Nasser of Egypt
Livia Rokach – Israel’s sacred terrorism
CHAPTER 10 …. and Topple Nasser’s Regime
At the same cabinet meeting Ben Gurion, according to Sharett’s Diary,:
Tried to prove that Egypt aspires to dominate Africa, westwards to Morocco and southwards to South Africa where one day the blacks will get up and massacre the two million whites and then subject themselves to Egypt’s moral authority…. Nasser, [he said] will probably not react to the occupation of the Gaza Strip because his regime is based solely on the army, and if he tries to fight back he will be defeated and his regime will collapse. The Arab States will probably not come to Nasser’s aid anyway. Finally, the Western powers will not react … militarily. England will not invade the Negev – “and if she will, we shall fight and throw her out in disgrace. . . .” Our force is in the accomplishment of facts -this is the only way for us to become a political factor which has to be taken into consideration. This is the right moment because the Arab world is divided and Egypt has not yet signed an agreement with the U.S. or England. (ibid.)
To prevent an alliance between the West and the Arab world, especially with the most important Arab country- Egypt-was (and was to remain) Israel’s main goal. This had nothing to do with Israel’s security. On the contrary, Ben Gurion’s policy was directed at preventing guarantees from being imposed on the Zionist state by the U.S. . Such guarantees would necessarily imply the achievement of a minimum agreement between Israel and the Arab world (definition of the borders, a “face-saving” solution for the Palestinian refugees). The basic motivation was also clearly stated: the use of force was “the only way” for Israel to become a hegemonic power in the region, possibly in alliance with the West. Nasser had to be eliminated not because his regime constituted a danger for Israel, but because an alliance between the West and his prestigious leadership in the third world, and in the Middle East, would inevitably lead to a peace agreement which in turn would cause the Zionist state to be relativized as just one of the region’s national societies.
That Nasser’s regime did not constitute any danger to lsrael’s existence was well known at the time to the Israelis. Sharett noted:
I expressed my doubts in regard to the [much publicized by Israel] growth of Egypt’s military strength, seeing that this year all the energies of the [Egyptian] army have been absorbed in domestic conflicts and rivalries. . . . About 500 officers, among the best in the Egyptian forces, left the military services [after Nasser replaced Neguib] and passed to administrative and political activities. (30 March 1955)
But Israel’s worldwide campaign had nothing whatever to do with the true facts:
Ben Gurion [in the cabinet meeting] declared that Nasser is the most dangerous enemy of Israel and is plotting to destroy her …. It is not clear where he gets this confidence that [enables him] to express [this] so definitely and decisively as if it were based on solid facts. (24 April 1955)
It was simply directed to mobilize international opinion against Egypt, and prepare a favorable ground for Israel’s imminent military aggression. At the same time, however, Israeli officials were instructed to convince Western governments that the instability of Nasser’s regime did not make it worthy of Western aid and support. As always when their end justified the means, lsrael’s rulers were not at all concerned about the contradiction between their parallel campaigns. To prove Nasser’s weakness they resorted to testimonies by Egyptians:
Gideon Raphael. .. reported on … an interesting meeting with one of the major Egyptian capitalists, Aboud Pasha…. Aboud turned out to be a close friend of Nasser. It seems that he conserved and even strengthened his status under the new regime which is an enemy of capitalism…. According to Aboud, Nasser’s position is unstable in his own ranks. He is constantly nervous and does not know whom to please first. The leadership of the group is divided and conflicts explode between the officers, each of whom leans on the support of a different corps -the air force, the navy, ground forces. The situation is very instable and it is difficult to know what will happen. (31 July 1955, 1 100)
As well as to new attempts at subversion:
I sat with Josh Palmon . . . to hear a report on the continuation of the negotiations with the leaders of the Sudanese Umma party…. One of them will visit Israel soon. Some more possibilities of developing commercial connections between us and them. It is necessary to detach Sudan from economic dependence upon Egypt, and from its sphere of influence.
We are maintaining contacts with Wafd [rightist, nationalist, anti-Nasser Party] exiles in London.(3 October 1955)
The Eisenhower administration seemed divided. State Department pro-Arab elements, according to Sharett, were still pressing for a Western-Arab alliance in the Middle East, and considered an agreement between Washington and Cairo essential to the security and stability of the region, in the words of Israel’s foreign minister. But Israeli pressures were increasingly bearing fruit. After years of contacts and negotiations, Egyptian requests for defensive armaments resulted in no more than, as Mohammed Hassanein Heykal later disclosed, a personal present made to General Neguib in the form of a decorative pistol to wear at ceremonies, and this while Israel’s military aggression was growing more brazen from day to day. No economic aid to speak of was reaching Egypt from the West. And John Foster Dulles’ commitment to help Egypt in the construction of the Aswan Dam had faded into thin air. Cairo was humiliated, while Western verbal regrets after the devastating Israeli attack on Gaza did not seem to have affected in any way Israel’s preparations for an all-out war. Ben Gurion made a public speech on August 8 in which he criticized Sharett’s policy as being aimed only at pleasing the gentiles and pointed towards the destruction of the state. He announced that from now on the foreign minister’s duty will be none else than to explain to the world the defense ministry’s security policies. These factors contributed to extinguishing Cairo’s last illusions. By the end of September 1955, Egypt signed an arms deal with Czechoslovakia intended to secure its survival and self-defense.
On October 1st
Teddy [Kollek] brought in a classified cable from Washington. Our “partner” named [in code] “Ben” [Kermit Roosevelt of the CIA] … describes the terrible confusion prevailing in the State Department under the shock of the Nasser- Czech “i.e., Russian” deal. (Henry) Byroade and all the others who were in favor of U. S. support to Egypt lost their say completely. He adds: “We are surprised at your silence.” When our man asked for the meaning of these words, and whether we are expected to go to war, the answer was: “if, when the Soviet arms arrive, you will hit Egypt no one will protest.” (I October 1955, 1182)
In the cabinet meeting on October 3 at one stage Ben Gurion declared:
“if they really get Migs … I will support their bombing! We can do it!” I understood that he read the cable from Washington. The wild seed has fallen on fertile ground. (3 October 1955)
Isser [Harel, Shin Bet chief] likewise concludes that the U.S. is hinting to us that as far as they are concerned, we have a free hand and God bless us if we act audaciously…. Now … the U.S. is interested in toppling Nasser’s regime, . . . but it does not dare at the moment to use the methods it adopted to topple the leftist government of Jacobo Arbeni in Guatemala [19541 and of Mossadegh in Iran …. It prefers its work to be done by Israel.
Hence, Isser proposes seriously and pressingly … that we carry out our plan for the occupation of the Gaza Strip now…. The situation is changed and there are other reasons which determine that it is “time to act.” First the discovery of oil near the Strip … its defense requires dominating the Strip-this alone is worih dealing with the troublesome question of the refugees. Second, Egypt’s betrayal of the West. This fact eliminates the danger of an armed intervention of the Powers against us. (ibid., 1 186)
Precisely one year later Dayan’s troops occupied the Gaza Strip, Sinai, and the Straits of Tiran and were arrayed along the shore of the Suez Canal to watch the spectacular French and British aerial bombardments of Ismailia and Suez, accompanied by the rapid landing of troops in the Canal Zone. Six months before, as a result of a personal decision of Ben Gurion, Sharett had been eliminated from the government. The premiership had been resumed by the Old Man in November 1955, one month after the U.S. “green light” for an Israeli invasion of Egypt. A vicious whisper campaign had been mounted, to present the foreign minister as incapable of obtaining for Israel the arms necessary for its defense. The atmosphere surrounding Sharett’s departure is significant:
……[Around] the table [in the Cabinet meeting] they all sat in silence. None of my colleagues raised his head to look at me. No one got up to shake my hand, despite everything. It was as if all their merital capacities were paralyzed, as if the freedom of movement was banned from their bodies, the freedom of expression was taken away from their hearts and the freedom of independent action from their consciences. They sat heavy and staring in their silence. Thus I crossed the whole length of the meeting room, and left. ( 18 June 1956)
In the next months the U.S. authorized France to divert to Israel Mirage planes which were already earmarked for NATO. At the moment of the Suez offensive the U.S. feigned surprise, and even indignation. But it made a clear distinction between England and France, the beaten rivals in the inter-imperialist struggle for influence in the Middle East, and Israel. The immediate retreat of Britain and France from Egypt was requested by President Eisenhower within a matter of hours. Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and Sinai was pushed through only four months later and then only thanks to heavy Soviet pressure which threatened to submerge the West in unforeseen complications to world peace. Israel, with the CIA authorization in its pocket, was granted the mitigating circumstances of “security needs” in world opinion’s judgment on that criminal war. The precedent had thus been set, and could only mean that the retreat from Gaza and Sinai was to be purely tactical, as the 1967 war later proved.
As a so-called moderate Zionist, Moshe Sharett’s lifelong assumption had been that lsrael’s survival would be impossible without the support of the West, but that Western so-called morality as well as Western objective interests in the Middle East would never allow the West to support a Jewish state which “behaves according to the laws of the jungle” and raises terrorism to the level of a sacred principle. To prominent Mapai leader David Hacohen, who declared himself convinced that the Israelis should behave in the Middle East as if they were crazy in order to terrorize the Arabs and blackmail the West, he replied: If we shall behave like madmen, we shall be treated as such-interned in a lunatic asylum and isolated from the world. But his adversaries proved him wrong, thereby dealing a crushing blow to his personality as well as to the very hypothesis of moderate Zionism. What they proved was that his supposedly rational assumption was not only fallacious but also unrealistic. In the final analysis the West, and in particular the U.S., let itself be frightened, or blackmailed, into supporting Israel’s megalomanic ambitions, because an objective relationship of complicity already existed and because once pushed into the open this complicity proved capable of serving the cause of Western power politics in the region.21 Just as Zionism, based on the de-Palestinization and the Judaisation of Palestine, was intrinsically racist and immoral, thus the West, in reality, had no use for a Jewish state in the Middle East which did not behave according to the laws of the jungle, and whose terrorism could not be relied on as a major instrument for the oppression of the peoples of the region. There was a fatal but coherent logic in this newly acquired equation, which would determine the course of future events:
I go on repeating to myself:nowadays admit that you are the loser! They showed much more daring and dynamism … they played with fire, and they won. Admit that the balance sheet of the Sinai war is positive. Moral evaluations apart, Israel’s political importance in the world has grown enormously…. You remain alone. Only your son Coby is with you. The public, even your own public, does not share your position. On the contrary. . the public now turns even against its “masters” and its bitterness against the retreat [from Sinai and Gaza] is developing into a tendency to change the political balance in this country in favor of Begin. (4 April 1957)