Foxbats Over Dimona: The Soviets' Nuclear Gamble in the Six-Day War

Yale University Press  2007


Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War of 1967 was one of the most spectacular military victories of the 20th century. The war redrew the political map of the Middle East and the consequences are still reverberating today. The authors focus on the role of the Soviet Union in instigating the war and allege that the Soviet soldiers participated in it on the side of Egypt and Syria and some ended up as prisoners of war. These assertions have been borne out by various sources over the years and it is well known that Soviet pilots flew missions for Egypt for years following the Six Day War.

But the most far-reaching supposition involves the authors’ contention that the Soviet Union had instigated the war in order to destroy Israel’s Dimona nuclear power plant. The authors maintain that the Soviet Union’s top leaders wanted to destroy the power plant in order to prevent Israel from developing and deploying nuclear weapons. Foxbats Over Dimona does a good job of exposing the extent of the Soviet Union’s intimate knowledge and support of Egypt’s multi-layered plan to induce Israel into a war which Egypt expected to win. During the war, the Soviet Union purportedly intended to destroy the Dimona nuclear power plant and to land troops around Haifa to tip the military balance in favor of the Arab nations. The authors believe that it was only the swift and overwhelming nature of Israel’s victory which forestalled the Soviet attack and invasion.

While the hypothesis that the Soviet Union feared Israel’s incipient nuclear weapons program enough to authorize an aerial attack on the Dimona plant cannot be proven with documentary sources (as the authors admit early on), the authors were able to provide enormous detail concerning the often overlooked endeavors of the Soviet Union which prompted Egypt and Syria to initiate war plans. The authors interviewed many former Soviet soldiers and diplomats as well as Israeli and American diplomats which corroborated the extent of Soviet efforts to use the war to take advantage of the American preoccupation with Vietnam in order to reduce American influence in the Middle East. Foxbats Over Dimona adds another layer to our understanding of the events leading up to the Six Day War.

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