TEL AVIV (Jun. 17)
Haifa Technion scientists Joined Israeli political figures today in expressing their fears that the American decision to supply Egypt with unclear potentialities would endanger the area and put it into a nuclear race.
Former Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, just returned from a visit to the U.S. repeated his warning that if Egypt is able to exploit the nuclear cooperation agreement for non-peaceful purposes in the future, then Nixon’s visit will go down as “a fatal and historic mistake.”
“All I can say is that I was surprised by the announcement.” Dayan told reporters at Ben Gurion Airport when he returned from a ten-day visit to North America Saturday night.
In Haifa today, Prof. Joseph Rom of the Technion Aeronautic Department, said that the U.S. Egyptian agreement on nuclear cooperation will substantially advance Egypt’s ability to reach an atomic option. Any attempt to present the agreement in its peaceful industrial aspect and to evade the strategic aspects of this agreement would be a grave mistake. He recalled that the Russians have supplied the Egyptians with the 300 kilometer ranged “Skud” missiles which are adaptable to carry a nuclear war head and now the Americans are granting the Egyptians that know-how that would enhance their technological ability and scientific capabilities to reach a nuclear option. The agreement announced by President Nixon would greatly close the scientific and technologic gap between Israel and the Egyptians in the field of nuclear science.
Prof. Rom said that in his opinion Israel has to voice her anxieties over the far-reaching implications of the Egyptian-American agreement and to express unreserved support in those groups of the American Congress who do see the dangers of the agreement. The agreement, he said, introduces elements of a nuclear race to the Middle East. He recalled that under American pressure Israel has stated it would not advance the nuclear option in the Middle East. But now the Americans are initiating a contribution to the Egyptians that would close the scientific and technologic gap between Israel and Egypt and this must be carefully examined as far as the strategic implications are concerned. It is not the question of some quantities of uranium that may be stolen. It is the scientific and technologic know-how that will be accumulated by the Egyptians and would enable Egypt to reach a nuclear option in a shorter time than without that knowledge. Moreover, he stressed, the knowledge needed for the operation of a nuclear reactor for peaceful purposes is similar to that needed for war purposes.
CONTROLS CAN BE EVADED
Another senior scientist said, that a similar agreement with Israel may be of demonstrative value only as Israel has already the knowledge in this field. He warned that “small scale” nuclear weapons may even reach the hands of terrorist groups. Prof. Naftali Shafrir, head of Nuclear Engineering Department at the Technion, said that at an international symposium on means of controlling nuclear reactors for peaceful purposes it was clearly concluded that there is no problem in evading control of international bodies and in the long no, with some patience, it is possible to accumulate the necessary materials for other purposes than peaceful.
Dayan noted that the agreement with Egypt was not wholly negative in that it would increase American influence in the Arab world. At the same time he stressed that the mere fact that the agreement provides for the U.S. supervision indicates that the nuclear energy produced by the proposed plant could be used to produce nuclear weapons. He also expressed concern that the U.S. would not always be in a position to exercise its control over the use Egypt makes of the nuclear plant. He cited the example of India as a country that has received foreign aid to produce nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and has now managed to produce its own atomic device. Apart from that Dayan pointed out that Egypt has no shortage of energy sources in view of the recent oil strikes and the vast hydro-electric potentials of the Aswan Dam which has not yet been fully exploited.