1980-1989 | Egypt | Secret Collusion

Documents belatedly expose British-Israeli collusion in Suez Crisis

HMS Theseus off Port Said during the Suez crisis.
Source: Imperial War Museum – Public Domain

1 January 1987

On 1 January 1987, the British government belatedly released documents under the thirty year rule, exposing the secret collusion between Britain and Israel to manufacture a phony pretext for military intervention in Egypt during the 1956 Suez crisis.  For years, successive governments had denied such claims, using the thirty year rule as a tool to bury the truth that Israel had agreed to attack Egypt as part of a tripartite plan with Britain and France. The two European powers had always insisted that their military intervention along the Suez canal had nothing to do with maintaining strategic control over the canal and depriving Egypt from exploiting a major national resource, but rather that it was designed solely to secure the peace and keep Egyptian and Israeli forces apart.

The Labour MP Tony Benn commented in his diary that the released papers proved that the grounds for British intervention ‘were completely false,’ that ‘the attack on Egypt was a breach of the UN Charter and international law… that there was aggression and… that the thirty year rule is a complete fraud, used to cover up.’  He also remarked with amazement that Lord Hailsham, who had served in Eden’s 1956 cabinet as First Lord of the Admiralty, was incredibly still serving as a minister, so he seized the moment to send ‘a telegram to Number 10, asking for the immediate suspension of the Lord Chancellor, and for a debate to establish a select committee to investigate Lord Hailsham’s personal complicity in the affair.’  Benn does not mention whether Number 10 deemed his request worthy of any response, but several newspapers caused embarrassment to the government by publishing his letter.1

Initial Israeli-British-French assault – 1-5 November 1956.
Source: US Federal Government – Public Domain


  1. Ruth Winstone (Editor), Tony Benn: The End of an Era: Diaries 1980-90, Hutchinson, London 1992 pp. 487-488.

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