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

Superpower rivalry

Author: Joseph Heller

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.

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