Ralph Bunche and the 1949 armistice agreements revisited

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The African American UN mediator Ralph Bunche ended the 1948 Arab-Israeli war by getting the combatants to sign armistice agreements. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950, Bunche became an international hero, acclaimed as the outstanding mediator of the Arab-Israeli conflict. This impression emerged almost immediately; everything written over the years corroborated it. But studies published after the turn of the century propagated a different view of Bunche as a weak mediator, manipulated by the Israelis and Americans. The present article, drawing on materials from archives and other sources (some of them available only in Hebrew), including new knowledge about Israeli plans for military operations while the talks were in progress (most of them remained on paper), casts a different light on those months. Analysing Bunche’s role in the negotiations (principally with Egypt and with Jordan), it shows that he ran the talks objectively and skilfully and prevented a renewal of the fighting–which would have resulted in an overwhelming Israeli victory, at the expense of the Arab countries and Palestinians.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)274-289
Number of pages16
JournalMiddle Eastern Studies
Issue number2
Early online date20 Nov 2019
StatePublished - 3 Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • 1948 Arab-Israeli War
  • 1949 armistice agreements
  • Middle East conflict
  • Ralph Bunche
  • Rhodes Conference
  • UN mediators
  • diplomacy and the Arab-Israeli conflict


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