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Declassified documents, gag orders, and Israel’s nuclear weapons

Nuclear weapons symbol
Photo: Nicolas Raymond

In this op ed, AFSC's Policy Impact Coordinator Raed Jarrar discusses the declassified documents that prove Israel has nuclear weapons and the U.S. government helped build them. 

It is no secret that the U.S.-Israeli relationship is suffering from unprecedented levels of tension, mainly instigated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Whether it was his controversial speech in Washington, D.C., which railed against any peaceful resolution with Iran over its nuclear ambitions, or his declaration – and subsequent flip-flop - that there would be no Palestinian state on his watch, Netanyahu has dominated the media here and abroad.

Amid all this noise, important revelations about Israel’s nuclear weapons program have gone unnoticed.

A few weeks ago, a 1987 Defense Department report that confirms Israel has nuclear weapons was declassified by the U.S. government. More significantly, the report also confirms what many have suspected all along: The U.S. government helped Israel develop their nuclear bomb.

While Washington pushed other nations to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires international inspections to discourage the spread of nuclear arms, Israel has never signed the NPT and therefore does not have to submit to inspections.

Helping Israel acquire nuclear weapons -- and continuing to send military aid to Israel -- is not only against international treaties, it violates our own domestic laws. Two amendments to the decades-old Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) prohibit most U.S. foreign aid to any country found trafficking in nuclear enrichment equipment or technology outside international safeguards.

Former Missouri Sen. Stuart Symington's 1976 amendment to the FAA bans most U.S. aid to countries trafficking in nuclear technology outside international safeguards. In addition, former Ohio Sen. John Glenn's 1977 amendment calls for ending aid to countries that import nuclear reprocessing technology. If we count how much aid we’ve sent to Israel since the 1987 report, it adds up to $86 billion.  

A second declassified document is even more disturbing. A report from a 1985-2002 FBI investigation describes how a network of front companies connected to the Israeli Ministry of Defense illegally smuggled nuclear weapon triggers out of this country.

These files detail how an engineer who was convicted of running a U.S. front company met with Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel during the smuggling operation. At that time, Netanyahu worked at the Israeli node of the smuggling network, a front called Heli Trading Company. In 2002, then Prime Minister Netanyahu issued a gag order that the smuggling network’s ringleader refrain from discussing “Project Pinto.”

Last month, a related poll was commissioned by the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy. When informed of Project Pinto, 55 percent of Americans agreed that Netanyahu should be investigated for his role in the smuggling network.

An investigation is unlikely to happen – because it’s illegal for federal officials to talk about the Israeli nuclear weapons program. There are two gag orders, punishable by imprisonment if violated, that prohibit U.S. security-cleared government employees and contractors from disclosing that Israel has a nuclear weapons program. Our own government officials can’t even discuss the issue - let alone initiate an investigation into it.

In summary: The prime minister of the only Middle Eastern country with nuclear weapons comes all the way to the U.S. to tell us that an international nuclear agreement with Iran is not good enough.

The same man who told the U.S. in 2002 that we should invade Iraq because it was getting a nuclear bomb--and who since 1992 has claimed that Iran is close to getting a nuclear bomb--is himself implicated in building Israel’s illegal nuclear weapons arsenal.

You can’t make this radioactive-waste up. 

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