Report That Israel Either Has Atomic Bomb or Components for Quick Assembly

The New York Times reported yesterday from Washington, in a lengthy evaluation occupying almost half a page, that for at least two years the United States government has been conducting Its Mideast policy on the assumption that Israel either has an atomic bomb or has components available for quick assembly. The only basis for the report by correspondent Hedrick Smith was “reliable sources.” Mr. Smith wrote there has been disagreement among senior government officials on whether the evidence was absolutely conclusive. Both former President Johnson and President Nixon received intelligence “assessments” that Israel has the capacity to assemble an A bomb on short notice and some senior officials “believe she has already done so,” Mr. Smith wrote. He said the reason the Nixon administration has not developed a fully coordinated national intelligence estimate which would say flatly that “Israel does have atomic weapons” is that the government has been “so sensitive to grave implications of the issue.”

According to Mr. Smith, the White House as long ago as 1968 “had no doubt” Israel could produce an A bomb or warhead for its French-built surface missiles and that if such a weapon was not already In its hands it was “within very easy range,” according to “one highly placed source.” Smith ascribed the basis of his report to a decision by the New York Times to make “renewed efforts” to examine the matter which was prompted by comments on the CBS television program “Face the Nation” on July 12 by Senator Stuart Symington. The Missouri Democrat said that there was “no question that Israel is doing its best to develop nuclear weapons.” Sen. Symington is a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees. When he was asked point-blank whether Israel now had A bombs, he said “We are getting close to something. I cannot talk about.” Mr. Smith reported that all American sources emphasize there are no surface missiles and that American officials “also assert they have no reason to believe Israel would use atomic weapons except In most dire emergency as Sen. Symington suggested.” Mr. Smith also wrote that the Nixon administration was not disseminating information or trying to use “this issue In Its current diplomacy.”

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