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Superpower rivalry
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Four questions stand before the historian of the cold war and the Arab-Israeli conflict: 1) Did Israel and the US have a 'special relationship'? 2) Were Soviet-Israeli relations destined for failure from 1948? 3) Was the Arab-Israeli conflict insoluble because of the cold war or in spite of it? 4)Was detente between the superpowers the key to solving the Arab-Israeli conflict? Israel failed to get a security guarantee from the US because if it were granted ally status the Arab states would turn to the Soviets. Instead of a security guarantee Kennedy used the nebulous term 'special relationship', which did not bind America politically or militarily. Relations with the USSR looked promising at first, but the Zionist ideology of the Jewish state made it inevitable that relations with would worsen , since the Kremlin rejected the notion that Soviet Jews were by definition part of the Jewish nation, and therefore candidates for emigration to Israel. As for the Arabs, they were adamant that the Palestinian refugees return en mass, which meant the destruction of of Israel. No compromise suggested by the US was acceptable to to the Arabs , who were always supported by the USSR.The Soviets demanded detente cover not only the Arab states and Israel, but Turkey and Iran as well. Consequently the Middle East remained a no-man's-land between the superpowers' spheres of influence, inexorably paving the way for the wars in 1956 and 1967.

Joseph Heller

This chapter shows the inexorable deterioration of Soviet-Israel relations. The first Soviet veto demonstrated that whatever Israel did to improve relations, the Kremlin image of Israel was fixed as part of the western bloc. The height of the worsening relations was the Czech-Egyptian deal, which tipped the military balance in the Arabs' favour. The Israeli government. Headed by Moshe Sharett, realized its ominous strategic implications. Sharett himself failed to realize to convince western statesmen to compensate Israel. Egypt's Nasser gained crucial Soviet military and economic aid, while Israel suffered a serious strategic and diplomatic defeat. The only option for Israel was to join the Anglo-French 'collusion' against Egypt. The lack of American support, and joining Britauin and France in attacking Egypt, left Israel with the danger of Soviet offensive. Khrushchev's threat to bomb Israel was taken seriously by Israel, particularly in view of Soviet support for the Arabs in their conflict with Israel.

in The United States, the Soviet Union and the Arab– Israeli conflict, 1948– 67
Joseph Heller

Israel was now trapped between East and West. The East openly and fully supported the Arabs, while the west stood aloof, except for France which supplied Israel with a minimum of necessary weapons. However, Israel knew that what it needed was a security guarantee from the most powerful western power. Yet, the new administration in America, headed by President Eisenhower, was not favourable to Israel. The new secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, wanted to build a regional alliance based on Turkey and the Arab states. Although he discovered that the majority Arab states were unwilling to join a western alliance, he was far from agreeing to Israel's need for deterrence. Together with the British he planned to reduce Israel's territory and to convince it to accept some of the Palestinian refugees (the Alpha plan). The Czech-Egyptian arms deal did not change American policy in Israel's favour.

in The United States, the Soviet Union and the Arab– Israeli conflict, 1948– 67
Joseph Heller

This chapter is dominated by John Foster Dulles, who navigated America's foreign relations. His main idea was to prevent the Middle East from becoming a third cold war front, in addition to the Far East and western Europe. Israel , however, rejecting Dulles demand for border concessions, continued to press the US for a security guarantee, although its chances for implementation were nil. Israel's retaliatory acts against Jordan reduced US confidence in Israel's strategic requirements. Anderson's mission to Israel ended in failure, since Israel could not concede its basic interests. Israel's attack on Egypt in cooperation with France and Britain rook the US bu surprise, but America acted immediately punish Israel by imposing financial sanctions. The failure of the Suez campaign left Israel with more isolated, and in danger that the Soviet-Arab combination, along with American apathy, might threaten its very existence.

in The United States, the Soviet Union and the Arab– Israeli conflict, 1948– 67
Joseph Heller

Israel security remained a pawn of the superpowers' rivalry even after its military victory in the campaign. However, if it had not won either political or a diplomatic victory. The Eisenhower administration was haunted by the nightmare of losing the middle East to the Soviets which would deny the west vital Arab oil. Consequently, the US pressed Israel to withdraw from Sinai, to the extent of threatening economic sanctions. The Soviet Union could punish Israel by trying to expel it from the UN. Israel's government , particularly Ben-Gurion, said that the withdrawal from the Sinai peninsula, the straits of Tiran and the Gaza strips should be conditioned on a strong security arrangement. Israel had no choice but to succumb to the pressures of the superpowers.

in The United States, the Soviet Union and the Arab– Israeli conflict, 1948– 67
Joseph Heller

The aftermath of the Sinai campaign found Israel increasingly fearful the Soviets would fulfil their threats, while Israel was without any security guarantee from the west. Ben-Gurion explained to western leaders including De Galle, that Khrushchev was serious in his threats against Israel and the west in general. Khrushchev believed capitalism was doomed and that communism would dominate the world. In addition, anti-Semitism was prevalent both in the Kremlin and the country at large. Khrushchev denial was merely a lip service. The Israeli government was afraid lest Khrushchev tried to either assimilate the Soviet Jews or expel them to Birobidzhan. Ben-Gurion was particularly frightened by the implications for Israel's security of the successful launching of the Soviet Sputnik. He appreciated that the USSR had supplied Egypt with a nuclear reactor as well as missiles.

in The United States, the Soviet Union and the Arab– Israeli conflict, 1948– 67
Joseph Heller

The year 1956 witnessed serious crises in the Middle East which had a direct influence on Israel's security. The unity of Egypt and Syria (UAR), the coup in Iraq, and the danger to Lebanon's independence and Nasser's possible takeover of Jordan all had a direct bearing on Israel's survival. The establishment of UAR in particular haunted Ben-Gurion, who feared that the complete encirclement of Israel was in the offing. Thus in view of Soviet enmity, Israel again looked tyo the US to improve its deterrent capability. However, the Eisenhower administration was still trapped in the nightmare of the Arab Middle East joining the Soviet bloc, should America become Israel's patron. Ben-Gurion's visit to America proved that the administration had not changed its basic strategy. Ben-Gurion failed to get a stronger commitment than the Eisenhower doctrine for the territorial integrity of all the states in the region.

in The United States, the Soviet Union and the Arab– Israeli conflict, 1948– 67
Joseph Heller

Kennedy's presidency marked a new era, but not to the extent of fulfilling Israel's goals. It stopped treating Jewish emigration to Israel as escalating the conflict with the Arabs, and took Israel's security issues more seriously. That led to the American decision to supply Israel with the Hawk missiles, although Israel was disappointed because they were defensive missiles, while Egypt had already offensive weapons, such as bombers and missiles. However, US was trying hard to convince Egypt side with the west by launching a new initiative to solve the Arab refugee question. Israel knew the return of the refugees would be the equivalent of the annihilation of the state of Israel. Ben-Gurion met Kennedy but could not convince him that Israel should be treated as an ally. Kennedy did not promise the immediate supply of Hawk missiles, and warned Israel against developing nuclear weapons, which would damage American-Israeli relations, In view of Soviet –Arab alliance Israel was left with no choice but to build the Dimona nuclear facility, thus gaining a powerful bargaining card.

in The United States, the Soviet Union and the Arab– Israeli conflict, 1948– 67
Joseph Heller

This chapter debunks the myth that President Kennedy was the 'father' of the American alliance. Once he became predident he had to bow before the constraints of the state department, the Pentagon and the professional staff at the White House. he accepted the beliefs and assessments of Dean Rusk, the secretary of state and Robert McNamara, the secretary of defence. The US national archives show that American diplomats in the Middle East killed Kennedy's idea of granting an American security guarantee to Israel. Any security they warned, would be followed by deeper Soviet involvement in the region. American commitment was limited to a presidential declaration of territorial integrity of al the regional states. Thus it was no surprise chief-of-staff Rabin failed to convince the US administration to provide a more cogent commitment to Israel.

in The United States, the Soviet Union and the Arab– Israeli conflict, 1948– 67
Joseph Heller

Soviet-Israeli relations deteriorated because of the growing Arab dependenceon the USSR, the Soviet refusal to permit Soveit Jew to emigrate to Israel, and increasing anti-Semitism. Khrushchev's denial of the existence of anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union only drove Israel to upgrade its campaign for emigration, although Israel acknowledged that the Soviet Jewish problem could best be solved by detente. The increase of anti-Semitism reached its peak when the Ukrainian Academy of Science published a violently anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist book claiming that Ben-Gurion eliminated the Ten Commandments, and compared Zionisn to Nazism. However, the Israeli leadership was unable to convince more than few intellectuals to raise their voices in favour of Soviet Jews.

in The United States, the Soviet Union and the Arab– Israeli conflict, 1948– 67