Former Untso Commander Comes out in Favor of Palestinian State

General Odd Bull, former commander of the UN Truce Supervisory Organization (UNTSO) in the Middle East, has come out in strong support of a Palestinian Arab state. Summing up his experiences from 1963 to 1970, the Norwegian general writes in the English edition of his memoirs, published here, that “justice in the Middle East means, among other things, that the rights of the Palestinian Arabs must be recognized and that they must be given the opportunity for self-determination in those parts of Palestine which they occupied before the 1967 war.”

Bull says that “the principle of repatriation” should be accepted, adding that since the Israelis would not band ###the areas is the PLO unless defeated in another war. “it would probably be necessary for the areas to be taken into temporary UN trusteeship.”

The 1975 Sinai agreement. Bull claims, did nothing to halt the arms race, thus opening the way to nuclear weapons. It also did nothing about the maintenance of the status quo in the occupied areas by forbidding the setting up of new settlements there.

The book, first published in Norwegian, sheds light on the exchanges between Israel and her neighbors for which Bull was the intermediary. Thus he confirms that on the first day of the Six-Day War he conveyed to Jordan Israel’s offer of mutual non-aggression.

However, in Bull’s view, the Israeli offer was “a threat pure and simple, and it is not the normal practice of the UN to pass on threats from one government to another. But this message seemed so important that we quickly sent it…. King Hussein received the message before 10:30 the same morning (June 5).” At 11:25, the Jordanians opened fire. At noon, both sides agreed to a cease-fire, but although the shooting slackened it did not stop. In all, three deadlines were agreed that day, but were not respected.

Referring to the Jordanian troops’ seizure of Government House, the UN headquarters, Bull said it was a military blunder and the Jordanians should first have taken the Israeli enclave on Mount Scopus. He suggests that Israeli intelligence might have had a hand in the Jordanian mistake.

Although the writer’s sympathies tend to lie with the Arabs, he nonetheless confirms that an agreement to free the stranded vessels from the Suez Canal early in 1968 failed when the Egyptians tried to navigate the northern part of the canal before freeing them southwards as had been agreed earlier through UNTSO’s good offices.

Bull seems to have mixed feelings about the Israeli leaders with whom he dealt. He describes Moshe Dayan as being “always a straightforward person to deal with.” Golda Meir struck him as “a very impressive and persuasive personality, though she has shown little or no understanding for the Arabs of Palestine or for the justice of their demands.”

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