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Britain-Israel Relations: Cabinet Discusses Sanctions On Israel In Suez War

(February 11, 1957)

CONCLUSIONS of a Meeting of the Cabinet held at 10 Downing Street, S.W. 1,
on Monday, 11th February, 1957, at 10-30 a.m.


The Foreign Secretary said that he had been considering, in consultation with the Prime Minister, how best to avoid a vote in the United Nations on the application of sanctions against Israel. It now seemed less likely that this situation would arise. For in official circles in Washington there was a growing recognition that the application of sanctions against Israel would be a dangerous precedent; and the Canadian Government were considering the possibility of framing a more constructive resolution.

The Prime Minister said that the realistic solution was for Israel to withdraw her troops from the Gaza Strip and from the Gulf of Aqaba simultaneously with the arrival of United Nations forces charged with responsibility for securing those areas from attack by either side. If we could make it plain that we favoured a constructive solution on these lines, either by bringing forward a resolution of our own or by sponsoring a Canadian resolution, the Arab States would be more likely to accept without reprisal our refusal to support a resolution imposing sanctions against Israel. In that event, if a sanctions resolution were moved, it should be possible for us to abstain from voting on it.

In discussion there was general agreement with the views expressed by the Prime Minister.

The Cabinet—

Invited the Foreign Secretary to ascertain the views of the United Kingdom Representative at the United Nations on the question whether it would be tactically advantageous for us to sponsor a constructive resolution on the lines contemplated by the Canadian Government.

The Foreign Secretary said that it now seemed possible that the Suez Canal might be opened for the passage of small ships by the beginning of March. It was therefore becoming increasingly urgent that a satisfactory arrangement should be made for the payment of dues. It now seemed clear that the United States Government would oppose any interim system for the payment of dues which would prejudge the question of ownership of the Canal. This was reassuring; and the responsibility for pressing for an early settlement of this question could be left, for the present, with the United States Government and the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The Foreign Secretary said that, in pursuance of the Cabinet’s decision of 7th February, H.M. Ambassador at Amman had been instructed to press our claims for over-flying and air-staging rights in Jordan. It now appeared that the Jordan Government were ready to concede these rights, which were at least as much in their interests as in our own; but they were reluctant, for political reasons, that any public announcement should be made. We for our part were anxious to get an early agreement on the other questions at issue, so as to avoid a unilateral denunciation of the Treaty by Jordan. Would our needs be sufficiently met if the agreement on over-flying and air-staging rights were handled separately from the general Heads of Agreement on the Treaty and covered by a separate exchange of letters which, for the time being, would remain secret?

The Minister of Defence said that, so long as a firm and binding agreement was reached, it was not essential that it should immediately be made public. He doubted however whether it would be possible to avoid publication for any length of time; for we should certainly be asked, as soon as the negotiation of the main Agreement had been completed, what arrangements we had made for the continuance of our over-flying and air-staging rights. 

The Cabinet—

Invited the Foreign Secretary to arrange for the Foreign Office to consider, in consultation with the Ministry of Defence, whether means could be devised of securing our essential requirements for over-flying and air-staging rights in Jordan consistently with the desire of the Jordan Government that these concessions should be kept secret for the time being; and took note that the results of this further consideration would be reported to the Prime Minister for his approval.  

Sources:British Archives: CAB/128/31/10