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In Anne Applebaum's recent book Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956 she claims the USSR supported the new state of Israel and states "Stalin believed Israel would quickly join the communist camp".

She doesn't cite any references for this, but is it true? And if so, what grounds were there for Stalin believing Israel would align itself with the Soviet Union?

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Given the nature of much of the people around Ben Gurion, as well as Stalin's own mindset, it wouldn't surprise me in the least, but I know of no written record of Stalin ever stating so publicly. –  jwenting Jun 6 '13 at 6:36
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This excellent question is quite difficult to answer. @Drux and jwenting correctly point out that the Labor Party was a left one and had considerable respect for the USSR at the time. However, they were not quite the usual Stalinist cadre-fodder: (a) they were as Zionist as Socialist (b) they were not very radical, much more like social democrats than like communists. On the other hand there was a bona fide communist party and a more left radical party, Mapam, who looked much more amenable to communist plans. So perhaps Stalin was counting on them taking power later and becoming his stooges. –  Felix Goldberg Jun 6 '13 at 12:26
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It's hard to tell because Stalin did not really consult with anyone and left no paper trail that documents his personalistic decision-making. (notifying also @jwenting) For those who are interested in the background, some pointers can be found in history.stackexchange.com/a/8827/1569 –  Felix Goldberg Jun 6 '13 at 12:27
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@jwenting: Very possible! Of course, there was one crucial difference between a Kibbutz and a kolchoze - memebership in the former was voluntary, whereas in the latter it was at gunpoint. But such differences could have escaped Stalin... –  Felix Goldberg Jun 6 '13 at 14:22
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@FelixGoldberg - most of early Zionists were quite hard left, Labor was just one manifestation of that. –  DVK Jun 7 '13 at 16:30

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted
  1. It is clear that Stalin supported the creation of Israel. From the Wiki:

    For Soviet foreign policy decision-makers, pragmatism took precedence over ideology. Without changing its official anti-Zionist stance, from late 1944, until 1948 and even later, Joseph Stalin adopted a pro-Zionist foreign policy, apparently believing that the new country would be socialist and would accelerate the decline of British influence in the Middle East.[cite: Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews (1987) p.527]

    On May 17, 1948, three days after Israel declared independence, the Soviet Union legally recognized it de jure, becoming the first country to grant de jure recognition to the Jewish state..In addition to the diplomatic support, arms from Czechoslovakia, part of the Soviet bloc, were crucial to Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

    It's quite clear that this would NOT have happened had Stalin disagreed.

  2. As far as " what grounds were there for Stalin believing Israel would align itself with the Soviet Union":

    • as the commenters noted, most of the early Zionists and founders of Israel were politically quite left and socialist-bent. I consider this fact to bee too well known and trivial to bother with sites, but if you wish I'll add them. Ex: [1].

    • Also, at the time, British and the West in general started swinging towards being more pro-Arab due to geopolitical concerns, notably oil (Lawrence of Arabia being a good example; and British resistance to the creation of Israel despite Balfour commitments being another example). As such, Israel would be a natural counterweight for Stalin to extend his influence in Near East, the same way United States was using Israel once the geopolitical alignments reversed themselves in 1970s when Arab states became Soviet clients and Israel American one.

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Stalin was an ideologue, but not a very rigid one, and he was not an idiot.

He supported Israel because it was a thorn in the side of the British Empire (and its Arab relationships), not because the Zionist were left wing.

After all, left wing or right wing, anyone who did not toe the Moscow's line precisely was an enemy. Stalin knew full well that people neither join the communist camp nor enter the prison camp voluntarily, and did not expect Israel to do so; and he did not have the resources to turn Israel into another Poland or Romania.

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Another reason was that it could serve as a way to get Jews to emigrate from Russia. Stalin and most of the Soviet leaders have never been comfortable with Russian Jews. –  Oldcat Jul 23 at 21:45
    
@Oldcat: nope. Emigration means loss of human material. Communists never encouraged that, they just sent the undesirables to labor camps. –  sds Jul 23 at 21:52
    
There were 4000+ emigrants in 1948-9, and a very large surge in the 1970s and 1990s. It was not banned. –  Oldcat Jul 23 at 21:59
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@Oldcat: emigration was VERY strongly discouraged. Otherwise half the country would have left. –  sds Jul 23 at 22:06
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@Oldcat - given that Stalin prepared to send a large chunk of Jews to Siberia in 1950s (see "Delo vrachei"), sds's comment is on the nose. Stalin needed Israel as a solution to USSR's "jewish problem" like a cow needs wheels. –  DVK Jul 24 at 15:27

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