‘The Soviets started the Six-Day War’

By Ahron Bregman, August 28, 2008

In 1967, Arab armies were mobilised and actions taken that eventually culminated in an all-out Israeli-Arab war in which Israel seized the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria and the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan. While most studies on this war tend to focus on the local participants - Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Syria, Foxbats over Dimona by Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez (Yale University Press, £10.99) concentrates instead on the Soviets. And what award-winning Israeli journalists and historians Ginor and Remez tell us is intriguing.

The Soviets, according to the authors, came to the conclusion that Israel was about to acquire nuclear weapons and decided to instigate a war between Israel and its Arab neighbours as a means of stopping Israel from becoming nuclear. The plan was that the Soviets would intervene and destroy the Israeli nuclear programme before it became operational.

Shortly before the war, Moscow spread misinformation - for instance telling Arab allies that Israel intended to attack Syria - to raise the temperature in the Middle East. Soviet flights over the Dimona nuclear reactor in the Negev desert, using the MiG-25 "Foxbat", were part of preparations for the planned confrontation. The devastating Israeli air strike on the morning of June 5, and perhaps the bold American response to the crisis, dispatching the 6th Fleet to the region, thwarted Soviet plans; Dimona was not attacked.

Ginor and Remez's is a well-researched book based on previously unpublished documents, and reveals a compellingly dramatic, if controversial, Cold War aspect to the Six-Day War.

Last updated: 3:17pm, February 18 2011