On this day: The Soviet Union cuts ties with Israel

February 11 1953: Caught in a Cold War


In 1947, The Soviet Union was one of 33 countries to vote in favour of the United Nation’s partition plan for Palestine. Almost immediately after Israel declared its independence on May 14 1948, the Soviet Union offered recognition, along with the United States and other Western powers.

It was not to last. The Soviet Union, as would almost all of its satellites, cut ties with Israel less than five years later.

For the next 35 years, the Soviets pursued largely pro-Arab policies and Israel was a pawn in a much wider game between the US and USSR.

The Soviets helped train and arm the Arab regimes. In all conflicts with the Arab world, from the Six Day War to the Yom Kippur War and everything else, where the US and USSR got involved the focus was on keeping the balance of power in the Middle East.

Russia’s Jewish community, which had lived for centuries an oppressed minority in the Pale of Settlement, continued to be repressed under the secularism of the Soviet Union and its KGB. Many “refuseniks”, including the now-head of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharaksky, were imprisoned for their dissident human rights activities.

When the Berlin wall fell, relations with Israel warmed up and post-communist Russia restored full recognition of the Jewish state in January 1992. In 2005 Russian President Vladimir Putin made history by becoming the first Soviet or Russian head of state to visit Israel.

Meanwhile, many former Soviet citizens moved to Israel – the population is now about 20 per cent Russian and Soviet in descent. There are still at least 400,000 Jews living in Russia, with some estimates putting the figure closer to a million.

What the JC said: Mr Vyshinsky, the Soviet Foreign Minister, summoned the Israeli Minister, dr samuel Eliashiv, to the Kremlin at 1amm and hhanded him a Note saying the Soviet authorities were taking this step because of the terrorist act” agaunst the Russian mission in Tel Aviv. The Note, published yesterday without comment in the leading Russian newspapers, demanded that diplomats at the Israeli Legation leave Moscow without delay.

See more from the JC archives here.

    Last updated: 8:46am, February 11 2011