Washington ‘leak’ on Visit to Dimona’s Atomic Reactor Irks Israel

Israel’s Government instructed its embassy at Washington today to ask American authorities to investigate a news “leak” to the press yesterday about an alleged “inspection” of the atomic reactor at Dimona by engineers of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. The report was confirmed by the State Department.

Government officials here pointed out that the leak of an American visit to Dimona — which was termed a “visit” and not an inspection — was contrary to an understanding with the United States that such visits must be kept secret. The Foreign Ministry here considered today the possibility of expressing its “dissatisfaction” to the Department of State in Washington.

Officials here pointed out that the report about American visits to Dimona was inaccurate. The report had stated that the first American visit to Dimona was made in 1964. Actually, Israel insists, that first visit occurred in 1961. The dates are considered here as important because David Ben-Gurion was Prime Minister in 1961.

Political circles here stressed today the fact that no regular arrangements for American visits to Dimona have been made by Israel. The visits, it was pointed out, were permitted “ex gratia, ” or only as a courtesy from Israel to the United States. It was emphasized that, since 1961, occasional visits have been made, not only by American scientists but also by nuclear experts from other countries, and not only to Dimona but also to the Israeli research institute at Nahal Sorek, the Weizmann Institute of Science at Rehovot, and other installations.

Hayom, the organ of Gahal — the political fusion of Herut and the Liberal Party — declared its strong opposition today to “American visits, which are nothing but inspections.” The newspaper wrote that, in spite of denials by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, “there are U.S. inspections.” It added that such inspections were “contrary to Israel’s sovereignty, and a blow to Israel’s defense. “

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