New Evidence on the Origins of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War

Continuing the Debate

Nov 05, 2003

In September 2003, CWIHP published new archival evidence on the Soviet role in the outbreak of the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War: Leonid Brezhnev's secret report at a plenary session of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party held on 20 June 1967, entitled "On Soviet Policy Following the Israeli Aggression in the Middle East." A copy of the report was subsequently translated into Polish and circulated among the leadership of the Polish Worker's Party. Based on the version found in the Polish archives (acquired as part of a research project on the Cold War in the Middle East, founded and directed by Mr. Shaul Rahabi of the Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel in cooperation with CWIHP), Dr. Uri Bar-Noi, a lecturer of Soviet history and diplomacy at the Open University in Israel, argues in CWIHP e-Dossier No. 8 (see this website under PUBLICATIONS) that Moscow had no intention of inciting an armed conflict in the Middle East and that the June 1967 war was the result of grave miscalculations and of Soviet inability to control the Arabs.

German historian Dr. Stefan Meining (Bayrischer Rundfunk) recently discovered a German version of Brezhnev's speech in archives of the former East German State Security (Stasi). It is Exhibit A in a new paper, "The Cold War's Longest Cover-Up: How and Why the USSR Instigated the 1967 War," by Dr. Isabella Ginor of the Truman Institute, Hebrew University of Jerusalem in which she differs strongly from Bar-Noi as to the significance of Brezhnev's remarks. She finds evidence that the USSR intentionally instigated the Six-Day War by knowingly disinforming Egypt in mid-May 1967 that Israel was amassing troops on the Syrian frontier. In particular, she cites Brezhnev's assertion that a Soviet warning of Israel's aggressive intent (which he still claimed to have been valid) was transmitted to Egypt and Syria according to a resolution by the Politburo. Other Soviet sources quoted in Ginor's paper demonstrate that the Egyptians were expected to undertake "relative steps." Ginor holds that in view of standard Soviet procedure, this confirmation of a Politburo resolution disproves conventional wisdom that the USSR merely blundered, because of an individual initiative or local occurrence, into a war it neither desired nor planned. Another Stasi document first published in the paper demonstrates that this disinformation measure was characteristic of Soviet Middle Eastern policy.

Ginor also points out that Brezhnev confirmed that the Soviet Navy's flotilla in the Eastern Mediterranean was ordered on June 10 (when an imminent Syrian defeat at Israel's hands appeared to threaten the fall of Damascus) to steam towards the "Syrian" coast. This constitutes an important corroboration of her first publication, based on new Russian sources, of the Soviet operation to assist the Arab side in the war by direct military intervention. The participants' testimonies she cited in a previous paper ("The Russians Were Coming: The Soviet Military Threat in the 1967 Six-Day War", (http://meria.idc.ac.il/journal/2000/issue4/ginor.pdf ) asserted that, after the speed and devastating effect of Israel's pre-emptive air strike on June 5 obviated any intervention to aid Egypt, focus indeed turned north. When a Syrian rout loomed, a naval landing was activated which was aborted shortly before the landing force could reach the Israeli coast.

In her new paper Ginor also cites additional Soviet sources to reinforce her argument that this Soviet intervention was planned well in advance and the mid-May warning to Egypt was designed to elicit a provocative Egyptian response. This would trigger an Israeli first strike; which in turn would enable the USSR to intervene against the "aggressor" and (as Moscow expected) tip the balance of forces in the Arab side's favor. The Arab and Soviet fiasco that actually resulted caused this design to be carefully and consistently covered up by the Soviet and afterwards Russian establishment down to the present.

CWIHP plans to publish the German document on its website in the near future. Meanwhile, Ginor's paper, "The Cold War's Longest Cover-Up: How and Why the USSR Instigated the 1967 War" is accessible at the website of Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal [Volume 7, issue 3, September 2003). Copyright MERIA. For a free subscription to MERIA, write gloria@idc.ac.il. Click here to see all MERIA publications. To see the work of MERIA's publisher, visit the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center.

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