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Centurions and Chieftains : tank sales and British policy towards Israel in the aftermath of the Six Day War

Smith, Simon C.



Britain's attempt to distance itself from Israel as London sought to conciliate the Arab world in the aftermath of the Six-Day War has entered the historiography of Anglo-Israeli relations. A neglected aspect of the development of British policy towards Israel has been the intense debates among British decision-makers regarding the supply of tanks to Israel following the 1967 conflict. British reluctance to export the powerful Chieftain tank to Israel stemmed not only from an unwillingness to fuel an arms race in the Middle East, but also from a determination to protect ongoing and extensive British economic interests in the Arab world, especially oil supplies. In keeping with efforts to dissociate itself from Israel, Britain also sought to downplay, and even conceal from the Arab world, ongoing sales of the less sophisticated Centurion tank to Israel. In many ways, British policy towards Israel culminated in the decision during the 1973 Yom Kippur War to maintain an arms embargo to the region which, while not extending to all Arab countries, hit Israel especially hard as it desperately sought ammunition and spares for its Centurion tanks.


Smith, S. C. (2014). Centurions and Chieftains : tank sales and British policy towards Israel in the aftermath of the Six Day War. Contemporary British History, 28(2), 219-239.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 1, 2014
Online Publication Date Jun 20, 2014
Publication Date Apr 3, 2014
Deposit Date May 13, 2016
Publicly Available Date May 13, 2016
Journal Contemporary British history
Print ISSN 1361-9462
Electronic ISSN 1743-7997
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 28
Issue 2
Pages 219-239
Keywords Six Day War, Yom Kippur War, Anglo-Israeli relations, Tanks, Israel
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Contemporary British history on 20 Jun 2014, available online:


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