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article imageOp-Ed: New declassified documents detail U.S. concerns over Israeli nukes

By Ken Hanly     Sep 5, 2014 in Politics
Washington - The documents are from 1968 and 1969. There are 106 pages of top secret memos from those years. They discuss what the U.S. should do about the developing Israeli nuclear program.
The documents are discussed in detail in an Al Jazeera article by Philip Giraldi a former CIA officer. Giraldi is at present, Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest. The documents show clearly that the US at the time was not willing to simply support Israel on the nuclear issue. Indeed it actively sought to prevent the ongoing Israeli nuclear program.
Conflict between the US and Israel on the nuclear issue began with the outgoing Eisenhower administration. The US asked for an explanation of the top secret construction going on at Dimona. Israel claimed that the construction was of a textile plant but would not allow US inspection of the facility. The conflict escalated in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy took office.
Kennedy believed the Israelis were building a nuclear weapon at the Dimona facility. Kennedy supported the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty(NPT) and believed he could force the Israelis to abandon their nuclear project and sign the treaty. Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion kept putting off the inspection issue until finally Kennedy had enough. On May 18, 1963 Kennedy sent a letter to Israel threatening Israel with total isolation unless American inspectors were allowed into Dimona. Ben-Gurion resigned before answering. Subsequent Johnson and Nixon administrations also pressed for Israel to allow inspections of Dimona and to cease its nuclear program.
Finally Israel agreed to allow inspections of Dimona but only by an American team and with many restrictions including notice weeks in advance of the visits. IAEA inspectors were not allowed. The inspectors were duped: A bogus control center was built over the real one at Dimona, complete with fake control panels and computer-lined gauges that gave a credible impression of measuring the output of a reactor engaged in an irrigation scheme to turn the Negev into a lush pastureland. The area containing the "heavy" water smuggled from France and Norway was placed off-limits to the inspectors "for safety reasons". The sheer volume of heavy water would have been proof the reactor was being readied for a very different purpose. The Americans terminated the inspections in 1969. During the same year an agreement was reached between Nixon and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir: According to Israeli historian Avner Cohen, author of Israel and the Bomb, historical evidence indicates that when Nixon met with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir at the White House in September 1969, they reached a secret understanding, where Israel would keep its nuclear program secret and refrain from carrying out nuclear tests, and the United States would tolerate Israel's possession of nuclear weapons and not press it to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.[95]
Israel has long maintained a policy of deliberate or strategic ambiguity about possession of nuclear weapons. As this article points out: Israel has never officially admitted to having nuclear weapons, instead repeating over the years that it would not be the first country to "introduce" nuclear weapons to the Middle East, leaving ambiguity as to whether it means it will not create, will not disclose, will not make first use of the weapons or possibly some other interpretation of the phrase.
A former technician at Dimona, Mordechai Vanunu made public the Israeli nuclear program in September of 1986 to the Sunday Times. In a complex operation by Mossad involving a female agent Vanunu was lured to Italy, drugged and rendered to Israel where he was tried in secret and sentenced to 18 years in prison with more than 11 in solitary confinement. Since his release he continues to violate terms of his release by giving interviews and has been re-arrested a number of times.
While the narrative of the late sixties ends with a compromise policy that has continued until the present, the tone of some of the discussions was decidedly different. Many US officials showed little concern for what the Israelis considered their interest but looked at US interests in the region. One memo from a Deputy Secretary of Defense concludes that "not to lean on them (Israel) would involve us in a conspiracy with Israel which would leave matters dangerous to our security in their hands." Another official said: "Whatever the validity of Israel's position from its own standpoint, it does not coincide with the interests of the United States and, in fact, constitutes the single most dangerous phenomenon in a region already dangerous enough without nuclear weapons." Perhaps there are still some who argue this way behind closed doors but it seems unlikely since in public US politicians and officials routinely engage in profuse rhetorical praise of Israel and defend its policies. Any criticism there is usually fails to be backed up by any threat of punishment let alone actual punishment.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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