JERUSALEM (Jan. 9)
A National Broadcasting Co. report yesterday that Israel has developed a nuclear bomb or would have one very shortly was not denied categorically here today. Authoritative sources however termed it “speculative and inexact.” (The Israel Embassy in Washington denied the report.) They said Israel was not a nuclear state and recalled Israel’s past pledge that it would not be the first nation to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East.
The NBC report was televised on the “Huntley-Brinkley Report.” NBC’s State Department correspondent, James Robinson, attributed his purported information to unidentified sources who claimed that American intelligence agents discovered Israeli agents quietly buying special parts and material that could be used only to manufacture nuclear weapons. The NBC report stated further that Israel had started a crash program two years ago to develop nuclear weapons and was working on a delivery system to be ready within three years. (State Department officials discounted the report as totally erroneous. They told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that the United States was satisfied that Israel would live up to its pledge not to be the first to bring nuclear weapons into the Middle East.)
Credence was given to the NBC report in some quarters abroad by Israel’s refusal to sign the nuclear non-proliferation draft treaty despite heavy pressure from the U.S. Informed circles here said Israel has withheld its signature because the Government was still studying the economic, political, industrial and defense implications of the draft treaty. They pointed out that this was the attitude of many other non-nuclear states.
The NBC report drew some acceptance from the widely acknowledged fact that Israel was one of the four or five non-nuclear countries with the technological capability, if not financial resources, to produce nuclear weapons. NBC cited the latest issue of “Janes’ All The World’s Aircraft,” an authoritative British publication, as saying that Israel would have nuclear warheads of its own design by 1970. Israel has two nuclear research establishments, one at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovoth and the other at Dimona in the Negev Desert. They are believed to be developing nuclear reactors for peaceful purposes. Informants here recalled Prime Minister Levi Eshkol’s statement at a Labor Party meeting in Degana last October that Israel has the know-how to manufacture nuclear weapons “but from there to making them is a long way to go.”
It was also noted here that Israel does not have the financial resources to produce a nuclear bomb, especially as its treasury is already strained to secure the conventional weapons it needs for defense. The 50 F-4 Phantom jets which the U.S. has just agreed to sell Israel will cost about $200 million. (Defense authorities in London said today that while Israel had the know-how to produce nuclear weapons, in a “comparatively short time” it was unlikely that they have developed any so far.”)