Perhaps it began before 1948, when Israel and Palestine were partitioned by the UN into two separate but equal states. Perhaps the nuclear notion occurred to David Ben-Gurion and friends in 1945, as they observed two atomic bombs dropped by the US on the Empire of Japan (mostly civilian populations) to end WW II. In fact, the nuclear solution brought about an immediate surrender.
In 1948, many highly-skilled Jewish scientists who came to Palestine during the 1930s and 1940s, in particular Dr. Ernst David Bergman, who became the director of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission and founder of his new nation’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons, joined in support of Ben-Gurion. Those scientists scoured the Negev Desert for uranium deposits on orders from the Israeli Ministry of Defense. By 1950, low-grade deposits near Beersheba and Sidon were found, and their discoverers worked on a low power system of heavy water production.
After all, Israel, having created itself as a Jewish island in a sea of angry Arabs, must have been impressed by the US bombs. Here was a way for David to slay Goliath, a nuclear slingshot, so powerful that it dared any new Holocaust seekers to attempt another. That nuclear stone, properly aimed, powered and fired, would neutralize the would-be attackers in their own Holocaust, if necessary Thus began the tyranny of the rogue nuclear power while the Goliaths of America and Russia were nuclear arming themselves to the teeth.
In fact, as US Army Lt. Col. Warner D. Farr, retired, tells us of this in his must-read 27-page history of Israel’s Nuclear Weapons — The Third Temple’s Holy of Holies, “As payment for Israeli participation in the Suez Crisis of 1956, France provided nuclear expertise and constructed a reactor complex for Israel at Dimona (Beersheba) capable of large-scale plutonium production and reprocessing. The United States discovered the facility in 1958 and it was a subject of continual discussions between American presidents and Israeli prime ministers.” A bit of war guilt for the Nazi and Vichy governments was mixed in as well.
As Farr reports, “Israel used delay and deception to at first keep the United States at bay, and later used the nuclear option as a bargaining chip for a consistent American conventional arms supply. After French disengagement in the early 1960s, Israel progressed on its own, including through several covert operations, to project completion. Before the 1967 Six-Day War, they felt their nuclear facility threatened and reportedly assembled several nuclear devices. By the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel had a number of sophisticated nuclear bombs, deployed them, and considered using them. The Arabs may have limited their war aims because of their knowledge of the Israeli Nuclear weapons. . . .” And so it goes.
With one of the world’s largest nuclear facilities, the actual reactor nested in a deeply set basement, not available for “nuclear opacity,” Israel was on its way to becoming one of the world’s larger nuclear powers and skirting observation. Israel leadership must have breathed a sigh of relief at this Pandora’s Box gifted them, as if from heaven. Dr. Bergmann in fact continued to work closely with the newly created Weizman Institute of Science from 1949 on. In fact, they would contribute to France’s development of nuclear weapons, as well, to help it catch up with the US, USSR, UK, and Canada.
Of course, by 1958, the Dimona plant, alternately called a manganese and/or textile plant, was photographed by US U-2 spy planes and identified as a likely site of a reactor complex. The French, swarming like ants about the complex, were hard to hide as well in Beersheba, so much so that Charles DeGaulle, France’s president, wanted a promise from Israel not to make nuclear weapons, and to announce the “project” to the world. Before Israel did that, they were preempted by the US State Department announcing the secret plant. Even the NY Times announced on December 21, 1960 that Ben-Gurion was building a 24-megawatt reactor “for peaceful purposes.” Sure it was.
This led to a strain in relations between the two nations, with inspections beginning in 1962 until 1969. In fact, the US inspectors only saw the buildings above ground, not the many levels underground. The above ground areas had simulated control rooms. Access to the underground plutonium reprocessing plant was kept so secret that elevator entrances to it were actually bricked over, a highly conscious deception that would cause a country like Iran today a great deal of flak, to say the least. In fact, Ben-Gurion continued to talk about peaceful uses of the plant as it sunk deeper into making nuclear weapons. This as Israel dodged the 50’s and 60’s NATO and US nuclear umbrella.
The French continued to partner, hand in hand, sharing even nuclear tests and data, the French reportedly reshipping reprocessed plutonium back to Israel as payback for scientific assistance.
1963-1973, project completion
Cutting through this bizarre web (all of which you should read in Farr’s article), the French continued work with Israel at Dimona, the sole purpose being to use the underground processing plant for one use, and one use only, nuclear weapons. In fact, for accidentally passing into Dimona’s airspace, Israel shot down one of its own Mirage fighters during the Six-Day War and a Libyan airliner in 1973, with 104 passengers on board, when it strayed over the Sinai. Extra heavy water to run the reactor at a higher rate was provided not only by France, but Norway, while the US provided the uranium for “Operation Plumbat.”
After the ’67 war, France cut off uranium supplies to Israel; supplies had come from former French colonies, Gabon, the infamous Niger (as in yellowcake), and the Central African Republic. Small quantities of uranium came from Israel’s Negev phosphate mines, while it bought quantities from Argentina and South Africa. The West Germans had a front company for high seas transfer, which delivered 200 tons of yellowcake, delivered by the smugglers in 560 sealed oil drums labeled “Plumbat,” which means lead. How clever. The complicity of these nations remained underground as well, so as not anger the Soviets and Arabs. MOSSAD info on former Nazi then German officials helped with motivation.
The first extraction of plutonium, under Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, occurred in 1965. Unfortunately by that time, the Egyptian Air Force had overflown Dimona and most probably recognized the presence of a nuclear reactor. Additionally, 50 American HAWK anti-aircraft missiles half-ringed the plant. Yet Israel consider Egyptian overflights of May 16, 1967, as possible pre-strike reconnaissance, one source listing the flights as trip wires that drove Israel to war. Unfortunately, if one has powerful weapons the impulse is to use or threaten to use them, even if cause needs to be fabricated. Fortunately, Nasser vetoed an Egyptian military plan to attack Dimona at the start of any war. Israel put together two nuclear bombs and 10 days later went to war. The nuclear option was being played out.
And so it went, through the 60s. Lyndon Johnson was more willing than John Kennedy to look the other way, even as Israel pressed him for A-4E Skyhawks first and F-4E Phantoms later, with an agreement not to use them to deliver nuclear weapons. Sure. The F-4s were delivered on September 5, 1969, with their nuclear capable hardware intact. So it goes. Israel and the world dig themselves deeper into a nuclear hole. See the Farr article for complete details. The next section, from 1974-1999, is called Bringing the Bomb up the Basement Stairs, that is into artillery pieces to fire nuclear shells.
By 1976, even the CIA believed that the Israelis were using plutonium from Dimona and had 10 to 20 nuclear weapons available. In 1985, whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu reported the number of nuclear fission bombs at 200 or more, with boosted devices, neutron bombs, F-16 deliverable warheads and Jericho warheads. “The Vanunu photos show a sophistication that inferred to the requirement for testing,” comments Farr.
Indian Ocean tests?
On September 22, 1979, a bright familiar flash in the south Indian Ocean was seen by an American satellite. It was believed to be a South Africa-Israel joint nuclear test. It was, as Farr reports, “according to some, the third test of a neutron bomb. The first two were hidden in clouds to fool the satellite and the third was an accident — the weather cleared.” Though experts differ on these tests, other writers report that scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory believed it to have been a nuclear explosion. This as a presidential panel decided otherwise.
Controversy over possible nuclear testing continues until this day. In June 1998, Farr reports, “a Member of the Knesset accused the government of an underground test near Eilat on May 28, 1998. Egyptian ‘nuclear experts’ have made similar charges. The Israeli government hotly denied the claims.”
In addition, the Israelis have been interested in American nuclear weapons development data, especially from US intelligence. Farr tells us, “American-born Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard obtained satellite-imaging data of the Soviet Union, allowing Israel to target accurately Soviet Cities [after discovering they, Israel, were on a Soviet target list]. This showed Israel’s intention to use its nuclear arsenal as a deterrent political lever, or retaliatory capability against the Soviet Union itself.
“Israel also used American satellite imagery to plan the 7 June 1981 attack on the Tammuz-1 reactor at Osiraq, Iraq. This daring attack, carried out by eight F-16’s accompanied by six F-15’s punched a hole in the concrete reactor dome before the reactor began operation (and just days before an Israeli election) . . . The blasts shred the reactor and blew out the dome foundations, causing it to collapse on the rubble. This was the first attack on a nuclear reactor [Itals mine].” So Israel, US, Russia, France, et al, where do we go from here?
Perhaps to Gordon Thomas, reporting at Globe Intel in his article, Mossad and the Russian Mafia Plutonium Connection, 11/21/03. Here is a sample. You can read the rest . . .
“Scientists at the European Trans-Uranium Institute at Karlsruhe in Germany, tracking the movements of all fissionable material from the former Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal, have raised suspicions that Mossad has purchased some of the material to allegedly stop it falling
into the hands of Islamic and other terror groups.
“But there is also the real possibility that Israel has gone into the nuclear black market to buy fissionable material to bolster its own huge nuclear arsenal. Israel already has one of the world’s largest arsenals — more than capable of decimating all its Arab neighbors. Its 200 nuclear bombs and missiles are stockpiled in the Negev desert.
“The suspicion that Israel has also started to buy material stolen from the former Soviet Union surfaced a year ago when a quantity of Uranium-235 was found in the Paris apartment of three criminals known to broker arms deals with terror groups like al-Qaeda. . . .”
So, now we have a Wild East situation, with Israel purchasing nuclear material supposedly to stop it from falling into the hands of Al-Qaeda. It would seem said material is no safer in Israel’s hands than in those of the fictional Al-Qaeda, a CIA brand name for terror, originally created, funded, and armed to fight the Russians in 1979 in Afghanistan. Its name was used again in 2001 to describe the patsies for 9/11, those 19 Muslim characters whose presence on the four ill-fated airliners has never been fully validated. This brings us full circle to Israel’s own participation in 9/11, a story for another day, but a very real story.
I have not written this article to condemn Israel on its 60th anniversary as a quasi-legal state, quasi to question the UN’s legitimacy to create it, and quasi for Israel’s subsequent actions to ingest and destroy the Palestinians. My aim is to point out Israel’s own hypocrisy regarding Iran’s possible possession of nuclear capability not just for peacetime power. Beyond the Cold War, it is Israel that has historically been edging us into a worldwide nuclear conflagration; and doing so since 2001 with the hegemonic boobs presently running the USA and supporting Israel’s misguided efforts with billions of dollars of aid for arms in the hope that it will keep the Arab world intimidated and give us its oil.
I also understand the motivation of the Israeli founders in seeking a nuclear option as a deterrent to another Holocaust. But they have created now what Seymour Hirsch noted as “The Samson Option,” which is to bring down the whole world on our heads to prevent what seems a self-fulfilling prophecy of Holocaust.
As a rogue nation, under its own impetus, Israel should invoke its Talmudic and biblical conscience, take a breath, and rethink where they are, who they are, what they are doing, and to whom. The survival of Israel’s Zionist State of Mind should not be contingent on the potential destruction of the world. That is as simply, as compassionately, as reasonably as I can state it. After my voice, will come voices far more strident and ugly, as you can imagine.
Trust me. Put aside your arms and put aside your bunker mentality to talk peacefully.
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.