What were Israel's war aims during the Suez Crisis of 1956?

GogLais

Ad Honorem
Sep 2013
5,489
Wirral
The Egyptians were perfectly entitled to Nationalize the canal it was in their country. They were willingly to compensate the shareholders.
That’s my understanding as well. Apparently Eden was given conflicting advice regarding this but the Government’s legal officer advised him that he didn’t have a good case for military action.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Futurist

pikeshot1600

Ad Honoris
Jul 2009
10,000
In fairness to Eden - not something you’ll often read - although Britain and France were major military powers their forces were scattered and not prepared for this sort of action. They could not have acted in the first few weeks, which would have been necessary to present the world with a fait accompli.

There is a “What if?”in this. What problems would Britain and France have faced in the long-term had they seized the Canal Zone?
For France the biggest problem was the war in Algeria. Then, as always with an intervention, what happens next after the canal is secured?

In some ways Britain and France were thinking in terms of how great powers acted in the 19th century. The OP is concerned with Israel's war aims, but what were the war aims of the two European powers?
 
  • Like
Reactions: Futurist

pikeshot1600

Ad Honoris
Jul 2009
10,000
That’s my understanding as well. Apparently Eden was given conflicting advice regarding this but the Government’s legal officer advised him that he didn’t have a good case for military action.
It is possible that the reaction of Britain was something of a rebound from a sense of malaise she had experienced during the lengthy period of austerity the country had endured. Psychologically, Great Britain was in something of an international funk, having left India and seen troubles in other colonial territories (Palestine, east Africa, Malaya). I have no idea what Mr. Eden was told by advisers, but there may have been thoughts that if Britain were still a power of importance, such an affront as the loss of influence over the Suez canal required a determined and forceful response.

Both Britain and France were dealing with post-war realities that did not seem to correspond to their pre-war status. France was involved in wars she could not win; Britain was losing her empire.
 

Ancientgeezer

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
8,899
The Dustbin, formerly, Garden of England
From Wikipedia

David Ben-Gurion, Prime Minister of Israel, gave the most detailed explanation of Israel's overall strategy for the Middle East during negotiations of the Protocol of Sevres . He objected to the "English Plan" of a fake Anglo-French intervention after an Israeli attack. Instead he presented a comprehensive plan for the reorganization of the Middle East. Jordan, he observed, was not viable as an independent state and should therefore be divided. Iraq would get the East Bank in return for a promise to settle the Palestinian refugees there and to make peace with Israel while the West Bank would be attached to Israel as a semi-autonomous region. Lebanon suffered from having a large Muslim population which was concentrated in the south. The problem could be solved by Israel's expansion up to the Litani River, thereby helping to turn Lebanon into a more compact Christian state. ... Israel declares its intention to keep her forces for the purpose of permanent annexation of the entire area east of the El Arish-Abu Ageila, Nakhl-Sharm el-Sheikh, in order to maintain for the long term the freedom of navigation in the Straits of Eilat and in order to free herself from the scourge of the infiltrators and from the danger posed by the Egyptian army bases in Sinai. ... "I told him about the discovery of oil in southern and western Sinai, and that it would be good to tear this peninsula from Egypt because it did not belong to her, rather it was the English who stole it from the Turks when they believed that Egypt was in their pocket. I suggested laying down a pipeline from Sinai to Haifa to refine the oil."
 
Mar 2015
1,460
Yorkshire
We are starting to stray off topic.

The British had comes to terms with the end of Empire in the Far East and in any case India was no longer the jewel it had been. There was however a new neo-colonial empire in the Gulf with a major military presence in the area and what were seen as vital oil supplies from Iran, Iraq and British supported Emirates - Saudi Arabia had been "lost" to American business interests. All of this could in theory could be choked off in seconds at the Suez Canal. Britain was the leader in the region with pro-British (but unpopular) Iraq and Jordan and had set up SEATO to neutralise Soviet penetration.

Also every British government at the time had to beware of being accused of "appeasement" - the feeling was that it was better to confront a dictator before he grew into a monster like Hitler. Nasser was starting to look like such a tinpot demagogue.

Into all this mix there were the Americans trying to do a balancing act of courting Nasser, not offending Israel or the British, (viscerally detested by Egyptians) and the Soviets ready to step-in with a better offer at anytime.

And the French who incorrectly as it turned out blamed Nasser for perpetuating the struggle in Algeria.

Nasser had his own problems with the Muslem Brotherhood and had only recently stage a coup against Neguib.

The niceties of legality in this this mess were pretty fuzzy - but Britain only withdew its troops from the Canal region on the understanding that it would continue to be run as an International waterway, with British technicians.

So a disasterous mix of British, French, Russian and American political objectives with rampant Arab nationalism and the anathema, existance of the 8 year old state of Israel.

The easy bit is the Israeli objectives - mostly satisfied except for the diplomatic triumph of Nasser.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Futurist

pikeshot1600

Ad Honoris
Jul 2009
10,000
As we do seem to be straying from the OP, and peccavi mentions Nasser's diplomatic triumph, I would point out that such triumph was in essence hollow. Nasser became less able to play off the US and USSR against one another, Egypt becoming in essence a Soviet satellite. His pretensions to leadership in the "non-aligned world" were destroyed by Israel in 1967.

Nasser had been seen as a supporter of Palestinian statehood. Egypt's support for the Palestinians withered after the Six Day War, leaving them without any true champion. That was no diplomatic triumph. (Nasser's important successor, Anwar Sadat was assassinated primarily because Egypt's peace treaty with Israel was seen by certain political elements in Egypt as the abandonment of a Palestinian state.)
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Futurist

Menshevik

Ad Honorem
Dec 2012
9,390
here
As we do seem to be straying from the OP, and peccavi mentions Nasser's diplomatic triumph, I would point out that such triumph was in essence hollow. Nasser became less able to play off the US and USSR against one another, Egypt becoming in essence a Soviet satellite. His pretensions to leadership in the "non-aligned world" were destroyed by Israel in 1967.

Nasser had been seen as a supporter of Palestinian statehood. Egypt's support for the Palestinians withered after the Six Day War, leaving them without any true champion. That was no diplomatic triumph. (Nasser's important successor, Anwar Sadat was assassinated primarily because Egypt's peace treaty with Israel was seen by certain political elements in Egypt as the abandonment of a Palestinian state.)
Was it in Nasser's power then, to grant or cede to the Palestinians, the Gaza Strip?
 

pikeshot1600

Ad Honoris
Jul 2009
10,000
Was it in Nasser's power then, to grant or cede to the Palestinians, the Gaza Strip?
As Mr. Nasser was a virtual one man show, one might have thought so. However, Arab leaders learned early on that keeping Palestinians as pawns to use against Israel was in their interests. Arab states have not done much for Palestinians since 1948, and are unlikely to do so as long as they can be portrayed as victims of white, western Jews. All the oil wealth of S.A., and previously of Iraq, has gained nothing of importance for the Palestinians.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Menshevik

Menshevik

Ad Honorem
Dec 2012
9,390
here
As Mr. Nasser was a virtual one man show, one might have thought so. However, Arab leaders learned early on that keeping Palestinians as pawns to use against Israel was in their interests. Arab states have not done much for Palestinians since 1948, and are unlikely to do so as long as they can be portrayed as victims of white, western Jews. All the oil wealth of S.A., and previously of Iraq, has gained nothing of importance for the Palestinians.
Agreed.

With your words here in mind, would you say that it's hypocritical (or at least ironic) that people label and criticize Israel as expansionist, when Egypt and Jordan were really behaving in the same way? (E.g. holding onto the West Bank and Gaza)
 

pikeshot1600

Ad Honoris
Jul 2009
10,000
Agreed.

With your words here in mind, would you say that it's hypocritical (or at least ironic) that people label and criticize Israel as expansionist, when Egypt and Jordan were really behaving in the same way? (E.g. holding onto the West Bank and Gaza)
Both Gaza and the W.B. are Arab areas, so I would say no. Israel as an "expansionist state" has been driven by its lack of strategic depth on all fronts, so whether one agrees with Israeli policy or not, it is understandable. If the Israelis had not seen themselves as under continuing threat, who knows what may have developed. Whatever the hypothetical possibilities, the political situation in the region is ossified now and is unlikely to change - perhaps ever. My view anyway.