The origins of the MFO lie in Annex I to the Treaty of Peace.
The area subject to Annex I is divided into four zones: Zones A, B, and C in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt and Zone D in Israel. Zones C and D are adjacent to the international border. This Annex also establishes the post-withdrawal levels of military personnel and equipment allowed in each Zone and, in Article VI, states that both Parties will request the United Nations to provide forces and observers to supervise the implementation of Annex I and employ their best efforts to prevent any violation of its terms.
PRE-TREATY: JULY '79
During the period leading up to the signing of the Treaty of Peace, it was understood by all concerned that it might prove difficult to obtain Security Council approval for the stationing of a United Nations peacekeeping force in the Sinai. Therefore, on March 26, 1979, the day that the Treaty of Peace was signed, President Carter sent identical letters to President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin that specified certain U.S. commitments with respect to the Treaty of Peace. These commitments included a promise by President Carter that the U.S. would take the necessary steps to ensure the establishment and maintenance of an alternative multinational force should the United Nations fail to assume this role.
In July 1979, the mandate of the United Nations Emergency Force II (UNEF II) expired and the United Nations did not formally consider a new mandate for Sinai peacekeeping. As the Treaty of Peace provided for a role for United Nations forces in the process of the phased withdrawal, an immediate substitute was needed.
The United States Government agreed that the existing U.S. Sinai Field Mission would take on a new mission, carrying out certain of the verification functions specified in the Treaty of Peace.
Efforts were made during the following two years to secure the United Nations Force and Observers contemplated by the Treaty of Peace. On May 18, 1981, however, the President of the Security Council announced that it would not be possible for the United Nations to provide such a peacekeeping force. Egypt and Israel, with the assistance of the United States, then opened negotiations with the hope of reaching an agreement that would serve as a basis for creating a peacekeeping organization outside the United Nations’ framework.
Several features distinguished the Treaty and peacekeeping environment from that of traditional peacekeeping missions. The new organization would operate in these two nations, bound by a definitive Treaty of Peace, each exercising sovereignty over its respective territories. Thus, the peacekeeping force would not act as a buffer between combatants nor as an instrument of merely interim or truce arrangements, but rather would work closely with two nations to support a permanent peace that they had already struggled together to forge and maintain.
The Treaty of Peace provided quite specific but nonetheless complex limitations on the levels of both Egyptian and Israeli military forces in the four Zones.
The mission of the peacekeeping force would be to observe and verify compliance with, and to report any violations of, the limitations on military personnel and equipment that are set out in the Treaty of Peace, and to ensure freedom of navigation through the Strait of Tiran at the southern entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba. Moreover, the peacekeepers would be charged with using their best efforts to prevent Treaty violations, to prevent difficulties, and to resolve problems. This specified and limited mission would provide a certain degree of clarity in the expectations of the Parties with respect to the role of the organization.
The task of translating the terms of the Treaty of Peace into a working reality, however, was arduous and time consuming. The parties to the negotiations were responsible for laying the foundations for an organizational and administrative structure unlike any of its predecessors in international peacekeeping. The lack of an existing organizational and administrative structure created obvious initial difficulties, but held the promise of innovation in an environment relatively free of the accumulated bureaucratic weight and political complexity of an existing organization.
The new independent, international organization would be funded, in equal parts, by three Funds-Contributing States: the two Receiving States (Egypt and Israel) and the United States. This arrangement assured that each of the governments would take an active interest in the operations of the organization. Egyptian and Israeli financial participation could be expected to produce a healthy sense of identification with the organization, while obligating the negotiators to devise methods of ensuring objectivity and independence.
These negotiations between the Treaty Parties, carried out against the backdrop of the phased Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai, culminated on August 3, 1981 with the signing of the Protocol to the Treaty of Peace, establishing the Multinational Force and Observers.