Israel and the Soviet Union Resume Diplomatic Relations

October 18, 1991

Israel and the Soviet Union resume diplomatic relations. The Soviet Union and other Eastern bloc countries had broken off diplomatic relations with Israel in June 1967, as a result of the Six Day War.

The Soviet Union had voted to create a Jewish state by endorsing the 1947 partition plan, and was one of the first countries to recognize Israel in May 1948. Russia believed that quickly ending British presence in Palestine would enable Moscow a faster route to spreading Communism in eastern Mediterranean countries which included Greece, Turkey, and other places in the Middle East. Gradually in the 1950s, relations between the two countries deteriorated as the Soviet Union sided with Israel’s Arab foes, particularly Egypt, Syria, and Palestinian organizations. Some historians also believe that the Soviet Union severed diplomatic ties with Jerusalem in 1967 because it wanted to reduce Israel’s impact on and potential interference with the Soviet Jewish community, who were not allowed to leave the country.

Relations between Israel and the USSR began to improve under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev. In 1987, the two countries established consular ties which coincided with the Soviet Union’s easing of restrictions on Jewish life and eventually opening the gates of immigration to Israel. The resumption of full diplomatic ties was conditional on Israel agreeing to participate in the 1991 Madrid peace conference, which was to be jointly convened by the US and the USSR..

On the occasion of the resumption of diplomatic ties, Boris Pankin, the Soviet Foreign Minister told the New York Times, “In the past, the Soviet Union tended to sort of side with the Palestinians and the Arab states, while the United States sided with Israel. This did not bring any tangible fruit. The new approach now is certainly not to have any proteges and support their positions no matter what they say and no matter how legitimate they may be.”

The photo above shows Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir (left) receiving Foreign Minister Boris Pankin in Jerusalem on October 18, 1991.