When Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956, Israel invaded Egypt and quickly captured the vast Sinai peninsula. This provoked an international backlash. The United Nations Security Council issued a resolution calling on Israel to withdraw in exchange for a UN protection force in the Sinai.
Israel mostly complied, but President Dwight D. Eisenhower insisted that Israeli forces withdraw completely. In February 1957, he threatened to withhold more than $100 million in annual US aid if they didn’t.
Within less than a month, all Israeli troops had left, and by late March oil was flowing through the Suez once again.
While Eisenhower took a firm stance, believing that “the future of the United Nations and peace in the Middle East may be at stake,” throughout the crisis he emphasized America’s friendship with Israel.
“I need not assure you of the deep interest which the United States has in your country, nor recall the various elements of our policy of support to Israel in so many ways,” he wrote in a letter to Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion on Nov. 7, 1956. “It is in this context that I urge you to comply with the resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly dealing with the current crisis and to make your decision known immediately. It would be a matter of the greatest regret to all my countrymen if Israeli policy on a matter of such grave concern to the world should in any way impair the friendly cooperation between our two countries.”
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