Israeli foreign policy and the arms race in the Middle East 1950-1960

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Previous accounts of the arms race in the Middle East during the 1950s have focused on the imbalance that resulted from the 'Czech deal' of September 1955. While that transfer of weaponry by the Soviet Union to Egypt constituted both a historical turning point and sharp acceleration of the arms race, it was only one of several changes in the regional strategic balance of that decade. This article makes extensive use of archival material in order to identify five phases of the arms race of the 1950s and analyze the manner in which Israeli policy-makers dealt with the exigencies of procurement during each phase. Except for a brief period following the arms deals with France in 1956 that marked the beginning of the fifth phase examined below, the Israelis never abandoned the attempt to obtain arms from the United States. Israel's success in maintaining a high degree of independence in foreign policy throughout this period was the result of arms purchases from Britain and France that marked each phase of the arms race examined here. Yet, the Israelis considered arms from both of these Western powers to be temporary substitutes for the arms relationship with the USA that came about during the 1960s.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-48
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Strategic Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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