Thursday, January 16, 2014

Israeli nukes

On 22 September 1979, a US satellite, detected the double-flash typical of a nuclear weapon test off the coast of South Africa. The Israelis had carried out the detonation of a nuclear bomb.

Israel’s nuclear arsenal is now estimated at 80 warheads, on a par with India and Pakistan.  Israel, unlike Iran, never signed up to the 1968 NPT so could not violate it. But it almost certainly broke a treaty banning nuclear tests, as well as countless national and international laws restricting the traffic in nuclear materials and technology.

The list of nations that secretly sold Israel the material and expertise to make nuclear warheads, or who turned a blind eye to its theft, include today's staunchest campaigners against proliferation: the US, France, Germany, Britain and even Norway. Israel had few qualms about proliferating nuclear weapons knowhow and materials, giving South Africa's apartheid regime help in developing its own bomb in the 1970s in return for 600 tons of yellowcake.

Israel's nuclear-weapons project could never have got off the ground, though, without an enormous contribution from France. The country that took the toughest line on counter-proliferation when it came to Iran helped lay the foundations of Israel's nuclear weapons programme.  2,500 French citizens helped build the Israeli Dimona nuclear establishment.

Andre Finkelstein, a former deputy commissioner at France's Atomic Energy Commissariat and deputy director general at the International Atomic Energy Agency, told Avner Cohen, an Israeli-American nuclear historian, "We have been the most irresponsible country on nonproliferation." France sold material assistance to other aspiring weapons states, not just Israel but also including Iraq and Pakistan.

No comments: