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

Isabel­la Ginor; Gideon Remez
  • Review
By – March 23, 2012

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.

Gil Ehrenkranz is a lawyer in the Dis­trict of Colum­bia spe­cial­iz­ing in telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions law and inter­na­tion­al trans­ac­tions. He has been pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished in MID­STREAM Mag­a­zine includ­ing an arti­cle con­cern­ing Israeli mil­i­tary options regard­ing Iran’s nuclear weapons pro­gram., as well as in the Mid­dle East Review of Inter­na­tion­al Affairs

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