EISENHOWER REGRETTED HE PUSHED FOR SINAI WITHDRAWAL
By: Dr. Joseph Lerner Date: 16 January, 1997 (redistributed 21 December
When President Bill Clinton won his second term, Rowland Evans and
Robert Novak joined forces to put out a column urging him to follow
the example of President Dwight Eisenhower to "stand up to Bibi
"Remember what Eisenhower did to Israel in Sinai!" is embedded in
American middle east policy. For Zionists it is a reminder of the
U.S. at its roughest. For Israel's opponents, it is the optimal
In Israel's 1956 joint military undertaking with Britain and
France, Eisenhower warned Israel of severe consequences were she
not to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and Sinai. All U.S.
assistance would end and financial contributions to Israeli
institutions would lose their tax exempt status. There would be
serious U.N. declarations and the U.S.S.R. might intervene. After
only two days of these warnings Israel complied.
Peter Golden in his "authorized biography" of Max M. Fisher "Quiet
Diplomat" (1992) relates that in October 1965 Fisher met with
President Eisenhower in Gettysburg to get agreement to accept the
U.J.A. medal for his role in the liberation of the Nazi
concentration camps twenty years earlier. French General Pierre
Keonig leader of the French Resistance and British Field Marshall
Alexander were also to be honored.
Golden reports that toward the end of the visit Eisenhower
"wistfully commented 'You know, Max, looking back at Suez, I regret
what I did. I never should have pressured Israel to evacuate the
Sinai'" (all references are to pages xvii and xvix). Eisenhower's
remark astonished Fisher.
Fisher was not the only one who was told of Eisenhower's change of
mind. Nixon told Golden: "Eisenhower...in the 1960s told me -- and
I am sure he told others -- that he thought the action that was
taken (at Suez) was one he regretted. He thought it was a
Although Fisher knew this for 27 years before publication of his
"authorized biography" he evidently never sought to give it
publicity beyond the biography. It is still essentially unknown.
Had Eisenhower's rethought position been known in 1965, it might
well have been helpful to Israel.
After reading the biography, I wrote Fisher asking why he hadn't
publicized this change in Eisenhower's thinking. Unfortunately,
he canceled our scheduled meeting in Jerusalem.
The Gettysburg visit brought a change in Fisher's life aspirations.
Golden relates that Eisenhower "almost as an afterthought" as they
started to depart said: "Max, if I had a Jewish advisor working
for me, I doubt I would have handled the situation the same way.
I would not have forced the Israelis back." Fisher was
"struck...with the impact of epiphany. If Fisher had been unsure
of the of the extent of power an unofficial advisor could wield
with a president, he now had his answer, and from an unimpeachable
source: the influence exerted could be decisive. It was exactly
the role Fisher hoped to play."
Author Peter Golden regarded Fisher's 1965 Gettysburg visit with
Eisenhower so crucial that he related it in biography's
introduction titled "Eisenhower and the Revelation of Sinai". Yet,
somehow that revelation escaped the attention it deserved.
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