WASHINGTON (Dec. 20)
The State Department today indicated that it may seek inspection of Israel’s work in the field of nuclear research for peaceful purposes, should the United States Government not be satisfied with Israel’s reply to inquiries about the alleged construction by Israel of a second atomic reactor with the aid of France.
A State Department spokesman stressed that the U.S. agreement with Israel, under which Israel received an atomic reactor some time ago for research purposes, included safeguards giving the United States the right of inspection to make certain that U.S. assistance would not be turned to military purposes.
The spokesman said that the State Department has not yet received any response from the Israel Government to the inquiries made when the Secretary of State called in Israel’s Ambassador Avraham Harman, on December 9, “to express his concern and request information” about the reported construction of a new atomic reactor in the Jewish State.
White House press secretary James C. Hagerty said today that “stories about the atomic plant in Israel” were discussed yesterday at a White House meeting attended by President Eisenhower and top policy advisers. Other U.S. officials said that construction of Israel’s second atomic reactor was noticed by American officials recently, when large-scale construction was observed in the Negev, near Beersheba. When inquiries were made about the project in Israel, the United States representatives were led to believe that a textile plant was under construction. However, long-range pictures of the construction revealed the true nature of the plant, the officials stated.
STATE DEPARTMENT VIEWS SUMMARIZED IN OFFICIAL STATEMENT
The official attitude of the State Department to the reports on Israel’s building of a second atomic energy reactor with the aid of France was made public last night in a statement issued by Lincoln White, the Department’s press secretary. The statement said:
“The Department of State has noted press reports of statements by Israel Government spokesmen concerning the peaceful character of Israeli atomic energy activities. The Department welcomes these reported assurances that the Government of Israel has no intention of producing nuclear weapons and that its program is concerned exclusively with the peaceful uses of atomic energy.
“United States-Israel cooperation in the field of atomic energy is limited to research cooperation under President Eisenhower’s Atoms-for-Peace program. In the same way as we have done in many countries in pursuance of our Atoms-for-Peace program, we have assisted Israel in constructing near Rehovot a small research reactor for peaceful purposes, and we have exchanged unclassified atomic energy information with Israel.
“Our bilateral agreement with Israel provides that our assistance may not be developed into military use and that safeguards, including inspection will be enforced to this end. United States cooperation or assistance in any program to develop a nuclear weapon capability would not be possible. Such action would be precluded by our policy of discouraging the proliferation of independent nuclear weapons capabilities and by the U.S. Atomic Energy Act.
“As a result of unofficial reports to the effect that a new and larger nuclear reactor was under construction in Israel, the Secretary of State called in the Ambassador of Israel on December 9 to express his concern and to request information. A response has not yet been received.”
(In New York, two newspapers–the Herald-Tribune and the New York Post–were baffled by the “disproportionate” concern displayed in Washington over the reports of Israel’s developing a second nuclear reactor. The Herald-Tribune said editorially that “despite the flurry in Washington, we are a bit sceptical about the likelihood–or at least the imminence–of Israel’s building a nuclear bomb.” The Post editorial was in a similar vein.)