice lines into permanent borders on the grounds of Israeli security:

  • Prime Minister Golda Meir said the pre-1967 borders were so dangerous that it "would be treasonable" for an Israeli leader to accept them (New York Times, December 23, 1969).

  • The Foreign Minister Abba Eban said the pre-1967 borders have "a memory of Auschwitz" (Der Spiegel, November 5, 1969).

  • Prime Minister Menachem Begin described a proposal for a retreat to the pre-1967 borders as "national suicide for Israel."

The internationally recognized border between Egypt and Israel was eventually demarcated as part of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. The border between Israel and Jordan (except for Jordan's border with the post-1967 West Bank) was demarcated as part of the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty.

The main differences between the 1947 partition proposal and 1949 armistice lines are highlighted in light red and magenta

1947-UN-Partition-Plan-1949-Armistice-Comparison