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Kissinger - 'If we expose the program we risk tightening Soviet hold on Arabs' Photo: AFP
Kissinger - 'If we expose the program we risk tightening Soviet hold on Arabs' Photo: AFP

Kissinger in 1969: Israelis most likely to use nukes

Declassified memo authored by President Nixon's prominent national security advisor indicates administration was deeply concerned by possibility Israel was developing nuclear arms

Published: 11.29.07, 15:39 / Israel News

Former US National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger vexed over the prospects of a Middle East arms race in late 1960's, according to a New York Times report on Thursday, based on newly revealed historical documents, made public by the US National Archives.


Israel was "more likely than almost any other country to actually use their nuclear weapons," Kissinger wrote in a detailed memorandum to President Richard Nixon on July 19 1969, while all eyes in the US were on the Apollo 11 lunar mission. Kissinger said the reason for this was because Israelis are "one of the few people whose survival is genuinely threatened."


Kissinger also suggested the possibility that Israel had stolen American materials for its own nuclear program. "This is one program on which the Israelis have persistently deceived us and may even have stolen from us," the veteran strategist wrote.


"There is circumstantial evidence that some fissionable material available for Israel's weapons development was illegally obtained from the United States about 1965," Kissinger said. He dismissed attempts to locate the material, writing that "we could never cover all conceivable Israeli hiding places."


"Israel will not take us seriously on the nuclear issue unless they believe we are prepared to withhold something they very much need," Kissinger wrote, going on to recommend the US threaten to rescind the sale of the Phantom fighter jets, holding the much-needed aircraft hostage until Israel yielded.


"On the other hand, if we withhold the Phantoms and they make this fact public in the United States, enormous political pressure will be mounted on us," Kissinger extrapolated. "We will be in an indefensible position if we cannot state why we are withholding the planes. Yet if we explain our position publicly, we will be the ones to make Israel's possession of nuclear weapons public with all the international consequences this entails."


Such a move would also potentially "spark a Soviet nuclear guarantee for the Arabs, tighten the Soviet hold on the Arabs and increase the danger of our involvement."


After meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir later that year, Nixon said: “The problems in the Mideast go back centuries. They are not susceptible to easy solution. We do not expect them to be susceptible to instant diplomacy.”


And so the policy of vagueness regarding Israel's nuclear program was born and remains to this day.


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