434. Message From Prime Minister Eden to President Eisenhower1

I undertook this morning to send you a further message immediately after we had met Monsieur Mollet and Monsieur Pineau.

It may be that Israel could be accused of a technical aggression. On the other hand, for the reasons set forth in my earlier message, we think that Israel has a case for arguing that she is acting in self-defence under the ever increasing pressure of certain Arab States led by Egypt. Nevertheless we would not wish to support or even condone the action of Israel. We consider that, in view of the massive interests involved, the first thing to do is to take effective and decisive steps to halt the fighting.

We have had to act quickly for time is short, and since there appears to be very little fighting up to now, there is still a chance of preventing serious hostilities. Selwyn is giving a copy of the text of the Declaration to Winthrop.2 I shall be announcing it this afternoon [Page 872] in the House of Commons at 4.30 p.m. This is absolutely necessary, since Parliament is sitting.

The purpose of the Declaration is to make similar requests upon each Party. First, that all hostilities by land and air should cease. Second, that the Canal Zone should be left free so that no fighting or incidents can take place there. But knowing what these people are, we felt it essential to have some kind of physical guarantees in order to secure the safety of the Canal.

We are asking for Port Said and Ismailia and Suez. As the Israelites appear to be very near to Suez, the requirement affects them as well as the Egyptians. We are emphasizing, of course, that this is to be a temporary measure pending a settlement of all these problems.

As I told you in my previous message, we entirely agree that this should go to the Security Council. But, as you know well, the Council cannot move quickly in a critical position and we have felt it right to act, as it were, as trustees to protect the general interest as well as to protect our own interests and nationals. You may say that we should wait until we are asked to move by the Security Council. But, of course, there could never be agreement on such a request.

Either side may refuse; in which case we shall take the necessary measures to enforce the Declaration.

Now you will wonder why apart from the Security Council we have acted so promptly. Of course, my first instinct would have been to ask you to associate yourself and your country with the Declaration. But I know the Constitutional and other difficulties in which you are placed. I think there is a chance that both sides will accept. In any case it would help this result very much if you found it possible to support what we have done, at least in general terms. We are well aware that no real settlement of Middle Eastern problems is possible except through the closest cooperation between our two countries. Our two Governments have tried with the best will in the world all sorts of public and private negotiations through the last two or three years and they have all failed. This seems an opportunity for a fresh start.

I can assure you that any action which we may have to take to follow up the Declaration is not part of a harking back to the old Colonial and occupational concepts. We are most anxious to avoid this impression. Nothing could have prevented this volcano from erupting somewhere. But when the dust settles there may well be a chance for our doing a really constructive piece of work together and thereby strengthening the weakest point in the line against Communism.3

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File. Top Secret. Delivered to the White House under cover of a note from Coulson to President Eisenhower which reads: “The Prime Minister has asked me to send you the enclosed message.”
  2. The Embassy in London transmitted the texts of the messages to Israel and Egypt on October 30 in telegrams 2359 and 2360, respectively. (Department of State, Central Files, 674.84A/10–3056)
  3. Printed from an unsigned copy.