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Sèvres Protocol (1956)


Secret Israeli-British-French agreement.

The Sèvres Protocol was the product of secret negotiations among British, French, and Israeli leaders at a villa in Sèvres, a Paris suburb, from 22 to 24 October 1956 to initiate war against Nasser's Egypt. The protocol reflects diverse grievances: Britain was concerned about loss of control over the Suez Canal; France was disturbed about Egyptian support for Algerian rebels; Israel was anxious about Egypt's active support for terrorist incursions, the blockade of its southern port, Elat, and massive arms purchases from Czechoslovakia. Interests coalesced during the summer of 1956, with the French serving as the essential intermediary between the British and Israelis, who were deeply suspicious of each other.

The protocol began with a plan for inaugurating an attack across Sinai by Israel on 29 October with the aim of reaching the Suez Canal a day later. The British and French were to issue an ultimatum to both sides on 30 October calling for a cease-fire and for separating the contending parties beyond a zone of ten miles on either side of the canal. Anticipating Egyptian rejection, Britain and France were to occupy that zone while Israel was to clear the Egyptian blockade of Elat by occupying the islands of Tiran and Sinafir at the southern end of the Red Sea. There was also a French annex to the protocol providing for an aerial umbrella and a naval presence to secure Israel proper from Egyptian attack. The protocol was signed by Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion, French foreign minister Christian Pineau, and British deputy secretary of state and chairman of the joint intelligence committee Patrick Dean. After the signing, the three governments fulfilled their obligations although they denied the existence of the negotiations and the protocol. Eager to hide evidence of this "collusion," British prime minister Anthony Eden shredded the document and the French misplaced it. Surviving copies are to be found in Israeli archives, where evidence of the first instance of cooperation with Western powers was treasured.

see also arabisrael war (1956); suez crisis (19561957).


Troen, S. Ilan. "The Protocol of Sèvres: British/French/Israeli Collusion in 1956." Israel Studies 1, no. 2 (fall 1996): 122139.

s. ilan troen

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