Syrian-Israeli Armistice Agreement Is Signed

July 20, 2018


July 20, 1949

Israel’s War of Independence ended with the signing of armistice agreements between the newly established Jewish state and four Arab states in 1949.  Separate agreements were signed with Egypt (February 24), Lebanon (March 23), Jordan (April 3) and Syria (July 20). However, peace treaties were not signed between Israel and these Arab countries. No  official negotiations took place with the Palestinian Arabs. No international borders were fixed or recognized between Arab states and Israel.   The United Nations and its chief negotiator, Ralph Bunche (see: https://israeled.org/ralph-bunche-born/), mediated the armistice negotiations.

Talks between Israel and Syria did not begin until April 5, 1949, after all other armistice agreements had been signed.  The talks began on the B’not Ya’akov Bridge at the northern end of the Jordan River.  Discussions were protracted because  the two countries were initially unable to agree on a number of basic issues, including the withdrawal of Syrian troops from areas that had been allocated to Israel in the 1947 UN Partition Plan.  The armistice agreement created three demilitarized zones (DMZs) in those disputed areas.  According to the agreement, the DMZs were to be areas “from which the armed forces of both Parties shall be totally excluded, and in which no activities by military or para-military forces shall be permitted.”

In addition to the DMZs, a buffer area was created in which UN troops were stationed as truce observers.  Dispute over the nature of the DMZs continued until 1967.  Because the areas had been allotted to Israel in the 1947 UN Partition Plan, Israel believed that the areas fell under Israeli sovereignty.  Because of the armistice agreement, Syria believed that even civilian activities there needed to be approved by the Mixed Armistice Committee.  As a result, Israeli agricultural activity in the DMZs continued under shelling from Syrian forces stationed on the Golan Heights.  This resulted in ongoing skirmishes between the two countries. Tension from Syrian shelling of Israeli settlements contributed to Israel’s attack on the Golan Heights in the June 1967 war.  Efforts to reach Syrian-Israeli agreements in the 1990s and 2000s were plagued by questions about the armistice lines, the size of the demilitarized zones, and degrees of withdrawal.

The complete text of the Syrian-Israeli Armistice is available here: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/arm04.asp

In the photo, two Syrian police (left) and two Israeli police are stationed outside the armistice signing.