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Dwight Eisenhower Administration: Exchange with Israeli PM Ben-Gurion Over Egyptians in Gaza

(March 13, 16, 1957)

The re-entry of Egyptian forces into the Gaza Strip violated the arrangements agreed upon and was the subject of an exchange of letters between the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of the United States, excerpts of which follow.

Ben-Gurion to Eisenhower
March 13, 1957

If immediate and effective steps are not taken to ensure, in the words of Secretary Dulles, the "de facto exclusion" of the Egyptians from the Strip, and to halt the regression to the status quo ante of tension, violence and blockade, I fear that the area will once more be cast into the throes of a most grave crisis.

It is my fervent hope that Israel will not have to make use of its right of self-defense, as we announced in the General Assembly of the United Nations on 1 March, that we might have to do under certain circumstances, and as was noted by the United States and other Governments.

Mr. President, I place my reliance on your assurance that we shall have no cause to regret our withdrawal.

Eisenhower replies to Ben-Gurion
March 16, 1957

I have received your message of 13 March delivered through Ambassador Eban. I want you to know that we are following recent developments affecting Gaza with concern and are working hard to the end that the objectives of peace and tranquillity in the area will be achieved.

The United States has made clear its hopes with respect to the situation which should prevail following the Israeli withdrawal. We shall continue to strive to see to it that these hopes materialize. It is, of course, obvious that this will involve many difficulties and will raise questions which the United States alone cannot decide. The problems with which we are confronted have been for a long time in the making, and patience and forbearance are required in our task of seeking a solution to them. I am sure you will agree that it is of the utmost importance that the greatest restraint be exercised by all concerned and that there be avoided any precipitate action which might result in a deterioration of the situation and a risk of undoing all that has been accomplished.

My personal interest in the establishment of stability and tranquillity in the area continues deep. I look forward to continuing close consultation with your Government on the problems involved.

Sources: Public Papers of the President