How Israel Developed Nuclear Weapons in Secret

By Taaza Facts

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How Israel Developed Nuclear Weapons in Secret

Israel Developed Nuclear Weapons – It was September 1960 when the US ambassador in Israel visited a fertilizer plant in Sodom during an official tour. On their way back to Tel Aviv, the Israeli Air Force provided a helicopter, and while flying over the Neev Desert, the ambassador spotted an industrial facility. He asked an Israeli official about it, who replied that it was a textile factory. However, what the ambassador had actually seen was the Dimona nuclear facility, the site of Israel’s nuclear program. This incident led to the cover story of the facility being referred to as a textile factory, a narrative that many Israeli officials would later adopt.

Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons is no longer a secret, although no one officially admits it. But how did Israel acquire nuclear weapons in the first place, and why has it kept them secret?

Let’s go back to 1948, right after Israel was established. The country came under attack from Arab nations, and while Israel emerged victorious, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion knew that there would be future conflicts. He wanted Israel to be prepared, and he recognized the power of nuclear weapons. He enlisted scientists to work on Israel’s nuclear program, and one of the key figures was Ernst David Bergmann, a German-born organic chemistry expert.

In 1952, Bergmann became the head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, responsible for overseeing the nuclear program. Alongside Bergmann, Ben-Gurion and Shimon Peres, who was not a military man but wielded significant power, were instrumental in the development of Israel’s nuclear program.

In 1957, Israel obtained a plutonium reactor from France, and hundreds of French workers were brought to the Dimona facility to build the reactor and a reprocessing plant. This plant was crucial in recycling nuclear fuel and extracting usable plutonium.

Despite efforts to keep the project secret, the Americans discovered the existence of the reactor in 1960 through photographic evidence. President Eisenhower sought answers, but Israel maintained that Dimona was meant for peaceful purposes, primarily for generating electricity. The Americans remained skeptical.

In 1965, Shimon Peres recruited Hollywood producer Arnold Milchan as a spy for Israel’s nuclear program. Milchan played a crucial role in sourcing key components from abroad and gathering information through his connections. Israel also acquired heavy water, another essential component, from Norway.

Throughout the 1960s, Israel continued its nuclear program, successfully hiding the reprocessing plant beneath false walls. By the late 1960s, Israel had developed its nuclear bomb.

As for testing the bomb, Israel came close during the Six-Day War in 1967, but ultimately, it was not necessary. By 1968, the US was aware of Israel’s nuclear capabilities but could not take action due to the ongoing discussions surrounding the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Going public with Israel’s nuclear program would have jeopardized the NPT, as it would have dissuaded Arab nations from signing the treaty.

In 1979, there were indications of a possible Israeli nuclear test near South Africa, but no conclusive evidence exists. Nevertheless, Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons remains an open secret.

Israel’s Nuclear Ambiguity:

In 1979, Leonard Weit claimed that someone had tested a nuclear bomb, but his words fell on deaf ears. Later, he accused the US government of silencing him. Israeli sources confirmed that it was indeed Israel who conducted the nuclear test, known as the double flash.

But why would South Africa collaborate in such a test?

In 1979, the apartheid regime held power in South Africa, and Israel was a key supporter of that regime. In exchange for their support, Israel shared nuclear knowledge with the South Africans. It has been decades since these events, and although Israel is believed to have developed nuclear weapons, it maintains a policy of nuclear ambiguity. They neither confirm nor deny their possession of nuclear weapons.

How do we know all of this?

Declassified documents from the US government, interviews, and statements from those involved shed light on the matter. It all started with Mordechai Vanunu, a former Israeli technician who worked in Dimona from 1977 to 1985. Vanunu leaked classified information to the British media in 1986, exposing Israel’s nuclear weapons program. Before that, its existence was a well-kept secret. Vanunu was later abducted by Mossad in Rome, convicted, and imprisoned for 18 years, 10 of which were spent in solitary confinement.

How Israel Developed Nuclear Weapons in Secret
How Israel Developed Nuclear Weapons in Secret

Despite occasional slips by Israeli politicians, such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referring to Israel as a nuclear power in 2020, the official policy remains unchanged. Reports estimate that Israel possesses around 90 nuclear warheads, although this is not officially confirmed.

For context, India has approximately 164 nuclear warheads, Britain has 220, and the United States and Russia possess over 5,000 each. Has Israel’s policy of nuclear ambiguity been successful? It is difficult to say definitively. Since the revelation in 1986, there has not been another major Arab-Israeli war like the Yom Kippur War in 1973, where Arab states united against Israel. While conflicts with Hezbollah and Palestinian groups have occurred, there has been no pan-Arab attempt to wage war on Israel. This raises the question of whether nuclear deterrence has played a role in maintaining stability.


Q: When did the US ambassador accidentally see the Dimona nuclear facility?
A: The US ambassador accidentally saw the Dimona nuclear facility in September 1960.

Q: What cover story was given for the Dimona facility?
A: The cover story for the Dimona facility was that it was a textile factory.

Q: How did Israel acquire nuclear weapons?
A: Israel acquired nuclear weapons by enlisting scientists to work on their nuclear program, obtaining a plutonium reactor from France, and acquiring key components from abroad.

Q: Who were the key figures involved in the development of Israel’s nuclear program?
A: The key figures involved in the development of Israel’s nuclear program were Ernst David Bergmann, David Ben-Gurion, and Shimon Peres.

Q: When did Israel develop its nuclear bomb?
A: By the late 1960s, Israel had developed its nuclear bomb.

Q: Why has Israel kept their possession of nuclear weapons a secret?
A: Israel has kept their possession of nuclear weapons a secret to maintain strategic ambiguity and avoid jeopardizing international agreements.

Taaza Facts

I am a multifaceted content creator with expertise in blogging, Finance, and Cryptocurrency reviews. My creative journey involves weaving captivating stories in blogs, designing aesthetically pleasing and functional websites, and dissecting the nuances of cinema. We are dedicated to sharing our passion and insights with a global audience.

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