From Friends to Foes
The Deterioration of Soviet-Israeli Relations in the Mid-20th Century
This paper sheds light on an often overlooked, but integral, chapter in Soviet and modern Middle Eastern history as it investigates the rise and fall of auspicious Soviet-Israeli relations in the 1940s and 1950s. In the mid-20th century, Soviet support for Israel played a crucial role in the formation and survival of the nascent state. However, within the span of just a few years, the Soviet bloc adopted an antagonistic attitude towards Israel. This paper utilizes two analytical approaches to explain the abrupt shift in Soviet-Israeli ties. The first approach involves a delineation of five events, each of which played a decisive role in fomenting increasingly greater tension between the Soviet bloc and the Middle Eastern state. In the second analytical method, the article critically analyzes the Soviet bloc’s ostensibly friendly period with Israel to demonstrate that Moscow’s primary goal was to gain a strategic foothold in the Middle East. Combining both approaches, the paper ultimately claims that a nuanced understanding of key historical processes in the mid-20th century, as well as a critical look at underlying Soviet motivations in the Middle East, are needed to explain the eventual souring of Soviet-Israeli relations. More generally, the paper argues that the disintegration of Soviet-Israeli relations in the mid-20th century must be elucidated via a broader understanding of the dynamics of Cold War politics..