How Israel Helped Win the Cold War

October 20, 2020 | Joshua Muravchik
About the author: Joshua Muravchik is the author most recently of Heaven on Earth: The Rise, Fall, and Afterlife of Socialism (Encounter).

When Harry Truman announced that he was inclined to recognize the fledgling Jewish state, George C. Marshall and other eminent foreign-policy advisers urged him not to, arguing that the new country would be a severe liability to American interests—a way of thinking that persists to this day. But, to the contrary, Israel has proved itself time and again to be an invaluable ally. Joshua Muravchik describes some of its important contributions to fighting the cold war:

In 1966, the Mossad’s Operation Diamond, as it was called, was crowned with success after three years of work. The “diamond” in a question was a late version of the MiG21, the mainstay of the Soviet air force. An Iraqi air-force pilot, suborned by the Mossad, took off in one from his airbase and landed in Israel, where Israeli and American experts could scrutinize every inch.

More important still than [such] operational coups was the ongoing sharing of intelligence, which Israeli agents were adept at gathering. Major General George F. Keegan, the head of intelligence for the U.S. Air Force in the 1970s, put it [thus], “The ability of the U.S. Air Force in particular, and the Army in general, to defend whatever position it has in NATO owes more to Israeli intelligence input than it does to any other single source of intelligence.” . . . He added: “I could not have procured [such] intelligence with five CIAs.”

Intelligence was not the most important Israeli contribution to Western defenses. . . . Israel’s strength turned George Marshall’s 1947 fear of alienating the Arab world on its head. Unable to best Israel, Egypt and to varying degrees most of the other Arab [states] grew disillusioned with Soviet patronage. They began to look instead to the United States.

And then there was the way Israeli strength boosted Western morale, and that of anti-Communists in the East:

Israel’s victories in 1967 and 1973 over foes who were mostly Soviet clients provided a psychological counterpoint to America’s consternation in Vietnam. . . . In Poland, “thousands of Poles placed candles in their windows to commemorate the Israeli victories, not so much for love of Israel but because the Arabs were sponsored by the Soviets,” according to R.J. Crampton, a British scholar of the region.

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