Drawing mainly on the diary of Israeli politician Moshe Sharett, this article examines the circumstances surrounding his forced resignation as foreign minister in 1956. It was Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion who insisted on Sharett’s removal but refused to reveal his reasons publicly. This examination of why Sharett was sacked also offers wider insight into conflicts between activism and restraint within Israel’s political and military elite in the lead-up to the Sinai War.
This paper re-examines Canada’s response to the Suez Crisis within the context of its overall approach to the Middle East in the early 1950s. It reminds contemporary readers that most Canadian policymakers, including Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent and his Secretary of State for External Affairs, Lester B. Pearson, viewed the distant and unfamiliar region with reserve, as one better left to the Great Powers to sort out. That view only changed in 1956, when the Suez Crisis, Anglo-American discord, and the possibility of nuclear war threatened Canadian strategic interests, transforming Canada into a small regional stakeholder.
Abba Eban, Israel’s ambassador in Washington and representative at the United Nations from 1950 to 1959, had a central role in the transformation of American–Israeli relations during a period of frequent discord over key strategic issues. This analysis examines the influence of one prominent actor upon bilateral ties that would eventually become the American–Israeli “special relationship.” Eban’s oratory talent, linguistic skills, and effective style of diplomacy augmented both Israel’s image in the view of the American public and relations with official Washington. The article explores several critical elements of these relations during the 1950s, re-examining both Eban’s involvement in events such as Israel’s approach toward the problem of borders, its policy of military retaliation, and the response to severe American pressure following the 1956 Sinai campaign. Whilst not attributing the development of close relations between the two Powers solely to the works of a single individual, evidence suggests that Eban was the right man in the right place and time to provide the necessary foundations for the elevation of American–Israeli relations to “special” in the following decade.
This article examines Israel’s decision to launch the 1956 campaign against Egypt. While the current literature tends to argue that, in 1956, the campaign was a response by Israel to security threats, it is suggested here that, if so, these threats certainly did not predetermine any specific response. Israel could, for example, have responded by adopting a defensive posture. In reality, domestic factors were just as influential as external ones. The most important of these was the severe economic crisis caused by mass immigration to Israel during 1948–1951. This crisis in turn led to the creation in 1953–1956 of a war coalition whose three components—David Ben-Gurion (Prime Minister and Minister of Defence), MAPAI’s party bosses and the army—had different interests but shared the idea of a war against Israel’s Arab neighbours as a way in which each could advance its preferred aims.
With the conclusion of almost every round of hostilities between Israel and one of its neighbours the idea of international forces is being raised once again. This is basically an improved and revised initiative for stationing international forces to supervise (and perhaps impose) a ceasefire between the parties. In the Arab–Israeli framework, it is in essence the old approach which has been in service since 1948. Only one force, UNEF, stands out as not having been approved by the Security Council and clearly failing its intended but vaguely defined mission. The current analysis leads to the conclusion that in this particular regional conflict, the positioning of international forces must always come within the context of a more comprehensive settlement. That way, by violating a force’s mandate, each party would lose either land or diplomatic recognition. Moreover, if a Middle Eastern peacekeeping operation is to take place in the future, it has to include organic units of the warring parties, encouraging peaceful interactions. Such units should reinforce organic units from countries acceptable to all parties. Hopefully, future missions, taking into consideration some of the approaches suggested here, can continue to contribute to regional processes for peace.
Hebrew translation from French original: La France et Israël, 1947-1970 : de la création de l’État d’Israël au départ des vedettes de Cherbourg (Paris : Champion, 2009).
רוסמן, מרים. יחסי צרפת-ישראל. מקום המדינה עד לפרשיית ספינות שרבורג. תרגום: הילה קרס. תל אביב: רסלינג, 2014.
בשנים 1947-1970 בלטו יחסי ישראל-צרפת בשילוב שבין כובד משקלה של השואה, צילה של המדיניות הצרפתית ביחס לערבים והמקרה הייחודי של מדינה שאך נולדה והמשך קיומה בלתי ודאי. ספרה של מירי רוסמן מבקש לרדת לשורשם של היחסים בין שתי המדינות ולבחון את המטען המורכב שביסוד מדיניות החוץ שלהן. לפנינו מחקר חדשני המבוסס על עדויות חדשות וארכיונים שלא היו פתוחים בעבר. המחברת הצליחה להגיע למסמכים נדירים כמו אוספים של מדינאים צרפתים, מסמכים של האו”ם ושל משרד החוץ הצרפתי. לאלה הצטרפו הארכיונים של חיל האוויר וצבא היבשה הצרפתים שבוַונסֶן, ארכיוני צה”ל, ארכיוני המדינה והארכיונים הלאומיים. את המסמכים הכתובים משלים מספר רב של עדויות מפי אישים מהשורה הראשונה, למשל רנה בלוך, קוב דה מורוויל, מוקה לימון ושמעון פרס.
הספר פותח בניצחון בעלות הברית ובמלחמה הקרה: צרפת כבר איננה מעצמה, ובמקביל היא מתמודדת עם קשיים כלכליים ופוליטיים מפנים ומחוץ. היא מסייעת לפעילות הציונית אך גם מהססת ביחס לתוכנית החלוקה, כמו גם ביחס לעצם ההכרה במדינת ישראל. חלקו השני של הספר עוסק בשנים 1953-1962, והוא מתאר כיצד עברו יחסי צרפת וישראל מנורמליזציה ל”אידיליה” אשר בשיאה שיתוף הפעולה במבצע קדש. החלק השלישי והאחרון מתאר את מדיניות החוץ הצרפתית בעקבות עצמאות אלג’יריה בשנת 1962, בעיקר חידוש קשריה עם העולם הערבי. פרשת ספינות שרבורג בשנת 1969 בראשות מוקה לימון וגירושו מצרפת מגלמים את סופה של הקרבה הייחודית בין המדינות.
Following the military campaign that Israel waged in the Sinai Peninsula in the fall of 1956, it found itself, at the beginning of 1957, involved in a political controversy over the international demand that it retreat from captured areas. Both the military and diplomatic campaigns were to have a significant influence on the development of the special political relationship and ensuing security rapport between Israel and the FRG (Federal Republic of Germany). It was during these months of military confrontation and political tensions that the particular and distinct ties of trust and understanding also began to crystallize between Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. These were based on a similarity of views held by these statesmen regarding the inter-bloc confrontation, but, in particular, on Ben-Gurion’s full realization of Adenauer’s commitment to the existence, security and prosperity of the State of Israel. Following the Sinai Campaign a change also occurred among leading FRG politicians, who now began to see Israel as a strategic asset in the Cold War.
It can therefore be concluded that at the end of 1956 and beginning of 1957, both in Bonn and in Jerusalem, policy makers began to think in new terms of the relationship between Israel and the FRG, even if the issues were not yet being discussed in depth in either of the capitals. In Bonn, the chancellor and those close to him, as well as the foreign minister and the new defense minister, were deeply impressed by the military campaign that Israel conducted and showed their understanding, without letting this be known publicly, of its security needs.
Based on various statements made by Adenauer, it appears that in complete opposition to the stance of the U.S. government, he accepted Israel’s declared position that defined the attack on Sinai as an act of self-defense. More than anything else, Israel began to be seen in the minds of the FRG leadership as a Western stronghold against Soviet expansion. At the same time, an understanding in Jerusalem developed that Bonn was likely to help Israel not only because of its “historic debt” but also on account of political considerations that were connected to the inter-bloc confrontation in the international arena, and specifically to NATO and the U.S.