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February 11: The USSR Breaks Off Relations with Israel

February 11, 2013

The Soviet Union broke off diplomatic relations with Israel on this date in 1953, only one month after the “Doctors’ Plot” was announced in Moscow and only one month before Stalin died, probably from poisoning. The USSR and its bloc countries had voted in favor of the UN Partition Plan for Palestine in 1947 and had supplied vital armaments to Israel (through Czechoslovakia) in its war of independence the following year, but relations between the two countries deteriorated as Russian anti-Zionism reasserted itself after World War II, and as communists in Israel were marginalized by David Ben Gurion’s majority cohort, which increasingly brought Israel into an alliance with the United States. By the mid-1950s, Soviet interest had shifted to Egypt, which Israel attacked with Britain and France in October, 1956 following the nationalization of the Suez Canal. Israel and the USSR did not reestablish full diplomatic relations until 1991, shortly before the Soviet Union collapsed, by which time it had become the chief weapons supplier and backer of Egypt, Syria, and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

“The solution of the Palestine problem based on a partition of Palestine into two separate states will be of profound historical significance because this decision will meet the legitimate demands of the Jewish people, hundreds of thousands of whom . . . are still without a country, without a home . . .” —Andrei Gromyko, Soviet Foreign Minister, 1947