From the National Security Archive, a deep dive on a sensitive geopolitical issue that is rarely raised in Washington: how Israel became the first and only nuclear power in the Middle East.
While the events in question happened some 50 years ago, they reverberate today. The United States and Israel, as nuclear powers, have renounced the 2015 international accord to limit Iran’s nuclear program to peaceful purposes.
What the latest declassified U.S. documents show is a profound intelligence failure.
The CIA, in its classified National Intelligence Estimates, accepted Israel’s assurances that it was not seeking nuclear weapons in the 1960s.
In fact, Israel’s nuclear facility at Dimona was entirely geared toward producing nuclear weapons. Thanks to fissile material diverted from a U.S. processing plant by a legendary Mossad operative named Rafi Eitan, Israel produced its first nuclear weapon in 1968.
Why did the American intelligence community misjudge so badly Israeli nuclear resolve? Specifically, why was the American intelligence community misled so fundamentally on the key issue of the reprocessing plant? Moreover, when did the United States finally learn Dimona’s secret? These sensitive questions are hardly ever raised in public, and, as long as only threads of evidence are available and only educated guesses possible, the answers are still elusive.
SOURCE: National Security Archive is an independent research institution in Washington DC that publishes high-quality studies of U.S. national security empire, all based on original government documents. Orientation: liberal. Highly recommended.