While UN missions like UNEF-1 during the Suez Crisis are usually raised as examples of early peacekeeping, the practice of peacekeeping was not restricted to the UN itself. For example, the Multinational Force and Observers peacekeeping force that was created to enforce the Egypt-Israel Treaty of Peace perfectly reflected the UN’s values and mission statement, even if it was created by a multilateral agreement rather than a Security Council resolution.
For the decades that preceded this mission, the Sinai peninsula had been a sore point of contention between Egypt and Israel. Between 1948 and 1978, the two countries had been involved in five different conflicts that would see their militaries clash for control over the area.
However, in 1978, Egypt’s President Anwar El Sadat and Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel came to Camp David, near Washington DC, to conduct peace talks overseen by President Jimmy Carter. Seven months later, the Egypt-Israel Treaty of Peace was signed between the two parties.
The leaders of both countries realized that such a long history of war meant that the peace process would not be an easy one. Unfortunately, the UN would not provide them with a peacekeeping force despite their request- each time they were asked, the USSR threatened to use its veto power and quash the resolution.
On August 3rd 1981, El Sadat and Menachem joined President Carter and set up a peacekeeping force outside the UN, which was named the Multinational Force and Observers. Soldiers from 12 different countries, including Canada, all gathered to “supervise the implementation of the Egyptian-Israeli Treaty of Peace and employ the best efforts to prevent any violation of its terms”.
The mission has widely been considered a success story of peacekeeping, and still acts as a buffer between Israel and Egypt to this very day. However, the force- which is now under the command of Canadian Major-General Dennis Thompson, is under threat from extremist activities that are now taking place.
The next entry in this series will look at the end of this first era of traditional peacekeeping, and examine how peacekeeping shifted towards a focus on humanitarian intervention.