In their sensational new book, Foxbats over Dimona: The Soviets' Nuclear Gamble in the Six-Day War (Yale University Press), Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez argue that the real cause of the Six-Day War in 1967 was the Soviet Union. Using newly available Soviet sources, the authors present a startling account of the origins of the Six-Day War that differs from all previous ones. A Ukrainian-born Israeli, Isabella Ginor is a Fellow at the Harry S. Truman Research Institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where she has founded a research project on USSR military involvement in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Gideon Remez has received numerous awards for journalism and was a leading newscaster for Kol Israel radio for 36 years. Ms. Ginor and Mr. Remez addressed the Middle East Forum on their book, Foxbats Over Dimona, on June 6, 2007, the 40th anniversary of the start of the Six-Day War. The following are reports on their briefing that appeared in The Jewish Exponent and The Evening Bulletin.
Book Fingers USSR as Culprit in Six-Day War
by Bryan Schwartzman
The Jewish Exponent
June 14, 2007
Coming amid the intense worldwide focus on the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War, which has also proven to be a time of renewed friction between the United States and Russia, an Israeli husband-and-wife research team has offered up a theory contending that it was the Soviet Union -- and not the Arabs or Israelis -- who engineered the 1967 conflict that continues to reverberate throughout the Middle East.
In their new book, Foxbats over Dimona: The Soviets' Nuclear Gamble in the Six-Day War, Isabella Ginor, a scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Gideon Remez, a noted TV journalist, argue that the USSR fed Syria false reports about Israeli troop movements in order to precipitate another Arab-Israeli war.
(The book's title refers to the Soviet fighter plane, the MiG-25 Foxbat.)
The reason for doing such?
The Soviets actually feared a nuclear Israel, and sought a pretext to intervene directly and bomb Israel's nuclear reactor in Dimona, according to the authors. Israel has never officially acknowledged that it possesses nuclear weapons, though it's a widely accepted fact that it does.
Stating their case last week at a Center City event sponsored by the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based think tank, the couple admitted that their take contradicts long-held notions about Soviet involvement in the events of the war. Specifically, the idea that while the USSR may have helped spark the June 1967 crisis, it then acted to diffuse the situation, and prevent it from escalating into a global or nuclear affair.
The later interpretation fits the historical mode of a Soviet Union that behaved relatively responsibly and rationally when it came to post-Cuban Missile Crisis standoffs, an interpretation the authors said historians may have to revisit.
"If the picture we present does not conform with the understanding of Soviet doctrine, then we leave it to greater minds than ours to reassess the doctrine," said the Ukrainian-born Ginor, who appeared with her husband and co-author at a lunchtime program in the Jewish Community Services Building in Philadelphia.
The duo based their thesis largely on the testimony of Soviet military personnel, along with some documentation from the period of the events. Ginor stated that the Soviets had planned at least a year in advance to strike Israel when the Jewish state and her Arab enemies reached a military stalemate. But the maneuvers were, for the most part, never carried out since Israel routed the Egyptian air force and achieved victory so quickly, stated Remez.
Middle East Forum founder Daniel Pipes penned a positive review of the work in the New York Sun, calling it a "viable, exciting interpretation for others to chew on." But not all pundits have been as kind. Historian Michael B. Oren, now considered one of the leading experts on the Six-Day War, told The Jerusalem Post that he found no evidence in Soviet archives to support such claims.
In his own book, Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, Oren argued that a complex combination of factors -- domestic Arab politics, the Arabs and Israelis misreading each other's intentions, and power struggles fueled by the Cold War -- led unwitting participants down the path to war.
So if Soviet fears of Israel's nuclear ambitions truly caused the Six-Day War, what does that say about the long-term impact of the conflict and its results, especially Israel's conquering of the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights, as well as the reunification of Jerusalem?
And what about the friction between America and post-Soviet Russia, and the increasingly harsh rhetoric coming from Russian President Vladimir Putin?
In the question-and-answer session that followed their presentation, Ginor and Remez took a pass on anything concerning events that followed the war.
According to Remez, that's because the couple self-imposed a news blackout -- refraining from commenting or writing about current events -- in order to focus on getting the book completed in time for the war's 40th anniversary.
"We only took a break to drive our kids to school and back," said Remez. "Other than that, the radio was always off, and the television was always off."
Foxbats Over Dimona
by Joseph Puder
The Evening Bulletin
June 19, 2007
A crowded meeting room at Philadelphia's Jewish Community Services Building was the venue for the recently held program with Isabellah Ginor and Gideon Remez, authors of Foxbat's over Dimona. The Federation of Jewish Agencies-Israel Advocacy Taskforce, and the Middle East Forum sponsored the event.
A husband and wife team, Ginor and Remez combined their expert investigative talents and determination - which produced mounds of archival research from sources in Russia and Israel, to reveal a stirring story, hitherto overlooked by historians and journalists.
Dr. Isabella Ginor, a native of the Ukraine and a long time citizen of Israel, is a Fellow at the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Gideon Remez, a native Israeli, spent 30 years as a broadcaster for Kol Israel (Voice of Israel).
The title of the book deals with a most dramatic and little known event that occurred on May 26, 1967 when a couple of secret Mig-25 Soviet jet-fighters, designated in the West as Foxbats, flew over Israel's Dimona nuclear facility.
Introduced by Bob Guzzardi, Esq., a Philadelphia area philanthropist and a board member of the Jewish Publication Society, and chairman of the board of the Middle East Forum. Ginor and Remez described the tedious and challenging investigative work that preceded the writing of the book. Ginor explained that while certain information in Russian archives was available to researchers, archival material from the KGB and GRU (Soviet civilian and military intelligence services) files were inaccessible.
Ginor recounted the Cold War climate that existed in the 1960's and the loss of face suffered by Nikita Khrushchev (Secretary General of the Soviet Union Communist Party and leader of the U.S.S.R. from 1953-1964) during the Cuban Missile crisis. Khrushchev's successor, Leonid Brezhnev, was determinably more careful in May of 1967, in dealing with regional clients.
Nevertheless, Ginor suggested, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R continued to jockey for advantage and power positions by using regional actors.
Ginor noted that critics have maintained that they were unable to find documented proof of the authors'contentions, and charged that most of the interviews cited in the book had never taken place. Ginor rejected such accusations out of hand, and shared with the audience an interview she had with a naval officer who knew of the Soviet plan to drop Russian Marines into Israel and attack Israel's nuclear facility. A commander of the Soviet unit the authors interviewed confirmed the story and maintained that, in fact, he was wounded during an Israeli air raid attack.
According to Ginor, by 1966 the Soviets had devised a "big plan" that would destroy the nuclear facility and they shared the existence of such a plan with their Syrian and Egyptian clients. The plan called for the Syrians and Egyptians to provoke Israel into retaliating against them, which would then be used as an excuse for Soviet intervention and the destruction of the Dimona nuclear facility.
"The Soviets planned a landing operation in the eastern Mediterranean, involving 30 warships and at least one battalion of Soviet Marines," Remez told the audience. According to him, a Russian Professor named Kislov was an actual participant in the planned attack, and he confirmed the information. The Soviet plan called for Soviet Marines to join forces with Syrian troops, with assistance from Arab-Israelis who were to be recruited specifically for the operation.
The Soviet Union counted on an Arab victory and planned to provide the Arabs with full support - rather than full intervention - which might have provoked a super-power confrontation. Ginor told of a speech made in 1966 by Marshall Gretshko, the Soviet Defense Minister, in Chernovitz, Ukraine, in which he promised that "The Jubilee of the 1917 Russian Revolution would be the last day of the Jewish State" and that "imperialism and Zionism will come to an end."
Remez, politically on the Left (who describes himself as a member of the Meretz party - the most dovish of Israel's political parties) declared that the book did not have a political agenda. Simply stated, he asserted, "Israel did not initiate the Six Days War." Remez spoke of documents that were captured in the Sinai during the Six Days War from fleeing Egyptian soldiers which revealed that the Egyptians had targeted the Dimona nuclear facility. In fact, Field-Marshall Amer, Egypt's second in command after Nasser, insisted on Egypt's military destruction of the Dimona facility. This, coupled with the fact that the Soviet Union's interest in destroying Dimona has been omitted from all narratives, served as the impetus for the book.
There is still reluctance on the part of both the Israeli and Russian military and political leadership to discuss the "direct Soviet intervention" during the Six Days War (June 5-11, 1967) and the War of Attrition (1968-1970), according to Remez. "The Soviets," he said, "painted their aircraft with Egyptian markings," and Israel deliberately "covered up" the capture of Soviet "advisors" in the Golan Heights.
It was widely known among Israeli Air Force (IAF) personnel that Soviet pilots flew reconnaissance flights over the Sinai (1968-1970) and that IAF pilots successfully downed at least 36 Soviet pilots in dogfights with no Israeli losses. Moreover, Israeli pilots reported picking up and translating conversations in Russian between Russian pilots over the Sinai Peninsula.
Remez revealed the presence of Soviet documents showing that Isser Harel, Israel's legendary Mossad boss, had written the Soviet leaders and told them about Israel's plan to develop nuclear weapons. In 1965 the Soviet Union, upon learning of Israel's nuclear activities began to work on a plan to do that they could to prevent it.
The May 26, 1967 Foxbats reconnaissance flight over Dimona, "was the catalyst for the Israelis to go to war," according to Remez. "The Soviets," he added, accurately predicted that Israel would strike first." Thinking they had Israel pegged, they expected a land attack - WW II style and were taken by complete surprise by the IAF's early morning precision air attack that destroyed the entire Arab air forces.