The Suez Crisis

3 November 2016

The Suez Canal, funded by Egypt and France, opened in 1869 and was of great economic value to both countries. On 26 July 1956, however, Egypt decided to nationalize the Suez Canal. Two months later, the country set up a joint command center with Jordan and Syria. They did this in preparation for the ‘destruction war’ they wanted to wage against Israel. This was the starting point for the Suez Crisis.

Cause of the Suez Crisis

The moment that Egypt subsequently blocks shipping to and from Eilat is the last straw for Israel. They mounted a secret military attack together with Great Britain and France. On 29 October 1956, Israeli troops invade Egypt through the Sinai Desert and work their way to the Suez Canal. On 30 October, it was the turn of Great Britain and France. Both superpowers set an ultimatum for the evacuation of the Suez Canal zone. Israel must also keep its distance.

Suez Canal

Antique illustration of a ship convoy sailing through the Suez canal. Published on L’Illustration, Journal Universel, Paris, 1868.

Since the ultimatum is not obeyed, both countries invade Egypt. The French-British army manages to drive away the Egyptian soldiers, and a truce is called on November 6th. The European troops withdraw from the area and Israel slowly withdraws from Sinai.

In spite of the military action by Israel, the Suez Canal remains in the hands of Egypt. Still, the blockade of Eilat is lifted.

Israel vs. Egypt

Due to the Suez Crisis, the mistrust between Israel and Egypt had increased considerably. It was therefore one of the causes of the 1967 Six-Day War. In this war, Israel defeated its neighboring countries Jordan, Egypt, and Syria, and conquered a lot of territories, including the Sinai Desert.

Relations between Egypt and Israel did not improve until the 1970s. During this period, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords. With this peace agreement, Egypt recognized Israel’s right to exist and, in turn, Israel returned Sinai to Egypt.