Israel’s illicit stockpile of nuclear weapons is the real threat to Middle East peace (Part 2)

Not seeing the Israeli Threat to global peace

Over the last 50 years, Israel has been directly and indirectly aided and funded in its development of weapons of mass destruction by the United States, France, Norway, Britain, Germany and others.  These powerful nations have neither been forthright nor accountable in their roles in giving one small country in the Middle East enough clout to wipe out most of their neighbors via nuclear holocaust.  Such a stance is not only hypocritical to non proliferation; it is intrinsically detrimental to all other diplomacy and hope(s) concerning peace in the future of the Middle East.

Israel’s long standing ambiguity about its nuclear weapons, gives the world, pause and speculation as to why some governments, especially the US and few EU governments, chose to either subvert emphasis on non proliferation, or simply did not have the adequate intelligence to discern what historians and journalists are now only beginning to piece together as history, concerning Israel’s illegal acquisitions of heavy water, fissure material and technology.

The United States and the European countries that are now rumbling and grumbling and on edge over Iran, still avoids even discussion let alone confrontation over Israel’s proliferation, and thus presents this rather poor standard for diplomacy. 

How the US and Europeans are silent on Israeli Nuclear weapons

A foreign policy that favors and entitles one country, with rogue weapons, while condemning another, perpetuates an uneasy climate and double standard wherein peaceful negotiation is doomed before it ever begins.

In his book “The Bomb in the Basement: How Israel Went Nuclear and What That Means For the World” the Israeli journalist, Michael Karpin, provides the readers with an interesting history of scientists, politicians and spies that helped and facilitated the illicit Israeli acquisition of nuclear know how, technology and materials.

He has, albeit selectively, researched the history of alliances made between various western countries (those that are currently critical of Iran) with the purpose to buy and sell nuclear know how to Israel. France, Germany, USA, Norway and Britain all played major roles in supplying Israel with the major “ingredients” for nuclear weapons.

In the late 50s, French experts secretly built the Israeli reactor underground at Dimona, in the Negev desert of southern Israel near Beersheba.  Hundreds of French engineers and technicians filled Beersheba, the biggest town in the Negev. SON (a French firm) built the plutonium separation plants in both France and Israel.  The ground was broken for the EL-102 reactor (as it was known to France) in early 1958.

Israel used many subterfuges to conceal activity at Dimona.  It called the plant a manganese plant, and rarely, a textile plant.  The United States by the end of 1958 had taken pictures of the project from U-2 spy planes, and identified the site as a probable reactor complex.  The concentration of Frenchmen was also impossible to hide from ground observers.  In 1960, before the reactor was operating, France, now under the leadership of de Gaulle, reconsidered and decided to suspend the project.  After several months of negotiation, they reached an agreement in November that allowed the reactor to proceed if Israel promised not to make nuclear weapons and to announce the project to the world.  Work on the plutonium reprocessing plant halted.

In 1960, US military satellites determined that the reactor in Dimona might NOT be in existence for “peaceful” purpose, while the New York Times reported what the CIA already knew…. that “officials are studying with mounting concern recent evidence indicating that Israel, with the assistance of France, may be developing the capacity to produce nuclear weapons”. The article further implied that Israel had been deceiving the United States in its nuclear ambitions.  Neither this report nor the September 22, 1979 VELA satellite records showing signature of Israeli/South-African nuclear explosion in Atlantic ocean south-west of the coast of South Africa deterred  Israel from achieving its goal via any and often nefarious means.

Norway had willingly provided Israel with enough heavy water to build hundreds of bombs, but only under agreement of inspections.  This agreement was rather dormant until 1986 and the kidnapping, secret trial, testament and punishment of Israel’s nuclear whistle blower, Mordechai Vanunu.  Only then did Norway fully realize the real price of selling “heavy water” to Israel. (I find the Norwegian’s claim of ignorance hard to swallow)

In 2005 two British lawmakers accused their government of a cover up in trying to conceal the secret sale of heavy water to Israel in 1959. Although Britain maintains the deal and sale was only between Norway and Britain, admission comes now regarding prior knowledge of where that heavy water would find its final “home”. A BBC report further claims that Brits took the water out of its own stockpile and loaded it on board Israeli ships. Documents also show that Britain was well aware of Israel seeking to buy uranium from South Africa.

Throughout the years, historians and investigative journalists have sought to clarify all of the murkier more ambiguous details that have never been addressed. The cover story for SPIEGEL May 2004, “Black Market of Horror” has been translated by Victor Diodon and presents us with further details about the well known Mossad agent, Rafi Eitan,

Rafi Eitan

was given the responsibility of acquiring fissionable materials for the Israeli atomic weapons program by any means.

Also detailed is a company from Apollo, Pennsylvania , Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp (NUMEC), owned and run by the son of an orthodox rabbi and ardent Zionist who strangely lost track of a certain amount of enriched uranium that was stored at the plant for legitimate US government contracts. Rafi Eitan, mastermind in spying and stealing technological secrets, paid NUMEC a visit.  More than 100 kilos of uranium disappeared and owner, Zalman Shapiro, did not report the loss. He feigned ignorance and there was only enough evidence for the United States Atomic Energy Commission to shut the plant down and could not convict him. FBI investigation of Zalman Shapiro, curtailed by Presidential orders, and sealed under “Top Classified” material, not to be seen by anyone again. Zalman Shapiro was fined $929,000, but no one knows if the fine was paid.

In Brussels, according to the same Spiegel cover story, Eitan takes similar action, only this time with forged papers and the cooperation of a German businessman. Somewhere close to Cyprus a ship carrying a load of uranium disappears, but not before the “goods” were loaded onto an Israeli ship headed for Haifa. Later German businessman, Herbert Schulzen, declares himself an unknowing intermediary for a client he did not know.

1969, September. Golda Meir visits Richard Nixon, and under the persuasion of Henry Kissinger, a top-secret document of understanding between Israel& US, known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Test,” was signed not known to too many people other that Secretary of Defense, Melvin Laird and his Deputy, David Packard. Since that time no one ever dared to mention about this secret pact.

Nuclear Weapons come in all shapes and sizes and the Dolphin class submarines that complete Israel’s fleet and can carry missiles, in 1989, Eitan set out to find a shipyard able and willing to build submarines for Israel. In 1998, Yossi Melman wrote an aptly named article published in Haaretz called  “Swimming With the Dolphins: Israel’s New Dolphin Submarines, Built in Germany, Will Add a New Dimension to the Nuclear Arms Race in the Middle East”. In this article he describes how George the Father HW Bush agreed to allow US funding to pay for Israel’s submarines to be built in German shipyards but that the plan for new Dolphin submarines was not realized until the beginning of the Gulf War. Few years later, two more submarines were given as gifts by Germany to Israel bring the total to five.

The same German government that allowed German companies to sell materials to Iraq for “unconventional” chemical weapons now approved the funding and the construction of submarines for Israel with potential to be used with nuclear war heads in a “second strike” position. In other words, if the reactor at Dimona was suddenly attacked and wiped out, there is now in place the ways and means to provide immediate second strike in retaliation.

On June 15, 2002, the Washington Post disclosed,

Israel has acquired three diesel submarines that it is arming with newly designed cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, according to former Pentagon and State Department officials, potentially giving Israel a triad of land-, sea- and air-based nuclear weapons for the first time”

and that the US had monitored Israel’s testing of a cruise missile off of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean.  How many other nuclear testing have taken place and in retrospect, one must consider the potential damage to humanity and environment, that such “untold” tests produce, especially since it stands to reason most “secret” tests would take place closest to nations who do not have the technology to monitor such activities.

In 1997, Jane’s Intelligence Weekly examined satellite photographs of what it described as an Israeli military base at Kfar Zechariah, concluding academically, “Israel’s nuclear arsenal is larger than many estimates.” According to Jane’s, the site was said to house about 50 Jericho-2 missiles, believed to have a maximum range of about 3,000 miles with a warhead of about 2,200 pounds.

According to the report, the installation contained nuclear bombs, configured for dropping from bombers. Furthermore, five bunkers at the site were cited as capable of safeguarding 150 weapons.  “This … supports indications that the Israeli arsenal may contain as many as 400 nuclear weapons with a total combined yield of 50 megatons,” the report concluded.

Kfar militery base

In 1998 the New York Times reported a Rand Corp. study commissioned by the Pentagon that opined Israel had enough plutonium to make 70 nuclear weapons. More light was shed on the issue when the Israeli Knesset (parliament) held the first public discussion on the country’s nuclear arms program.

Issam Mahoul, an Arab Israeli MP and member of the Hadash (Communist) Party, petitioned that country’s Supreme Court to force the government to permit a parliamentary debate on the forbidden subject. The upshot of this bold and generally unpopular tactic was an unprecedented televised session of the Knesset at which Mahoul stated that, according to experts’ estimates, Israel had stockpiled huge numbers of nuclear warheads. This had increased to what he described as the “insane amount of 200-300.” The weapons had been developed with the help of the South African apartheid regime.

US and Europeans are searching

Mahoul stated that three new German-built submarines purchased by Israel were to be fitted with nuclear weapons. Their stated purpose, he said, was “to cruise deep in the sea and constitute a second strike force in the event that Israel is attacked with nuclear weapons.” Mahoul also announced that Israel was producing “biological warfare” weapons at the government’s Biological Institute in Nes Ziyyona.

Israel's Nes Ziyyona Chemical and Biological Center

The MP concluded that the government’s official policy of “nuclear ambiguity” was the height of self-delusion.” All the world knows that Israel is a vast warehouse of atomic, biological and chemical weapons that serves as an anchor for the Middle East arms race,” he said.

For more than fifty years Israel has been directly and illegitimately funded and aided in its nuclear weapons production by France, the United States, Britain, Germany and Norway yet maintaining “ambiguity.”  During that time, Israel has also refused to sign or negotiate any commitment against the use of biological weapons, such as the 1972 Biological Weapons Conventions. Thus another ambiguous stance when peace requires making more clear the moral conscience and commitment towards peace and non violence.

The Future of Middle East with current Israeli Nuclear Policy

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This entry was posted in American Politics, Iran, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, The Middle East. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Israel’s illicit stockpile of nuclear weapons is the real threat to Middle East peace (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: Ibrahim Kazerooni on the History of Israel’s Nuclear Weapons Program « Rob Prince's Blog

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