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Raid on Reactor Heats Up Israel’s Election Politics

June 15, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Premier Menachem Begin and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir briefed the Cabinet today on the latest political developments arising from Israel’s air raid on Iraq’s nuclear reactor June 7. The issue became further embroiled in election campaign politics when Cabinet Secretary Arye Naor, following the session, issued a statement accusing the opposition Labor Party of disseminating “false propaganda” about the attack that encouraged other countries to condemn it.

The Labor Alignment retorted that Naor’s statement was additional proof that Likud intended to use the raid on Iraq as an election issue and said the Alignment would not acquiesce in such a development. Begin meanwhile issued a direct call to the American public and the Reagan Administration to alter its negative reactions to the attack. He claimed that a nuclear holocaust would have befallen Israel if he had not ordered the preemptive strike. Begin’s message was to be read at the Israel Day Parade in New York today (See story on pg. 3)

Begin’s aides insisted that this message to the American public was not intended to by-pass the Administration. They said it was requested by the organizers of the parade.

Begin also sent a sharp letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger who he accused of demanding harsh punishment for Israel for the raid. He expressed hope for “greater understanding” from the Administration of Israel’s special security problems.


Meanwhile Begin and his Cabinet faced unexpected criticism from military sources with respect to Begin’s claim that the target of the Israeli raid was a secret underground installation where atomic bombs were being manufactured. Maariv reported today that military experts had no information about any such secret facility.

Yediot Achronot reported today that the Foreign Ministry has instructed all Israeli missions abroad to stop quoting an alleged statement by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that the nuclear reactor was intended to produce bombs for use against Israel. Begin quoted Hussein to that effect in his initial statement June 8 justifying the Israeli air strike. He apparently got it from Iraqi newspapers but Israeli authorities realized that there was no direct quotation from any Iraqi leaders or proof that Hussein had ever made the statement.

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