The Politics of Miscalculation in the Middle East

By Richard Bordeaux Parker | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7 MISJUDGMENT ON THE NILE

From a short term point of view, the Israeli deep penetration raids contained a certain logic; but from a long term point of view, it would appear to have been a major error.

Haim Herzog, The Arab-Israeli Wars

Shocked reaction to the Soviet dispatch of troops to Egypt was not long in coming. Both the United States and Israel were quick to cry foul. Abba Eban on April 30 called the use of Soviet pilots "an almost revolutionary change in the military situation" and asked for quick international aid to Israel to compensate for it. 1 Nixon Administration officials were "known to believe the Soviets had altered the balance of power," 2 and Arthur Goldberg, who was running for governor of New York, said President Nixon "must make it absolutely clear to the Russians that they must not meddle in the Near East and they must keep their men out." 3

These responses avoided the question of U.S. and Israeli responsibility in the affair and of why, if U.S. officials were going to be so worried about the augmenting of the Soviet presence in the area, they had not taken the Soviet note of January 30 more seriously. Very briefly, Israel made a serious miscalculation, rationalizing an adventuresome policy that was attractive militarily and politically but was based on a misreading of its opponents, Egypt and the Soviet Union. The facts were made to fit the policy. The Americans went along with that policy, within limits, and did not make their reservations felt. The Israelis read U.S. complaisance (correctly, in my view) as approval and overreached themselves. When they got in trouble, they and the Americans blamed the Egyptians and the Soviets for not reacting as predicted.


THE RATIONALE

According to Bar-Siman-Tov, Israel's decision to begin the deep penetration raids had not been taken hastily or lightly, although he says it did

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