On July 23, 1952, a clandestine military group known as the Free Offi cers led by General Muhammad Naguib and Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser launched a bloodless coup against Egyptian King Farouk and his royal family. Th is event was known as the July Revolution, and the Free Offi cers radically altered Egypt by ousting the Turco-Circassian elite that had ruled for centuries during Ottoman rule. Th ey were young, revolutionary, and transformed Egypt from a British-backed monarchy into an independent republic. Naguib, the older and more experienced, served as president and prime minister until Nasser, who served as deputy prime minister and interior minister, ousted him from power. Nasser became prime minister in 1954 and ruled Egypt largely behind the scenes until being sworn in as president on June 23, 1956.1

Th e Jewish state of Israel, bordered by four Arab nations including Egypt, was not initially perceived by Nasser as a threat. On the contrary, prior to 1955, the United States (US) and United Kingdom (UK) viewed him as a moderate capable of reaching a peace agreement with Israel.2 In a December 1953 interview with a British labor minister, Nasser announced that he had no desire to destroy Israel and that “the idea of throwing the Jews into the sea is propaganda.”3 On August 20, 1954, he told the New York Times that “the Arabs do not plan to attack Israel,”4 and on December 20, 1954, he told Foreign Aff airs magazine that Egypt did not seek to be “the initiators of the confl ict.”5 Nasser’s aversion to combat with Israel and war in general was expressed in his 1955 memoir in which he described serving as a major during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War: “I felt from the depths of my heart that I hated war. Not only this particular war in which we were engaged, but the idea of war itself. I felt that humanity does not deserve the honor of life if it does not strive with all its heart in the cause of peace.”6