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Israel’s Capability to Produce Atom Bomb Raised in Tv Discussion

April 19, 1966
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Israel could probably perfect an atomic bomb within two years, the United States Administration doesn’t want Israel to join the “atomic club,” and Egypt’s President Nasser has threatened to open “preventive war” against Israel if he receives “concrete information” about Israel’s nuclear capability, the National Broadcasting Company reported on a nationwide television program last night.

A feature of the program was the showing, for the first time, of secretly made, unauthorized films, taken from a distance, of Israel’s nuclear reactor at Dimona. “There at Dimona,” said NBC commentator Chet Huntley, “heavily guarded, is a nuclear reactor. No outsider is allowed near it. But certain facts are known.”

The NBC news correspondent in Paris, Bernard Frizell, added at this point: “France helped Israel to build a nuclear reactor at Dimona, a reactor that was completed just about a year ago. Since the agreement on the basis of which the French gave this aid has never been published, it is not known whether the reactor is limited to peaceful uses.”

Irving R. Levine, NBC news correspondent in Rome, stated: “If the decision were made tonight, Israel would probably have a bomb in less than two years. The generation governing Israel has been reluctant to make the decision to go nuclear. The next generation may feel that Israel’s security demands that they build atomic bombs, openly or in secret.”


One of the outstanding American experts on the general subject of atomic development, Herman Kahn, director of the Hudson Institute, stated: “What I would assume that the Israelis are doing, and what I would, in fact, consider wise to do if I were in their position, is put aside something like one or two years away from being able to spread nuclear weapons. In other words, if the situation changes, they do have this option under a crash program of getting nuclear weapons. This in itself might act as a deterrent to an Arab program. On the other hand, they should not display this option, talk about it, publicize it, or in any way lay any emphasis on it — but just have it in the background.”

“The Israelis,” added Mr. Huntley, “do have this option at Dimona. And they keep it in the background.” Officially, Mr. Huntley pointed out, Israel has accepted the U.S. view against nuclear proliferation. After showing that Israel faces the Arab enemy “sworn to wipe Israel from the map,” Mr. Huntley said: “It is to defend against this that, over strong United States opposition, some Israelis want to build a nuclear bomb.”

Gen. Pierre Gallois, of France, a nuclear theoretician, warned that, if the Arab states should unite against Israel, “Israel would have a very difficult position, militarily speaking. Naturally, I understand that they would like to have some atomic weapons because they know that the mere existence of these weapons is neutralizing any concentration of manpower.” Shimon Peres, Israel’s former Deputy Minister of Defense, said: “I do not see any other alternative for Israel but really to develop some of her specialties belonging to our own age, so that she will appear reasonably strong and convincing that an attack against her won’t be a very wise thing from the political and military points of view.”


Abba Eban, Israel’s Foreign Minister, appeared on the program, declaring: “The Government of Israel, faithful to the policy that its Prime Minister initiated in May, 1964, has not initiated and will not initiate the introduction of new arms or any sort of new weapons into the Middle East, conventional or nonconventional. To explain that statement, I think I ought to point out that Egypt, through the Soviet Union, has been responsible for initiating every new stage in the arms race. Now, in every case, Israel has responded to the new situation created by these Egyptian initiatives. This remains an index of our policy today.”

Mr. Nasser, shown being interviewed in Cairo, said that Israel has a 24-mega-watt reactor and plutonium, could produce atomic weapons, and stated: “This will be a threat to us and all the other Arab countries; so, if we are sure that they are preparing atomic weapons, we will have to begin a preventive war.” He conceded to the interviewer that he is not yet sure Israel would have an atomic bomb, but repeated that Egypt would start a preventive war if it got concrete information on that score, because “it would be a matter of life or death for us.”

The NBC-TV program, one in a series of NBC “white papers,” was entitled “Countdown to Zero” and was devoted in general to the dangers of nuclear proliferation, a development opposed by the United States Government. Large sections of the program were given over to West Germany’s desire to participate in a NATO decision on the use of nuclear weapons, to the French Government’s entry into the “nuclear club,” to Communist China’s development of nuclear devices, and to India’s fears of China’s nuclear threat. In that general context, the NBC-TV program pinpointed the Israeli situation vis-a-vis nuclear development.

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