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Digital Archive International History Declassified

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Israeli Nuclear History

Documents on the history of Israeli nuclear development. See also the related collections of the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project. (Image, Dimona research center, NARA, RG 59, Records of the Special Assistant to the Secretary of State for Atomic Energy and Outer Space, General Records Relating to Atomic Energy, 1948-62, box 501, Country File Z1.50 Israel f. Reactors 1960)

  • June 23, 1963

    National Intelligence Estimate Number 4-63, 'Likelihood and Consequences of a Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Systems'

    This NIE comes to the general conclusions that “there will not be a widespread proliferation of nuclear weapons over the next 10 years” and discusses programs in various countries (Israel, China, Sweden, India, West Germany, Japan, etc.) This copy includes newly declassified references to the Israeli nuclear weapons program, including the conclusion that “the Israelis, unless deterred by outside pressure, will attempt to produce a nuclear weapon some time in the next several years.”

  • January 08, 1964

    Cable from the US Embassy in France to the Department of State

    This telegram, sent through the special “Roger channel” used for intelligence subjects, refers to an earlier embassy message, number 2319, dated November 12, 1963, which has yet to be found at the US at the National Archives. That telegram may refer to French actions to halt the supply of uranium to Israel which were alluded to indirectly in this message. Jacques Martin, a French Foreign Ministry expert on nuclear matters, told US embassy officials that the Israelis, who had refused to sign an agreement to purchase uranium exclusively from France, were looking for other sources, most likely Belgium and Argentina.

  • March 18, 1964

    Memorandum, Executive Secretary Benjamin Read, US Department of State, 'Israel's Assurances Concerning Use of Atomic Energy'

    This memorandum from Executive Secretary Benjamin Read of the Department of State to National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy provides a valuable chronology of the US discovery of the nuclear reactor project at Dimona and the pledges made by the Israelis in response to requests from the United States. Included in the chronology is an item about a meeting on 25 May 1963 where senior French diplomat Charles Lucet told CIA director John McCone that even though the French had helped build the Dimona reactor, “there might be a nuclear complex not known the French.” Lucet further stated that the Israelis had tried to purchase “safeguard-free” uranium from Gabon but that the French government stopped the sale through preemptive purchases.

  • March 26, 1964

    Cable from the US Embassy in France to the Department of State

    According Jacques Martin, a French Foreign Ministry expert, the Israelis were demanding to know why the French were holding up uranium shipments. The French replied that until Israel was ready to purchase only from France, allowing France “some control over the situation” [in Dimona], the restrictions would continue.

  • April 23, 1964

    Letter from Thomas Hughes, Director, Office of Intelligence and Research, Department of State, to Director of Central Intelligence John McCone

    Noting new intelligence information on the Indian and Israeli nuclear programs, as well as the possibility of developments concerning Sweden, Hughes requested McCone to initiate a new estimate of nuclear proliferation trends, which would eventually become part of a October 1964 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). Hughes enclosed draft “terms of reference,” that included questions about the possibility of “clandestine” weapons programs and new technological developments that could make weapons development “easier” (perhaps a reference to gas centrifuge technology that the 1964 NIE would discuss).

  • April 29, 1964

    Letter from Alan C. Goodison, Eastern Department of the Foreign Office to Arthur R. H. Kellas, British Embassy

    In a letter to Arthur Kellas, counselor at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, Alan Goodison of the Foreign Office's Eastern Department disclosed the Argentine-Israel uranium deal, which involved the transfer of 80-100 tons over 33 months. Since evidence suggested that Israel had facilities for plutonium separation, they estimated that there would be enough plutonium for a weapon within 20 months; however, Goodison had no proof that the Israelis planned to produce a nuclear weapon, only that they had the capability to do so. Minutes are attached.

  • June 04, 1964

    Letter from Christopher Audland, British Embassy in Buenos Aires, to Alan Goodison, Eastern Department of the Foreign Office

    Christopher Audland, a political officer at the British Embassy in Buenos Aires, learned from the Canadian Charge d'Affaires that the information on the Argentine-Israel uranium deal "did not originate in Buenos Aires," and that the Argentine National Atomic Energy Commission had made previous uranium sales to West Germany and to Israel in 1962. Minutes are attached.

  • June 11, 1964

    Cable from the US Embassy in France to the Department of State, 'Franco-Israeli Nuclear Relations'

    Peter Ramsbotham, chief of the chancery at the British Embassy in France, passed along information to the US Embassy about his meeting with George Soutou, a senior official at the French Foreign Ministry. While the French by then did not want Israel to acquire nuclear weapons, they believed that the Israelis were seeking them.

  • June 11, 1964

    Letter from Peter Ramsbotham, British Embassy in Paris, to William 'Willie' Morris, Foreign Office

    This letter describes a meeting between Peter Ramsbotham, chief of the chancery at the British Embassy in France, and George Soutou, a senior official at the French Foreign Ministry. Soutou acknowledged that the French believed that the Israelis were attempting to "put themselves in a position to make a nuclear bomb if they wanted to." The French-Israeli agreement did not include a condition that prevented the use of non-French uranium for Dimona, and Ramsbotham wondered whether the French should be told about the Argentine-Israeli secret deal. Minutes of a conversation with Arkell of the Defense Intelligence Staff are attached.

  • June 22, 1964

    Letter from Alan C. Goodison, Eastern Department of the Foreign Office, to C. J. Audland, British Embassy in Buenos Aires

    Noting some inaccuracy in the Canadian Defence Research Board report---Argentina could not have offered to sell its “entire production” of uranium if it was also selling concentrate to Germany and trying to sell it to Japan—Goodison, of the Foreign Office's Eastern Department, asked Audland, a political officer at the British Embassy in Buenos Aires, to “keep your ears to the ground” to find the “exact quantities” involved.

  • June 22, 1964

    Letter from R. J. T. McLaren, Eastern Department of the Foreign Office, to A. M. Warburton, British Embassy Bonn.

    McLaren wonders why the West Germans want safeguard-free uranium from the Argentine government, noting that it could be re-exported to Israel. He also confirms that information about the Argentine-Israeli deal had been passed to the Americans.

  • July 01, 1964

    Letter from D. Arkell, Defense Intelligence Staff, to R. J. T. McLaren, Eastern Department of the Foreign Office

    According to D. Arkell of the Defence Intelligence Staff, Canadian intelligence was now doubtful about the reliability of their reports on the Argentine-Israeli uranium sale.

  • July 06, 1964

    Letter from Arthur R. H. Kellas, British Embassy in Tel Aviv, to Alan C. Goodison, Eastern Department of the Foreign Office

    In response to Alan Goodison's April 29 letter, which referred to evidence for an Israeli plutonium separation facility, Arthur Kellas, counselor to the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, states that the British Embassy had “not seen such evidence [for a separation facility] and should be grateful to know what it is."

  • July 15, 1964

    Airgram CA-528 from the Department of State to US Embassies in Israel and Argentina, 'Israeli Purchase of Argentine Uranium'

    This joint State Department and CIA message reported an unconfirmed intelligence of an Argentine-Israeli agreement on 3 November 1963, and requested information on the specifics of the deal by 1 September 1964.

  • August 21, 1964

    Letter from Alan C. Goodison, Eastern Department of the Foreign Office, to C. J. Audland, British Embassy in Buenos Aires

    Alan Goodison reported that U.S. officials were skeptical of the Canadian report because their sources had no information about an Argentine-Israeli deal and Argentine exports to Israel had not been reported in the Official Bulletin.

  • August 26, 1964

    Letter from R. C. Treweeks, Defense Intelligence Staff, to Alan C. Goodison, Eastern Department of the Foreign Office

    Referring to Goodison and Kellas' correspondence, Treweeks states that evidence shows that the Canadian report concerning an Argentine-Israeli uranium deal was incorrect and that there is little evidence for an Israeli plutonium separation facility.

  • September 02, 1964

    Airgram from the US Embassy in Argentina to the Department of State, 'Israeli Purchase of Argentine Uranium'

    The interim report from the US Embassy in Buenos Aires, filed just past the 1 September deadline, confirms the sale of 100 tons of yellow cake uranium to Israel over the course of a three-year period, beginning 1 January 1963. The uranium was to be used solely for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

  • October 06, 1964

    Letter from D. Arkell, Defense Intelligence Staff, to Alan C. Goodison, Eastern Department of the Foreign Office

    In this letter, which summarizes and agrees with the US assessment of the Argentine-Israeli deal, Arkell asks for Goodison's opinion and whether he knows of any safeguards arrangements between Israel and Argentina.

  • October 08, 1964

    Report, Canadian Defence Research Board, 'Possible Israeli Military Nuclear Program'

    After analyzing photographs taken of the Israeli nuclear facility at Dimona, J. Koop, a career intelligence analyst at Canada's Defence Research Board, concluded in March 1964 that Dimona had all of the "prerequisites for commencing a modest nuclear weapons development project." When the Dimona reactor went critical, it could produce enough plutonium for at least one implosion device by the end of 1965 and increase its operating level to produce one to two per year by 1966. Arthur Kellas, a British diplomat in Israel, wrote in his forwarding letter that they were highly impressed by the analysis.

  • October 09, 1964

    Airgram CA-3992 from the Department of State to the US Embassy in Argentina, 'Israeli Purchase of Argentine Uranium'

    Responding to the report from the US Embassy in Argentina, the State Department asked it to obtain as much information as possible on the end-use of uranium sold to Israel, and in particular on the issue of safeguards.