Menu JTA Search

Kissinger: Israel swiped nuke fuel

Henry Kissinger told President Nixon that he suspected Israel stole fissile material from the United States.

The suspicions by Nixon’s national security adviser emerged in documents from 1969, declassified and released Wednesday by the Nixon Presidential Library and the National Archives and reported in The New York Times.

“This is one program on which the Israelis have persistently deceived us and may even have stolen from us,” Kissinger wrote in a memorandum. “There is circumstantial evidence that some fissionable material available for Israel’s weapons development was illegally obtained from the United States about 1965.”

Israel does not acknowledge a nuclear weapons program. Most accounts say that fissile material for the weapons originally was obtained from France.

Kissinger wrote the notes ahead of a meeting in July 1969 between Nixon and Golda Meir, then the Israeli prime minister. Relations between the two nations were close, and Nixon and Meir admired one another.

Kissinger wondered about the best way to confront Meir about Israel’s nuclear program. He contemplated withholding fighter jets from Israel, but worried that this would prove hugely unpopular in the United States. He also dismissed forcing Israel’s hand by revealing what the United States knew of the Jewish state’s nuclear weapons, worrying that such a revelation might lead to an arms race.

Historians believe the current status quo emerged from the Nixon-Meir meeting. Israel does not acknowledge its nuclear weapons program, but has pledged not to be the first nation to use nuclear arms. The United States refrains from pressuring Israel to join a non-proliferation treaty.

NEXT STORY