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Our man in Tel Aviv: diplomacy, deception and the Six Day War

In Britain, From the Vaults, Israel, James Vaughan, Six Day War on June 6, 2012 at 8:00 AM

I am delighted to provide a space for this post written by James Vaughan, Lecturer in International History at Aberystwyth University. It is an amusing hindsight look at correspondence between the British Ambassador to Israel and the Foreign Office around the time of the Six Day War which was fought for six days commencing June 5, 1967 between Israel and Arab countries. Dr. Vaughan has taken the trouble to locate this correspondence, which I certainly view as worth reading, in the National Archives. Michael Ezra

Our man in Tel Aviv: diplomacy, deception and the Six Day War

Sir Michael Hadow served as Britain’s Ambassador to Israel from 1965 to 1969, during which time he earned a reputation among Arabist circles in the Foreign Office as being unusually sympathetic to Israel (he would later take up a role as the Director of the Anglo-Israeli Association based in London).

 The following extracts, from despatches issued by Hadow to the Foreign Office, provide a faintly comic insight into the success of the Israeli diplomatic deception campaign conducted in the days leading up to the outbreak of the Six Day War on 5 June 1967 and the extent to which the British Ambassador was, in his own words, ‘led up the garden path.’

 28  May 1967

 Speaking frankly, Israel’s military situation was far from what it had been ten days ago. There was now little prospect of an out and out “victory” in a short time.  It would be disastrous for Israel to embark on an operation which entailed the maximum of international opprobrium but which would fail to secure any real advantage for Israel….  I understood that the air battle was important, but I thought here too the odds had gone down fairly sharply…. Israel had lost the element of surprise…. They had signalled their punches to such an extent that I should have thought that as from tonight the Egyptian Air Force would be ready to such an extent that there might be some unpleasant surprises in store for Israel. [1]

4 June 1967

Yesterday was a return to normal Tel Aviv Sabbath.  Beaches packed and general holiday atmosphere.  There has obviously been an extensive stand-down for the Armed Forces…. I propose to discontinue these [situation reports] unless there is anything of significance to report.[ 2]

4 June 1967

The day of the firebrand in the Israel Defence Forces is over.  They are now preparing for the long haul…. [Moshe] Dayan…will be in favour of a longish pause and a ‘détente’…. He will be starting to make plans, depending on Arab inability to maintain the same posture for too long, to be ready for a situation under which Israel could put in a powerful first blow while making the Arabs appear to have struck first.  I would not put it past his ingenuity to think up something: but I do not think he would estimate that such a situation can be brought about in under at least three months. [3]

6 July 1967

On the 4th of June I reported with some confidence that the Israel Government, for a variety of reasons, appeared to have accepted that for the foreseeable future there was no alternative to maintaining a passive posture…in the face of Nasser’s seizure of the initiative against them. Next day they embarked upon one of the most ruthlessly efficient military campaigns in modern history. [4]


[1] The National Archive, Kew, FCO 17/489, Michael Hadow to Foreign Office, No. 393, 28 May 1967.
[2] The National Archive, Kew, FCO 17/489, Michael Hadow to FCO, No. 464, 7.00am, 4 June 1967.
[3] The National Archive, Kew,  PREM 13/1619, Michael Hadow to Foreign Office, No. 469, 12.30pm, 4 June, 1967.
[4] The National Archive, Kew, PREM 13/1622, Michael Hadow to George Brown, 6 July 1967.