Israel between East and West, 1948-1956
International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 36:4, November 2004, 657-673.
The two main issues in
Israel’s foreign policy are relations with the Arab world and
relations with the Great Powers and there is an extensive literature on
both. But whereas the literature on the latter is marked by a broad
consensus, the literature on the former is dominated by a deep and
often acrimonious debate. A major landmark in the evolution of this
debate was the emergence in the late 1980s of a school of
‘new’ or revisionist Israeli historians. Among the members
of this group were Simha Flapan, Benny Morris, Ilan Pappe, and the
present author. We were called the ‘new
historians’ because we challenged the traditional Zionist
narrative of the birth of Israel and of the first Arab-Israeli war. The
momentous events that unfolded in 1948 were the main focus of the
debate. Subsequent books by some of these authors extended the
critique of Israel’s policy in the conflict to the
The debate between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’
historians has been going on for nearly two decades and it is still
By contrast, the
literature on Israel’s international orientation has been much
less contentious and much less controversial. While differences on
specific issues and episodes undoubtedly exist, there is no alternative
school of thought about the shift in Israel’s posture from
non-alignment in 1948 to close alignment with the West by 1956.
Agreement on the broad contours of the story of how Israel came to be
aligned with the West should not be confused, however, with lack of
progress in scholarship on the subject. On the contrary, the
declassification of official documents in Israeli, Western, and Soviet
archives makes it possible for scholars to write in much greater detail
and depth than in the past about Israel’s relations with both
East and West in the first decade of statehood. The purpose
of this article is review Israel’s policy in world politics
during this critical decade in the light some of the new evidence that
is now available.
One of the
original imperatives of Zionist strategy in world politics was an
alliance with a Great Power. External support was essential for the
project of building an independent Jewish state in Palestine. From the
very beginning, towards the end of the 19th century, the Zionist
movement displayed two features which were to be of fundamental and
enduring importance in its subsequent history: the non-recognition of a
Palestinian national entity, and the quest for an alliance with a Great
Power external to the Middle East. Theodor Herzl, the visionary of the
Jewish state, exemplified both of these features. He assumed that the
Zionist movement would achieve its goal not through an understanding
with the local Palestinians but through an alliance with the dominant
Great Power of the day. And he was tireless in his search for an
external sponsor. In the formative period of the movement, the weakness
of the Yishuv, the pre-independence Jewish community in Palestine, and
the growing hostility of the Palestinians combined to make the reliance
on a Great Power a central element in Zionist strategy. The
dominant Great Power in the Middle East changed several times in the
course of the twentieth century; first it was the Ottoman Empire, after
the First World War it was Great Britain, and after the Second World
War it was the United States. But the Zionist fixation with
enlisting the support of the Great Powers in the struggle for statehood
and in the consolidation of statehood remained constant.
The birth of the State of
Israel in 1948 coincided with the onset of the Cold War between East
and West. In 1947, as the struggle for Palestine entered its critical
phase, the United States and the Soviet Union came out in support of
the establishment of an independent Jewish state. Both superpowers
voted in favour of the UN resolution for the partition of Palestine and
the establishment of a Jewish state in what was one of rare occasions
of agreement between them during the Cold War. This was followed up
with political support, diplomatic recognition, and, in the case of the
Soviet Union, the supply of vital military aid to the fledgling state.
Israel thus came into the world under uniquely propitious international
circumstances: it enjoyed the support of both East and West in its
struggle for independence.
But the new state’s
international position was paradoxical in a number of ways. In the
first place, far away countries accorded it diplomatic recognition
while its immediate neighbours did not. Geographically, it was located
in Asia but culturally it regarded itself as part of the West. In order
to keep on good terms with both East and West, the newly-born state
adopted a policy of i-hizdahut, of non-identification in the global
struggle between the two camps. Michael Comay, a senior official at the
Foreign Ministry, summed up both the dilemma and the solution:
‘At the birth of the state there were two godfathers - the United
States and the Soviet Union. To try to retain the support of both, we
adopted a posture of non-identification, of keeping out of the Cold
There were other, no less
compelling reasons for the posture of non-identification. One was
Israel’s sense of responsibility for the fate and welfare of Jews
everywhere. Secondly, there was Israel’s desperate need for
aliya, immigration, coupled with the fact that the two rival blocs
contained large numbers of Jews. Thirdly, Israel’s involvement in
a bitter conflict with its neighbours made it vital to secure access to
arms. The Eastern bloc served as the country’s main arms supplier
during the War of Independence but there was the hope and the
expectation of acquiring arms from the Western bloc as well. Fourthly,
from the very beginning, Israel was heavily dependent on external
economic aid. The United States was the most coveted source of aid but
prudence dictated keeping all the options open.
In addition to these
essentially practical considerations, Israel’s internal political
and ideological make-up made it reluctant to take sides in the emergent
Cold War between East and West. Many of Israel’s founding fathers
came from Russia and Eastern Europe. Not only the Israeli Communist
Party and the Marxist-Zionist party Mapam, but a significant part of
the mainstream labour party, Mapai, looked to Moscow for inspiration
and guidance in the international arena. A foreign policy of
non-identification helped to preserve the internal balance between
Mapai, the ruling party, and its left-wing coalition partners. It also
dovetailed with a sincere desire shared by all the major parties to
make their state a positive force for peace and to refrain from doing
anything that might exacerbate international tensions.
Non-identification thus reflected, to some extent, the messianism
latent in the Jewish soul and the hope that a new era of peace and good
will was about to dawn. Yet, in the final analysis, non-identification
was a pragmatic policy designed to serve the Israeli national interest
rather than an ideological conception of neutrality in world politics.
Israel’s first foreign minister, was the principal proponent of
the principle of non-identification with either of the contending blocs
in the emergent Cold War. To his Mapai colleagues, during the struggle
for statehood, Sharett repeatedly stressed the importance of avoiding
exclusive affiliation, of ‘knocking on every door’, of
seeking help from any quarter. In the early years of statehood, he
elevated this principle to the status of official doctrine and he
expounded it on numerous occasions. Indeed, Sharett was one of the
first statesmen of the newly-independent states of Asia and Africa to
articulate the idea of non-alignment. Yet Israel was not regarded as a
non-aligned state nor was it accepted into the councils of the Third
Israel’s first prime minister and a shrewd practitioner of power
politics, was in full accord with Sharett about the importance of
keeping all their options open. On 27 September 1948, with the war
still in progress, Ben-Gurion declared before the Provisional State
Council: ‘We have friends both in the East and in the West. We
could not have conducted the war without the important help we received
from several States of East and West ... the interests of the Jewish
people are not identical with those of any State or any bloc in the
world.... There is no identification between a small and a big nation,
except if the small nation completely subordinates itself, or if the
big nation is composed entirely of angels. We do not want to
subordinate ourselves to anyone, and we do not believe that angels rule
anywhere.’ This tenet was officially promulgated on 9 March 1949
in the Basic Principles of the Government Programme. The first of the
five principles of foreign policy read: ‘Loyalty to the
principles of the United Nations Charter and friendship with all
freedom-loving states, and in particular with the United States and the
Keeping a balance between
East and West was for Ben-Gurion the beginning of wisdom in foreign
policy. His own personal inclination was strongly pro-Western but a
utilitarian calculation of Israel’s interests made him conceal
these inclinations and cultivate good relations with the Soviet Union.
For him international orientation was intimately linked to
Israel’s basic problem - the hostility of the Arab world. All his
life Ben-Gurion worried about Israel’s security and its prospects
of survival against a vast and hostile Arab world.
‘There are sixty or seventy million Arabs,’ he used to say
to his colleagues and in his room he had a large map of the Middle East
which showed the Arab states in red and tiny Israel in blue.
Israel’s integration into the Middle East did not appear to him
as a remotely realistic project. But Israel’s isolation within
the Middle East weighed very heavily on him. External support,
especially from the superpowers, was needed to lessen this isolation
and the policy of non-identification was designed to maximize external
support. Despite his strong pro-Western leanings, Ben-Gurion therefore
avoided for as long as possible an explicit diplomatic identification
with the West.
The abandonment of
non-identification was a gradual process and it was largely forced on
Israel by external circumstances. Initially, Israel escaped
from the paradoxes and contradictions of its place in the world by
firmly fixing its orientation on the United Nations. But disenchantment
with the world body and the intensification of the Cold War left it
floundering. Moscow’s friendly attitude towards Israel was
replaced by a more critical line of which only one example was the vote
at the United Nations on 9 December 1949 for the internationalization
of Jerusalem. Washington, on the other hand, was suspicious of Israel's
links with the Soviet bloc and generally became less tolerant of non
alignment as the Cold War intensified. Meanwhile, in the Middle East,
the efforts at conciliation ended in failure and the arms race
continued at a disturbing pace, feeding fears of a second round.
On 25 May 1950, the
United States, Britain and France issued a joint declaration on the
Middle East. The aim of the Tripartite Declaration, as it came to be
known, was to regulate the supply of arms and to preserve the
territorial status quo in the region. In the context of the Cold War,
however, this was essentially an attempt by the Western powers to
establish a monopoly over the supply of arms to the Middle East and to
prevent the Soviet Union from gaining a toehold in the
region. In Israel this declaration was received with mixed
feelings: the guarantee of the existing borders was seen as being of
some value in discouraging a second round but the arms control regime
was seen as wholly unfavourable to Israel.
Ben-Gurion in a statement
in the Knesset on 31 May 1950 officially welcomed the initiative of the
three Western powers as a modest contribution to security and stability
in the Middle East. In his diary, however, he noted that: ‘It is
a matter for surprise that the press has triumphantly hailed the
declaration of the three. The most outstanding hater of Israel could
have signed this declaration. It contains an unqualified permission for
the supply of arms to the Arab states and there is no
obligation whatever to give arms to Israel. Possibly there is some good
in the declaration against the use of force to change the borders of
the armistice agreements, but this cannot be relied upon. All the rest
can be interpreted as giving permission for the supply of arms to the
Arabs and a refusal to give arms to the Jews.’
The outbreak of the
Korean War in June 1950 prompted or at least enabled Israel to abandon
the policy of non-identification. The decision was made easier for
Israel by the fact that the Soviet Union was allied to the North Korean
aggressors whereas the United States fought under the banner of the
United Nations to repel the aggression and restore the status quo ante.
In the Knesset, on 4 July 1950, Ben-Gurion presented Israel's vote for
the resolution condemning the North Korean aggression as a vote for the
United Nations and for the principles it embodied. He rejected the
suggestion of left-wing members of the Knesset that Israel should
abstain, arguing that Israel was a fully-fledged member of the
community of nations with a duty to make a stand, on this as on any
other international issue, based on the dictates of its conscience. His
government, however, did not offer to send troops to fight under the UN
banner in Korea. The real significance of its stand in the Korean
conflict therefore was that it marked the decisive break at the
declaratory level with the policy of non-identification.
Following the outbreak of
the Korean War, Israel moved towards de facto alignment with the West.
In the words of Michael Brecher, a prominent analyst of Israeli foreign
policy: ‘that shift was catalyzed by the need for arms and
economic aid, rationalised by the perception of renewed Soviet
hostility, and eased by the indifference of the Third World. The last
merits attention, particularly because it is rarely noted in analyses
of Israeli foreign policy, by practitioners and scholars
Three factors facilitated
Ben-Gurion’s tilt from East to West. First, was the dwindling
number of immigrants from Eastern Europe to Israel. These immigrants
tended to vote for Mapai. Once immigration from the Eastern bloc slowed
down to a trickle, the support and good-will of the Soviet Union became
less important. Second, Ben-Gurion was desperate to win the support of
the whole of American Jewry, and not just of American Zionists, for the
State of Israel. The Zionists were a minority among American Jews.
Distancing Israel from the Soviet Union in the Cold War was a means of
enhancing Israel’s appeal to American Jews. Third, Ben-Gurion
sought reparations from the Federal Republic of Germany for the crimes
that Nazi Germany had committed against the Jewish people. And he knew
that there was virtually no chance of success in this controversial
venture without American backing.
Once the policy of
non-identification had been abandoned, Ben-Gurion felt free to approach
the United States for arms and for economic assistance in meeting the
cost of absorbing the immigrants who arrived in large numbers from
Eastern Europe and from the Arab countries. He also dropped heavy hints
that Israel would like to be included in any military alliances that
the Western powers might develop with the anti-communist forces in the
Towards the end of July
1950, Ben-Gurion informed the American ambassador of his intention to
build with American assistance an army of a quarter of a million men
‘capable and anxious’ to help the United States, the United
Kingdom and Turkey in resisting Soviet aggression. He added that if
Russia attacked Israel's strategic air fields, the IDF would be able to
hold on until the arrival of the American and British forces. In his
report on this conversation, the American ambassador underlined that
the prime minister could not have been more explicit about his desire
to commit Israel unreservedly to the West. Nor can there be
any doubt that this message constituted a fundamental change in the
international orientation of the young state. The tilt towards the West
was probably inevitable from the start, but it occurred in a
surprisingly sudden manner.
The first Western country
to express interest in defence co-operation with Israel was not America
but Britain. On 19 February 1951, General Sir Brian Robertson, the
commander-in-chief of the British land forces in the Middle East,
arrived in Israel on an official visit. The political thinking behind
this visit was conveyed by Sir William Strang, the Permanent
Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, to Eliahu Elath, Israel's
ambassador to London, over lunch at the Travellers Club. Strang
explained that Britain was preparing new plans for the defence of the
Middle East in the event of a Soviet attack and that it wanted to
include Israel in these plans. The two specific ideas Strang mentioned
were a British base in Gaza with a corridor to Jordan through Israel
and the building of British bases in Israel with a treaty on the basis
of complete equality.
Ben-Gurion rejected the
idea out of hand and even called it ‘an insulting
proposal’. But despite his mistrust of the British in general and
of foreign minister Ernest Bevin in particular, he was prepared to hold
secret talks about the defence of the Middle East and about ways of
strengthening Israel's industrial capacity so that it might be better
placed to contribute to Western defence plans.
During his visit to
Israel, General Robertson had two meetings with the prime minister and
his advisers. Robertson wanted to know whether Israel would join the
Western powers if Soviet aggression looked imminent and whether British
forces would be allowed to go through the country and use its
airfields. Ben-Gurion did not answer these questions directly and
merely stressed the importance of developing Israel's economy and
military power and of resolving the conflict between it and Egypt. At
the second meeting, when General Robertson pressed for answers,
Ben-Gurion surprised him by saying that in an emergency he would see
their role as if they were part of the British Commonwealth, and that
he would want to be treated by the British as such, as if they were
Australia or New Zealand. He did not suggest that Israel should join
the Commonwealth but that the relations between the two countries
should be developed on the basis of common values, mutual trust, and
hesitation, Robertson replied that he was only a soldier and that a
reply to the prime minister's suggestion could only come from the
British government. The government's reply, sent two months
later by Herbert Morrison who had in the meantime succeeded Ernest
Bevin as Foreign Secretary, was lukewarm and failed to address
Ben-Gurion's main point concerning the establishment of a special
relationship between the two countries. All that Britain
offered Israel was an association through the back door in a regional
defence organization. This was not good enough for Ben-Gurion who
insisted on full membership.
relationship with the Arab states continued to strain its relations
with Israel and to bedevil its plans for the defence of the Middle
East. In October 1951 Britain and America jointly put forward a plan
for a Middle East Command. Egypt was invited to participate as a
founding member. Israel was merely promised that its interests would be
taken into account. Even when Egypt declined the invitation, Israel was
not asked to join. The British continued to envisage a largely passive
Israeli role in providing bases and facilities in time of war whereas
the Israelis hoped for a more active role in the defence plans for the
A British military
delegation visited Israel in October 1952 but failed to break the
deadlock. Ben-Gurion's efforts to persuade the Americans to let Israel
play a major role were also to no avail. Faced with insurmountable
difficulties, Britain and America abandoned the idea of a Middle East
Command in favour of a more modest plan for a Middle East Defence
Organization. But this plan too faded away in the course of 1953 and
with it Israel's hope of becoming integrated into some sort of a
Nineteen fifty three was
an eventful year in Israel’s relations with both superpowers. In
that year a Republican administration headed by Dwight Eisenhower came
to power in Washington. All the early signs pointed to a reversal of
the Truman administration's friendly attitude to Israel and an attempt
to strengthen America's position in the Arab world and especially in
Egypt which was under the rule of the Free Officers since the
revolution of July 1952. To help formulate a new policy towards the
Middle East, John Foster Dulles, the new Secretary of State, visited
several Arab states and Israel in May 1953. It was the first visit by
an American Secretary of State to Israel. His visit gave Israel's
policy makers an opportunity to present to the new administration their
thoughts on the defence of the Middle East and to renew their request
for American aid.
Prior to Dulles's arrival
in Israel, the Political Committee of Mapai held a meeting to discuss
the country's foreign policy. Moshe Sharett gave a lecture which lasted
two hours. David Ben-Gurion formulated in writing thirteen assumptions
and read them out. The first assumption was that Israel could not
remain neutral in the event of a third world war because even temporary
occupation by Russia would be the death knell of Zionism and the State
of Israel. Second, if war broke out, Britain and America would need
Israel almost as much as Israel would need them. Third, there was a
tremendous difference between Israel's military and political value to
the free world: the former was great, the latter was nearly zero, in
contrast to the Arabs whose military value was almost zero whereas
their political value was huge. Fourth, military value is only
discovered in wartime, hence the political dangers awaiting Israel.
Fifth, only the fear of imminent war would induce the new world to turn
to Israel. Sixth, Israel needed immediate military aid and not only in
the event of a world war because it faced an Arab danger as well.
Seventh, any arms given to the Arabs would be used against Israel
whether or not a world war broke out. Eighth, England could no longer
be a decisive power in the Middle East either in peacetime or in
wartime. Ninth, England's policy in the Middle East was hostile to
Israel and this had to be made clear in talks with the Americans.
Tenth, in relation to America, Israel had two levers: its military
significance in the Middle East and the power of American Jewry.
Eleventh, peace was the supreme interest of the State of Israel but it
was essential that America (and the Arab League) should know that they
could not discuss with Israel territorial concessions, the
internationalization of Jerusalem, or the return of the Palestinian
refugees. Twelfth, England could not be given bases in Israel because
it would not protect the Israelis and only help the Arabs. As for
America, it had to be made clear that the whole of Israel could be a
base. Thirteenth, Israel had no interest in a regional arrangement but
only in an arrangement with America or with the whole of NATO.
Underlying this set of
assumptions was Ben-Gurion's despair of forging a special relationship
with Britain and his keen desire to forge a special relationship with
what he saw as the rising power in the Middle East, the United States.
At a meeting with senior officials to prepare for Dulles's visit,
Ben-Gurion again unveiled the cornerstone of his foreign policy: Israel
is a Western bastion in the Middle East. The officials present were
asked to stress that Israel was not part of the Middle East but of the
West and that they would fight against any communist attack and
consolidate their democratic regime in all circumstances.
During his brief visit to
Israel, Dulles had a number of meetings, the most important of which
were with the foreign minister and the prime minister. Sharett
discussed with him the main issues in the Arab-Israeli dispute whereas
Ben-Gurion concentrated on the Soviet threat and Israel's role in the
defence of the region. Two weeks later, on 1 June, Dulles made a major
speech in Washington. This speech confirmed Israeli fears of a new
direction in American foreign policy. The main conclusions that emerged
from this speech were that the United States had to do something to
dispel the deep anger that the very creation of Israel had caused in
the Arab world, that the policy of the previous administration had to
be changed, and that for the sake of peace both sides would have to
make concessions. In the months that followed, America turned down
Israel's request for a loan and condemned a number of Israeli actions
such as the moving of the foreign ministry from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,
the diversion of water from the Jordan River and the raid against the
Jordanian village Qibya.
As Israel moved towards a
more openly pro-Western position in the Cold War, its relations with
the Soviet bloc suffered further deterioration. In November 1952, a
show trial was conducted in Prague against a number of left-wing Jews
and Israelis in the course of which Zionism was denounced as a
reactionary movement and Israel as the agent of American imperialism.
In January 1953, Moscow announced the arrest of nine doctors, six of
them Jewish, on charges of trying to kill Soviet leaders but this time
Israel was not mentioned. Sharett made a statement in the Knesset on 19
January, severely condemning the Soviet authorities for their
anti-semitic and anti-democratic practices. This speech was a further
step in Israel's retreat from non-identification.
In the midst of the
commotion provoked by the ‘doctors’ plot’, a bomb was
lobbed into the Soviet Consulate building in Tel Aviv. On 11 February,
in response to this incident, Moscow broke off diplomatic relations
with Israel although it had received an official apology from the
Israeli government. A gradual thaw in Soviet-Israeli relations occurred
after the death of Josef Stalin in March 1953. Israel initiated a
dialogue with Moscow which led to the resumption of diplomatic
relations in late July. Jerusalem responded to a Soviet demand by
stating that it would not be a party to any alliance or agreement
directed against the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union announced its
intention to maintain friendly relations with Israel.
Although the immediate quarrel was patched up, the rift between the two
countries was probably beyond repair. The policy of non-identification
which had served Israel so well in the early years of independence had
been replaced by an explicit pro-Western position by the end of 1953.
The received wisdom of
the Israeli political elite at the time was that the loss of Soviet
cooperation was due to circumstances beyond Israel’s control.
Soviet policy towards the Middle East was said to be determined by what
Moshe Sharett once termed its own ‘developmental logic’.
According to this version, the Soviet Union supported the partition of
Palestine and the creation of a Jewish state simply as a means of
undermining the British position in the Middle East. This objective was
achieved with the establishment of the State of Israel and the
subsequent shift in Moscow’s policy in favour of the Arabs was
inevitable. In other words, the rift between Jerusalem and Moscow was
brought about by Moscow, not by Jerusalem.
Uri Bialer has
convincingly challenged this deterministic explanation of the course of
Soviet-Israeli relations in the early 1950s. In the first place, he
points out, Soviet proxy military aid to Israel in the form of Czech
arms sales continued for longer than would have been necessary had the
USSR merely wished to ensure the creation of a Jewish state. In
Bialer’s opinion, the Soviet attitude towards Israel changed only
when Israel publicly supported the American position on Korea in 1950,
and when signs of Israel’s growing alignment with the United
States became unmistakable. In other words, Soviet aid was related to
Israel’s foreign policy orientation to a greater degree than had
commonly been assumed.
with the United States were also affected by some miscalculations and
mistakes. As always, internal politics had a major impact on the
country’s external behaviour. Two schools of thought were
competing for control over policy in the conflict with the Arabs: the
school of retaliation and the school of negotiation. The former was led
by David Ben-Gurion and included virtually the entire defence
establishment, while the latter was led by Moshe Sharett and included
most of the foreign ministry. Sharett became prime minister as well
foreign minister upon Ben-Gurion’s ‘temporary’
retirement in December 1953. But Moshe Dayan, the newly-appointed chief
of staff of the Israel Defence Forces, assumed Ben-Gurion’s
mantle as the chief proponent of the policy of hard-hitting retaliation
in response to infiltration across Israel’s borders from the
neighbouring Arab states.
The practice of military
retaliation had serious consequences for Israel’s relations with
the Great Powers. Both the Eastern and the Western blocs frowned upon
this practice and the four permanent members of the UN Security Council
frequently voted for resolutions condemning specific Israeli raids.
Sharett’s first year as prime minister was difficult for Israel
both on the diplomatic front and on the day-to-day security front along
the borders. In the course of 1954 Israeli-American relations
deteriorated due to the US decision to supply arms to the Arab states
and base its military plans for the defence of the Middle East
increasingly on Iraq and Egypt. Israel, as a consequence, felt
marginalized. Britain’s agreement with Egypt to withdraw its
forces from the Suez Canal Zone was also a cause for concern in Israel.
Along Israel’s borders the situation deteriorated, with more
incidents of infiltration, theft, murder and sabotage which the UN
Truce Supervisory Organization (UNTSO) was unable to prevent. These
developments combined to make Israelis feel isolated and ignored and
this intensified the conflict between the two approaches. Sharett
became active on the American diplomatic scene in an effort to stop
military aid to the Arabs and to procure arms and a security guarantee
for Israel. For Dayan, on the other hand, the solution lay in
military action to deter the Arabs.
In February 1955
Ben-Gurion returned from his desert retreat in Sede-Boker to assume the
defence portfolio in the government headed by Moshe Sharett.
Sharett spearheaded the efforts to obtain an American guarantee of
Israel’s security. On the need for an American guarantee there
was no real difference between the two leaders. Discussions between the
two countries had started in August 1954 against the background of the
Anglo-Egyptian agreement on Suez and the American decision to supply
arms to Iraq. All that was envisaged at that stage was an American
declaration or an exchange of letters between America and Israel. But
after Iraq and Turkey took the first step towards the Baghdad Pact in
early February 1955, John Foster Dulles offered Israel a mutual defence
pact provided it undertook not to expand its borders by force and to
refrain from military retaliation against its neighbours.
Ben-Gurion and Sharett
appeared willing to accept the first condition but they could not
accept the second. A mutual defence pact with a superpower was
attractive as a way of ending Israel’s international isolation,
guaranteeing its territorial integrity and long-term security, and
inducing the Arabs to settle peacefully their dispute with it. At
his very first meeting with Edward Lawson, the new American ambassador,
Ben-Gurion told him that the three things dearest to his heart were the
security of Israel, peace in the Middle East, and friendship between
Israel and America. It was in America’s power, he added, to
realize all three things in one move: by concluding a mutual defence
pact with Israel.
Moshe Dayan opposed the
idea of a defence pact with America from beginning to end. He saw no
need for an American guarantee of Israel’s security and he was
strongly opposed to America’s conditions that Israel should
forswear territorial expansion and military retaliation. Military
retaliation was regarded by Dayan as a life blood. Dayan was at least
consistent in his creed of self-reliance and in his rejection of an
external guarantee which is more than can be said for Ben-Gurion. The
latter was keenly interested in a pact with the US but rather reluctant
to pay the price for it.
One of Ben-Gurion’s
first acts as minister of defence was to order the IDF, on 28 February
1955, to carry out a large-scale attack on the Egyptian military
headquarters in Gaza City – “Operation Black Arrow”.
Thirty-eight Egyptian soldiers were killed and 31 were wounded in this
devastating attack. The raid seriously destabilised the military regime
headed by Jamal 'Abd al-Nasir. Nasir embarked on a desperate quest for
arms which culminated in the Czech arms deal in September 1955. Thus,
by pressing its military advantage too far, Israel inadvertently helped
to push Egypt into the arms of Moscow. The Gaza raid had far-reaching
ramifications both at the regional and at the international level. It
started a chain of action and reaction, mounting violence, an arms
race, and new alignments with the Great Powers which, within a year,
plunged the Middle East into another major war.
In the aftermath of the
Gaza raid, Israeli diplomats shifted the emphasis in the talks with
their American counterparts from a defence pact to the supply of arms.
But, once again, Israel’s aggressive military policy towards the
Arabs served to confirm the American refusal to supply arms. This
refusal, in turn, increased the support within the Israeli defence
establishment for the option of a preventive war against Egypt. In
November 1955, Ben-Gurion assumed the premiership, Sharett reverted to
his old post as foreign minister, and Dayan continued as chief of
staff. All three men recognized that their country’s basic
security was affected by the Czech arms deal with Egypt. But they held
very different views about the appropriate policy for preserving the
country’s security. Dayan wanted a preventive war against Egypt,
Sharett was firmly opposed to war, and Ben-Gurion was undecided. It was
to take a year almost to the day to resolve this question and the Sinai
Campaign was the answer.
assumption was that a second round was inevitable and that Israel
should therefore prepare for war and not for peace. His main
concern was to ensure that the timing and conditions of the next war
were convenient for Israel. Following the Czech arms deal, this became
a pressing concern. Dayan estimated that the Egyptian army would be in
a position to fight a war in the summer or autumn of 1956. His
aim was to force a showdown before the military balance shifted in
Egypt’s favour. He did not advocate launching a pre-emptive
strike because this would have cast Israel in the role of aggressor.
Rather, his strategy was to use military reprisals on a massive scale
in order to provoke Egypt to go to war before it was ready. The aim of
these reprisals was not to force the Egyptians to keep the border quiet
but, on the contrary, to create the conditions for an early war. In
order to prepare the IDF for full-scale war, Dayan considered it
essential to keep it constantly engaged in military operations in
peace-time. It was no coincidence that he referred to these reprisals
not as retaliation but as peace-time military operations. In short,
Dayan wanted war, he wanted it soon, and he used reprisals both to goad
the Egyptians into war and to prepare his army for that war.
In sharp contrast to
Dayan, Sharett’s basic premise was that war with Egypt was not
inevitable and that everything should be done to prevent it. Realizing
the great potential for escalation inherent in the Arab-Israeli
conflict, Sharett urged caution and restraint. He feared that
provocative or careless behaviour might lead to a major explosion. He
recognized that the dangers confronting Israel were serious but he did
not think that Israel’s very survival was on the line. His policy
aimed at containing the conflict and at minimizing the risks of
escalation. Like Dayan, Sharett understood very well that
the policy of reprisals carried a high risk of escalation. The
difference was that Dayan needed escalation to bring about war whereas
Sharett sought to avoid escalation in order to prevent war.
Another major difference
between Sharett and Dayan concerned the acquisition of arms. Both men
were of course strongly committed to arms procurements for the IDF but
they went about it in very different ways. Sharett believed that the
best chance of persuading the Western Powers to supply arms to Israel
lay in abiding by the rules of international law, co-operating with the
United Nations observers, and behaving like a reasonable and
responsible member of the international community. Dayan believed that
if Israel behaved itself it would definitely not get arms whereas if it
misbehaved it might be given some arms as an incentive to improve its
behaviour. He thought that Israel had a nuisance value and he wanted to
capitalize on this to induce the Western Powers to give Israel arms in
the hope that it would stay out of mischief. In other words, he
considered military activism as a factor that was more likely to help
than to hinder the quest for arms.
These initial differences
over arms acquisition were to develop gradually into two rival foreign
policy orientations. Although Sharett achieved the first breakthrough
in France, he pinned his highest hopes on America. Sharett’s
foreign policy had an American orientation in that he looked to America
for political support, a security guarantee, economic aid, and arms.
Arms acquisition was thus linked to a broader diplomatic strategy of
working closely with America in the Middle East to promote common
objectives, notably stability and peace. Shimon Peres, the director
general of the ministry of defence, doubted all along that America
would supply arms to Israel and worked assiduously to cultivate the
French connection. In doing so, he went not through the normal
diplomatic channels but directly to the French defence
establishment. Dayan was quick to join Peres both in resorting to
unorthodox methods and eventually in advocating a French orientation.
At the beginning, the question of orientation did not seem relevant to
Israel’s security needs. All Israel’s leaders agreed on the
need to strengthen Israel’s military capability and they were
willing to take arms from anywhere they could get them. Later on it
would emerge that the source did make a considerable difference: France
offered arms in the hope of inducing Israel to go to war against Egypt
whereas America allowed its allies to supply arms to Israel on
condition that Israel did not go to war.
On 2 November 1955,
Ben-Gurion presented his new government to the Knesset while the IDF
launched an attack on the Egyptian positions in al-Sabha, killing 50
soldiers and capturing 40 others. Code-named ‘Volcano’,
this attack marked the beginning of a change in the defence and foreign
policy orientation of the government which would develop the drift
towards war. In the words of Ben-Gurion’s biographer: ‘Thus
began the process of disengagement from the defence policy of Moshe
Sharett which was based on restraint, efforts to communicate and
attempts at mediation by foreign bodies - the United Nations, the
powers, Asian and African countries. From this process also emerged, to
a large extent, a new line of policy: gradual turning away from the
United States and drawing closer to France. France, which during those
years turned into the great opponent of the Arab states, and especially
of Egypt, also became Israel’s principal arms supplier along the
road to confrontation with the same Egypt.... The new policy line -
towards preventive war, towards leaning on France - crossed the
previous policy line, the line of restraint and of reliance on the
United States. For a while, it was possible to discern in the foreign
and defence policy of Israel both tendencies at the same time; at a
certain stage, they came into an acute confrontation. But in the end,
towards the summer of 1956, took hold the activist line which led to
the Sinai Campaign.’
In the meantime, the
activist policy seriously undermined Sharettt’s efforts to get
closer to the United States with a view to obtaining arms. A striking
example of the negative consequences of the policy of reprisals was
provided by Operation Kinneret. On the night of 11 December a paratroop
brigade under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Ariel Sharon raided the
Syrian gun positions on the north-eastern shore of Lake Kinneret,
better known outside Israel as Lake Tiberias or the Sea of Galilee.
This was the IDF’s fiercest and most brilliantly executed
operation since the 1948 war. The paratroops brigade killed over fifty
Syrians and took thirty prisoners at the cost of six dead and 14
wounded to Israelis. In the course of the battle all the Syrian
positions had been reduced to rubble.
The decision to authorize
Operation Olive Leaves – the code-name for the operation –
had been taken by Ben-Gurion alone. He had not consulted or informed
the cabinet. Nor had he consulted anyone in the foreign ministry.
Sharett was on a mission to the US in a desperate bid to secure arms,
and Ben-Gurion became acting foreign minister in addition to his other
posts. On 27 November, Sharett had called Ben-Gurion to caution him
that any reprisals could damage the negotiations which had got off to a
good start. A definite American answer was promised by 12
December and Ben-Gurion called Sharett and asked him to stay in
Washington until he received the State Department’s answer. Yet
the day before the American answer was due, Ben-Gurion authorized the
assault on the Syrian positions. Sharett’s bitter comment on the
decision-making process was: ‘Ben-Gurion the defence minister
consulted with Ben-Gurion the foreign minister and received the green
light from Ben-Gurion the prime minister.’
Ben-Gurion must have
known what the American reaction would be when he authorized the
raid. This was presumably his reason for not consulting anyone in
the foreign ministry or the cabinet. By authorizing the raid he
not only sabotaged Sharett’s efforts to obtain American arms for
Israel but also the orientation on America and the entire political
strategy that went along with it. A popular witticism in IDF circles at
the time was that the biggest explosion of Operation Kinneret was that
which went off under Moshe Sharett.
Sharett himself was
incandescent with rage when he heard the news. ‘My world became
black, the matter of arms was murdered’, he wrote in his
diary. In a cable of protest to Ben-Gurion, he did not pull
his punches. He concluded the cable by questioning whether there was
one government in Israel, whether it had one policy, and whether its
policy was to sabotage its own efforts and foil its own
objectives. To Abba Eban, Israel’s ambassador to
Washington, Sharett expressed his suspicion that Ben-Gurion had
sanctioned the Kinneret raid in order to deny him a personal victory in
the quest for arms. In his autobiography Eban gives the following
account of the crisis:
My own feeling is that
whatever remnants existed of Sharett’s ability to work with
Ben-Gurion went up in flames in Galilee that night. I, too, found
it impossible to understand how Ben-Gurion could reconcile two such
lines of action. On the one hand he had asked Sharett to make a big
effort to secure a breakthrough on our arms request. On the other hand,
he had authorized a military operation of such strong repercussion as
to make an affirmative answer inconceivable.... My discussion with
Jerusalem was not a defense of diplomacy against military needs. There
was a clash between two military needs – the need for retaliation
and the long-term need for defensive arms. It seemed to me that the
short-term objective had triumphed unduly over our long-term aims.
The damage to
Israel’s international standing was serious. Some observers even
questioned the sanity of the Israeli policy-makers. The glaring
disproportion between the scale of the Kinneret operation and
Syria’s alleged provocation put Israel in a worse light than
usual. In the Security Council debate on this incident, Israel was more
isolated than it had been at any previous debate. All 11 members of the
Security Council out did one another in denouncing Israel and in
expressing their appreciation of Syrian moderation and restraint. On 19
January 1956, the Security Council passed a resolution which strongly
condemned the latest incident, recalled earlier Israeli violations of
the armistice agreements, called on Israel to respect these agreements,
and threatened sanctions in the event of further violations.
The costliest consequence
of the Kinneret raid, however, was the American decision not to supply
arms to Israel. In self-defence Ben-Gurion argued that Dulles would not
have given arms to Israel even if the raid had not taken place. Sharett
and Eban thought that this was a silly argument because even if Dulles
had already made up his mind, it was a gross mistake for Israel to hand
him the perfect excuse for saying ‘no’. Ben-Gurion thought
that Dulles was simply stringing Israel along over both the security
guarantee and arms. By resorting to military action, Ben-Gurion
signalled that if Israel’s interests were ignored, it would
accept no restraint and behave as it pleased. Sharett and Eban
wanted to wait a few days for the promised reply from Dulles without
giving him an easy let-out. They felt that Ben-Gurion’s
impulsiveness ruined their patient and painstaking diplomatic
The release of the
official American documents for this period vindicated Sharett and Eban
and conclusively disproved the claims of Ben-Gurion, Dayan, and the
other defenders of the attack. On the eve of the attack Dulles
had decided to sell arms to Israel. He distinguished between defensive
arms and offensive arms, such as tanks and planes, and he proposed to
deliver the former immediately and the latter at various stages in the
following year. For the time being, he thought, the Tripartite
Declaration of 1950 would give Israel reasonable assurance against
being attacked. On 13 December, however, Eban was informed
that a decision on Israel’s request for arms had been postponed.
The main reason given for the delay was the recent incident on the
border with Syria.
The official documents
also reveal that Dulles was not as hostile to Israel as most Israelis
thought, and that he most certainly did not want to see Israel
destroyed. His view was that efforts to match Israel’s military
power to that of all its Arab enemies would not guarantee its
security. Only peace with the Arabs would enable Israel to
survive in the long run. To attain peace, he considered that Israel
should be prepared to make territorial concessions and to take back
100,000 Palestinian refugees. Nor was Dulles as inflexible on the arms
question as the Israelis made him out to be. He did think that Israel
was entitled to receive Western arms of the same quality, if not in the
same quantity, as Egypt was promised by the Soviet Union. But he was
anxious to avoid polarization in the Middle East. He did not want the
United States to become Israel’s sole supplier of offensive arms
or to abandon the Arab world to the Soviet Union. His solution to this
problem was to encourage France and Canada to sell arms, and especially
fighter planes, to Israel. The Kinneret raid occurred just as Western
policy on arms supplies was beginning to change in Israel’s
favour. It killed the prospect of direct US military assistance to
Israel. Just as the Gaza raid in February led Egypt to accept Communist
arms, the Kinneret raid in December caused Israel to be denied Western
Throughout the early
1950s Israel’s leaders set their eyes on the United States as the
most important Western source for economic as well as military support.
It was Israel’s failure to solidify a partnership with the US
that motivated it to seek ties with France and Britain.
America’s rejection of Israel’s request for arms had two
major consequences: it intensified the drive to procure weapons from
France, and it increased the internal political pressure for a
pre-emptive strike against Egypt. The conflict between the moderates
and the activists was fuelled in the spring of 1956 by the conflict
over the French connection. Sharett, the leading advocate of the
Anglo-Saxon orientation, fought a losing battle against the chief
proponents of the French connection: Shimon Peres and Moshe
Dayan. Since the alliance with France was predicated on
Israel’s willingness to go to war against Egypt, the debate over
orientation merged with the other great debate on the question of
Ben-Gurion was a slow
convert to the French orientation, but once his mind was made up, he
acted with characteristic speed and decisiveness in transferring
complete control over the acquisition of arms from the foreign ministry
to the ministry of defence, and in authorising Dayan to go ahead with
secret negotiations in France on far-reaching cooperation, including
joint war operations against Egypt. A week later, Ben-Gurion
forced Sharett’s resignation from the government, thereby
clearing the decks for war.
The war against Egypt was
intimately connected with the French orientation in Israel’s
foreign policy. Ben-Gurion had temporarily dropped the idea of a
preventive war against Egypt in the early months of 1956.
America’s final rejection of Israel’s request for arms in
April was a turning-point for him. From that point onwards he looked to
France to satisfy Israel’s needs for modern arms. Ben-Gurion did
not choose France as an arms supplier and as an ally in preference to
America. It was only after the hope of receiving American arms had
evaporated that he turned to France. The emergence of a French
orientation in Israel’s foreign policy was thus not a matter of
deliberate choice but the result of the failure of the American
orientation. The idea of preventive war re-emerged in the
context of the ever closer relations with France.
The relationship between
Israel and France began with the supply of arms, developed into
political and military cooperation, and reached its climax in the joint
war against Egypt. Having a common enemy in Egypt brought the two
countries closer together. France was hostile towards the Soviet-backed
revolutionary regime in Cairo because of its encouragement of the
rebellion in Algeria. In the early months of 1956, Egypt stepped
up its support for the Algerian rebels who were fighting through the
Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN) for independence from France. The
French military were completely preoccupied with the Algerian problem.
Their three top priorities were Algeria, Algeria, and Algeria. They
assumed that if only Colonel Nasser, Hitler on the Nile as they called
him, could be knocked out of the game, the Algerian rebellion would
collapse. There was no solid basis for this assumption but the Israelis
nevertheless encouraged it. And as the Algerian rebellion gathered
momentum, the French government became less inhibited about supplying
arms to Israel in contravention of the Tripartite Declaration of May
1950 of which France had been a signatory alongside Britain and the
But the French expected
their pound of flesh. Their arms supplies to Israel were motivated not
by altruism or socialist solidarity but by self-interest. The Israelis,
for their part, had few illusions. ‘France will give us
arms’, Dayan bluntly told Ben-Gurion, ‘only if we give it
serious help in the Algerian matter. Serious help means killing
Egyptians, nothing less.’ In conversations with the
French military, Dayan dwelt on the danger that Nasser posed to the
entire Middle East and North Africa. Nasser’s goal, he stated,
was to eliminate all European influence from the region and to turn
Egypt into a forward base for Soviet power. The solution to this
problem lay in the elimination of Nasser.
The idea of a coordinated
military offensive against Egypt gathered momentum after Nasser’s
nationalisation of the Suez Canal Company on 26 July 1956.
Nasser’s blow was aimed at the Western powers, not at Israel.
Britain and France were most directly affected because they were the
principal share-holders in the Suez Canal Company. America and Britain
urged Israel to keep out of this dispute. Britain in particular was
anxious to keep its quarrel with Nasser from getting mixed up with the
Arab-Israeli dispute. But the French were equally anxious to enlist
Israel’s services in the war they were now determined to launch
in order to topple Nasser.
Here a problem arose.
Israel was not prepared to go to war against Egypt without French
participation. France was not prepared to act against Egypt without
British participation. Britain was committed to joint military action
with France but insisted on excluding Israel. To get out of this
quandary, the French assumed the role of matchmakers in bringing
Britain and Israel together. By the end of October 1956, the tripartite
war plot against Egypt had been hatched.
The story of the
collusion and of the collision at Suez has been told many times and
need not be repeated here. One point worth noting in the context of the
Cold War, however, is that by joining Britain and France in the war
against Egypt, Israel brought upon itself the wrath of both
super-powers. The Eisenhower administration put heavy pressure on
Israel to carry out a complete withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula and
the Gaza Strip. John Foster Dulles led the pack against the three
aggressors at the United Nations. The Soviet Union was not slow to join
in the fray. On 6 November, Nikolai Bulganin, the Soviet premier, sent
letters to Britain, France and Israel threatening them with rocket
attacks and promising volunteers to help the Egyptian army. The letter
to Ben-Gurion was particularly brutal in its language. It accused the
government of Israel of ‘criminally and irresponsibly playing
with the fate of the world’ and of placing in question the very
existence of the State of Israel. In his diary Ben-Gurion
recorded that the letter could have been written by Adolf
Hitler. The letter was accompanied by a war of nerves and
rumours of preparations for Soviet military intervention. Yosef Avidar,
the ambassador to Moscow who was in Israel at the time, assured
Ben-Gurion that Bulganin was bluffing. Ben-Gurion, however,
was haunted by the fear of a Soviet air attack throughout the crisis.
And he could not discount the risk that the crisis might escalate
overnight to a potential global war for which Israel would be held
responsible. He caved in and ordered the IDF to withdraw.
in the Cold War thus underwent remarkable change in a relatively short
period. At its birth Israel enjoyed the blessing and the support of
both of the principal Cold War protagonists. Consequently, during the
first two years of its existence, Israel pursued a policy of
non-identification in the struggle between the two rival blocs. But
given its cultural affinity and economic dependence on the West, the
tilt towards the West was probably inevitable. The outbreak of the
Korean War provided the occasion, if not the cause, for the abandonment
of the posture of non-identification. Over the next few years, Israel
made strenuous efforts to integrate itself into the military plans of
the Western powers. Its most notable success lay in forging the secret
pact with Britain and France to launch the war against Egypt. But this
success, if that is what it was, turned into a nemesis. For it brought
upon Israel the wrath of both of its original godfathers.
Israel’s position between East and West had come full circle.
* The author would like
to thank the British Academy for awarding him a Research Professorship
for 2003-2006 to work on ‘The Great Powers and the Middle East
since World War I.’
 Simha Flapan, The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities (London:
Croom Helm, 1987); Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee
Problem, 1947-1949 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987); Ilan
Pappé, Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947-51(London:
Macmillan, 1988); and Avi Shlaim, Collusion across the Jordan: King
Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1988).
Debate about 1948,” International Journal of Middle East Studies,
27:3, 1995, 287-304. Reprinted in Ilan Pappé, ed., The
Israel/Palestine Question (London: Longman, 1999).
 Ilan Pappé, The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951 (London, I. B. Tauris, 1992); Benny Morris
1948 and After: Israel and the Palestinians (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990, revised and expanded edition 1994);
Israel’s Border Wars, 1949-1956: Arab Infiltration, Israeli
Retaliation, and the Countdown to the Suez War (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1993); Benny Morris, Righteous Victims: A History of the
Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-1999 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999); and
Avi Shlaim, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (New York: W. W.
particularly important collection of official documents is G.
Gorodetsky, J. Freundlich, D. Yaroshevsky Stegny et al., Documents on
Israeli-Soviet Relations, 1941-1953, 2 vols. (London: Frank Cass, 2000).
 Interview with Michael Comay, Jerusalem, 2 May 1982.
the internal debate see Uri Bialer, Between East and West:
Israel’s foreign policy orientation, 1948-1956 (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1990).
 Michael Brecher, The Foreign Policy System of Israel: Setting, Images, Process (London: Oxford University Press, 1972), 40.
 Ibid., 39-40.
 Zaki Shalom, David Ben-Gurion, the State of Israel, and the Arab World, 1948-1956 (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2002).
 Gideon Rafael, Destination Peace: Three Decades of Israeli Foreign Policy (New York: Stein and Day, 1981), 22-25.
Danin, “The Rise and Fall of Arms Control in the Middle East,
1947-1955: Great Power Consultation, Co-ordination, and
Competition” (Oxford University: D.Phil. thesis, 1999).
 Ben-Gurion's diary, 30 May 1950, the Ben-Gurion Archive, Sede-Boker.
 Brecher, The Foreign Policy System of Israel, 561.
am grateful to Ronald Zweig of Tel Aviv University for making these
points in his commentary on my paper at the conference on The Cold War
in the Mediterranean, Cortona, Italy, 5-6 October 2001.
Relations of the United States, 1950, vol. 5 (Washington: United States
Government Printing Office, 1979), 960-61. (Henceforth this
series will be referred to as FRUS).
 Interview with Eliahu Elath, Jerusalem, 8 August 1982; and Ben-Gurion’s diary, 27 January 1951.
D. Ben-Gurion - B. Robertson, Jerusalem, 21 February 1951, in Yemima
Rosenthal, ed., Documents on the Foreign Policy of Israel, vol. 6, 1951
(Jerusalem: Israel State Archives: 1991), 129-35.
 Morrison to Ben-Gurion, 23 April 1951, Ibid., 262.
 Interview with Michael Comay, Jerusalem, 2 May 1982.
Freundlich, ed., Documents on the Foreign Policy of' Israel, vol. 7,
1952 (Jerusalem: Israel State Archives, 1992), Introduction, xiv.
 Ben Gurion diary, 28 March 1953.
 Ben Gurion's diary, 30 April 1953.
Freundlich, ed., Documents on the Foreign Policy of Israel, vol. 8,
1953 (Jerusalem: Israel State Archives, 1995), Introduction, xii.
 Ibid., xx.
 Bialer, Between East and West, 147, 179, and 197.
 Moshe Dayan, Milestones: An Autobiography (Hebrew) (Jerusalem: Yediot Aharonot, 1976), 139.
Policy towards the Western Powers: Conclusions of the Conference of
Ambassadors,” 7 June 1955, 2446/8, Israel State Archives (ISA);
and Ben-Gurion’s diary, 12 May 1955.
 Motti Golani, Israel in Search of a War: The Sinai Campaign, 1955-1956 (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1998).
 Interview with Colonel Mordechai Bar-On, Jerusalem, 3 August, 1982.
 Gabriel Sheffer, Moshe Sharett: Biography of a Political Moderate (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996).
Evron, “The inter-relationship between foreign policy and defence
policy in the years 1949-1955” (Hebrew), Skira Hodshit, 35:11,
 Interview with Colonel Mordechai Bar-On, Jerusalem, 3 August, 1982.
 Michael Bar-Zohar, Ben-Gurion: A Political Biography (Hebrew) (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1977), vol. 3, 1153.
 Sharett to Ben-Gurion, 27 November 1955, 2454/11, ISA.
 Sharett’s diary, 16 December 1955. Moshe Sharett, A Personal Diary (Hebrew) (Tel Aviv: Ma’ariv, 1978), vol. 5, 1310.
 Sharett’s diary, 10 December 1955, ibid., 1307.
 Sharett to Ben-Gurion, 12 December 1955, 2454/11, ISA.
 Abba Eban, An Autobiography (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1977), 199.
 Weekly Survey No. 198, 25 January 1956, probably written by Gideon Rafael, 2454/11, ISA.
 Memorandum from the Secretary of State to the Under Secretary of State (Hoover), 12 December 1955, FRUS, 1955, vol. 14, 848-49.
 Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, 13 December 1955, Ibid., 856-57.
 Zach Levey, Israel and the Western Powers, 1952-1960 (Chapel Hill: North Carolina University Press, 1997).
 Shimon Peres, David’s Sling: The Arming of Israel (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1970).
 Dayan, Milestones, 200.
 Interview with Gershon Avner, Jerusalem, 4 July 1982.
Vaisse, “France and the Suez Crisis,” in Wm. Roger Louis
and Roger Owen, eds., Suez 1956: The Crisis and its Consequences
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 131-43; and Maurice Vaisse, ed., La
France et L’Operation de Suez de 1956 (Paris: Addim, 1997).
Bar-On, Challenge and Quarrel: The Road to the Sinai Campaign - 1956
(Hebrew) (Beersheba: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Press, 1991),
 Dayan, Milestones, 205-7.
Shlaim, “The Protocol of Sèvres, 1956: Anatomy of a War
Plot,” International Affairs, 73:3, 1997, 509-530. Reprinted in
David Tal, ed., The 1956 War: Collusion and Rivalry in the Middle East
(London: Frank Cass, 2001), 119-43.
 Ben-Gurion’s diary, 7 November 1956.
 Interview with Major-General Yosef Avidar, Jerusalem, 11 August 1982.
 Moshe Zak, Forty Years of Dialogue with Moscow (Hebrew) (Tel Aviv: Ma’ariv, 1988), 180.