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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)

  • April 09, 1962

    William C. Hamilton to Robert C. Strong, 'Reply to U.K. Paper on Safeguards'

    State Department reply to British officials regarding controls over Israel's nuclear program.

  • June 22, 1962

    Robert C. Strong to Phillips Talbot, 'Another Visit to Israel’s Dimona Reactor'

    Unable to arrange visits from a "neutral" country, the State Department proposes another US visit to Dimona.

  • June 22, 1962

    Department of State Memorandum of Conversation, 'A Second Visit by U.S. Scientists to Israel’s Dimona Reactor'

    Ambassador Harman responds favorably to the suggestion of another US visit to Dimona.

  • July 11, 1962

    State Department Telegram 233 to US Embassy Egypt

    UAR officials express concern regarding the Israeli nuclear program.

  • September 14, 1962

    Department of State Memorandum of Conversation, 'Proposed Visit of U.S. Scientists to the Dimona Reactor'

    Delay in response to US request for a second visit to Dimona.

  • September 18, 1962

    William Brubeck, Executive Secretary, to McGeorge Bundy, 'Second Visit by U.S. Scientists to the Dimona Reactor'

    Memorandum summarizing response to US requests for a second visit to Dimona.

  • October 22, 1962

    State Department Telegram 451 to US Embassy Egypt

    State Department reports that a second US visit to Dimona reaffirmed previous view that there was no evidence of preparations for nuclear weapons production.

  • October 23, 1962

    Department of State Memorandum of Conversation, 'Second U.S. Visit to Dimona Reactor'

    Results of second US visit to Dimona discussed.

  • December 27, 1962

    Rodger P. Davies to Phillips Talbot, 'Second Inspection of Israel's Dimona Reactor'

    Summary of second US inspection of Dimona. Although inspectors "were taken to Dimona without advance notification, [and] they had spent only a short time there," they felt that "the visit was satisfacotry in that the AEC technicians could confirm that the reactor is not a power reactor but rather a large research reactor.

  • June 23, 1963

    National Intelligence Estimate NIE 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.