Secret Memos Reveal Israel Built Nuclear Program Without Government Consent
New documents reveal how Isreal’s nuclear program came to be and details the history of the program’s development.
Haaretz contributor and historian, Adam Raz disclosed that documents he received from a confidential source after a speaking engagement reveal how Isreal’s nuclear program came to be without informing the Israeli parliament.
According to the documents, Tel Aviv started building a secret nuclear reactor called Dimona in 1958. Among the documents were official dossiers, including notes, drafts, and summaries by then-senior Israeli officials including from Israel Galili, an advisor for two former prime ministers (Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir). The other former officials in the documents were cabinet member Yigal Allon and IDF commander Moshe Dayan, and Shimon Peres and senior diplomat Abba Eban, who helped Raz to collect vital details about the secret project.
The files showed that the cost of the Dimona reactor was estimated to be $53 million by former chief of defense and eventual Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres in April 1962. However, the cost was revised upwards to “three times” the $60 million first discussed in the cabinet in 1964. An undated note, which was estimated to have been written between 1963 and 1964, indicated that the real cost of the reactor was around $340 million.
The documents disclosed that Galili had several concerns about the nuclear project, known as “the enterprise,” including its potential to ruin the country’s “moral status” or provoke then Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser into attacking Israel. Galili was worried that Israel’s nuclear ambition would trigger Cairo to start its own nuclear program.
Has Isreal Lied About its Nuclear Program?
Last May, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shocked the world by presenting archives to prove that Iran made nuclear weapons in the early 2000s and allegedly kept it secret. Israel’s intelligence body Mossad admitted confiscating 100,000 confidential documents on Iran’s nuclear program from a warehouse in Tehran.
Netanyahu’s presentation was criticized for being “political theater” and based on information that was already known. Officials already knew about the existence of Iran’s now-defunct Project Amad program. Additionally, critics argued Netanyahu did not offer any proof that Iran had restarted its nuclear weapons program.
The story of Israel’s nuclear reactor is not a big surprise as former Dimona worker Mordechai Vanunu once leaked information on Tel Aviv’s nuclear programs in 1986.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the Israeli administration under David Ben-Gurion deceived the US and prevented Washington from getting information on Israel’s weapons development by blocking the visit of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The Ben-Gurion administration hid the truth from an American nuclear inspector about the Dimona reactor by claiming that the site was only a “textile factory” and “a metallurgy research installation.”
How Many Nuclear Weapons Does Israel Have?
There is much speculation about Israel’s nuclear arsenal, but nobody knows exactly how many nuclear weapons the country has. In 2008, former US president Jimmy Carter estimated that Israel had at least around 150 nuclear weapons. But he later revised his statement and said that Israel had approximately 300 nuclear weapons.
In an email sent a few months before the Iran nuclear agreement was signed in 2015, former US Secretary of State Colin Powell said that Israel was estimated to possess around 200 nuclear weapons, and all were targeted at Tehran. The email was leaked in September of 2016 by the group DCLeaks.
The 2015 Iran nuclear dea, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), applied restrictions on Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons. In 2018, US President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement, calling it a “flawed and an embarrassing deal signed in the Barack Obama administration.” Iran is not currently believed to have nuclear weapons.
Iran, Isreal and the NPT
Signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) have consistently pushed for a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. But Tel Aviv has adamantly refused to sign it, claiming that nuclear weapons cannot be separated from the security issue in the region.
In 2010, all 189 state-parties in the treaty called for a conference in 2012 to discuss denuclearization in the Middle East and called on Israel to sign the pact and comply with the treaty. Israel snubbed the treat and called it “a flawed and hypocritical document.”
Israel said in a statement, “This resolution is deeply flawed and hypocritical. It ignores the realities of the Middle East and the real threats facing the region and the entire world.”
Iran has been a signatory to the NPT since 1970 but has been found in non-compliance in particular by failing to announce a uranium project.