[News] Israel offered to sell SA nuclear weapons
news at freedomarchives.org
Tue May 25 11:34:09 EDT 2010
Revealed: How Israel offered to sell SA nuclear weapons
CHRIS MCGREAL | WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES- May 24 2010 07:55
Secret South African documents reveal that Israel
offered to sell nuclear warheads to the apartheid
regime, providing the first official documentary
evidence of the state's possession of nuclear weapons.
The "top secret" minutes of meetings between
senior officials from the two countries in 1975
show that South Africa's defence minister, PW
Botha, asked for the warheads and Shimon Peres,
then Israel's defence minister and now its
president, responded by offering them "in three
sizes". The two men also signed a broad-ranging
agreement governing military ties between the two
countries that included a clause declaring that
"the very existence of this agreement" was to remain secret.
The documents, uncovered by an American academic,
Sasha Polakow-Suransky, in research for a book on
the close relationship between the two countries,
provide evidence that Israel has nuclear weapons
despite its policy of "ambiguity" in neither
confirming nor denying their existence.
The Israeli authorities tried to stop South
Africa's post-apartheid government declassifying
the documents at Polakow-Suransky's request and
the revelations will be an embarrassment,
particularly as this week's nuclear
non-proliferation talks in New York focus on the Middle East.
They will also undermine Israel's attempts to
suggest that, if it has nuclear weapons, it is a
"responsible" power that would not misuse them,
whereas countries such as Iran cannot be trusted.
South African documents show that the
apartheid-era military wanted the missiles as a
deterrent and for potential strikes against neighbouring states.
The documents show both sides met on March 31
1975. Polakow-Suransky writes in his book
published in the US this week, The Unspoken
Alliance: Israel's secret alliance with apartheid
South Africa. At the talks Israeli officials
"formally offered to sell South Africa some of
the nuclear-capable Jericho missiles in its arsenal".
Among those attending the meeting was the South
African military chief of staff, Lieutenant
General RF Armstrong. He immediately drew up a
memo in which he laid out the benefits of South
Africa obtaining the Jericho missiles but only if
they were fitted with nuclear weapons.
The memo, marked "top secret" and dated the same
day as the meeting with the Israelis, has
previously been revealed but its context was not
fully understood because it was not known to be
directly linked to the Israeli offer on the same
day and that it was the basis for a direct
request to Israel. In it, Armstrong writes: "In
considering the merits of a weapon system such as
the one being offered, certain assumptions have
been made: a) That the missiles will be armed
with nuclear warheads manufactured in RSA
(Republic of South Africa) or acquired elsewhere."
But South Africa was years from being able to
build atomic weapons. A little more than two
months later, on June 4, Peres and Botha met in
Zurich. By then the Jericho project had the codename Chalet.
The top secret minutes of the meeting record
that: "Minister Botha expressed interest in a
limited number of units of Chalet subject to the
correct payload being available." The document
then records: "Minister Peres said the correct
payload was available in three sizes. Minister
Botha expressed his appreciation and said that he
would ask for advice." The "three sizes" are
believed to refer to the conventional, chemical and nuclear weapons.
The use of a euphemism, the "correct payload",
reflects Israeli sensitivity over the nuclear
issue and would not have been used had it been
referring to conventional weapons. It can also
only have meant nuclear warheads as Armstrong's
memorandum makes clear South Africa was
interested in the Jericho missiles solely as a
means of delivering nuclear weapons.
In addition, the only payload the South Africans
would have needed to obtain from Israel was
nuclear. The South Africans were capable of putting together other warheads.
Botha did not go ahead with the deal in part
because of the cost. In addition, any deal would
have to have had final approval by Israel's prime
minister and it is uncertain it would have been forthcoming.
South Africa eventually built its own nuclear
bombs, albeit possibly with Israeli assistance.
But the collaboration on military technology only
grew over the following years. South Africa also
provided much of the yellowcake uranium that
Israel required to develop its weapons.
The documents confirm accounts by a former South
African naval commander, Dieter Gerhardt --
jailed in 1983 for spying for the Soviet Union.
After his release with the collapse of apartheid,
Gerhardt said there was an agreement between
Israel and South Africa called Chalet which
involved an offer by the Jewish state to arm
eight Jericho missiles with "special warheads".
Gerhardt said these were atomic bombs. But until
now there has been no documentary evidence of the offer.
Some weeks before Peres made his offer of nuclear
warheads to Botha, the two defence ministers
signed a covert agreement governing the military
alliance known as Secment. It was so secret that
it included a denial of its own existence: "It is
hereby expressly agreed that the very existence
of this agreement ... shall be secret and shall
not be disclosed by either party".
The agreement also said that neither party could unilaterally renounce it.
The existence of Israel's nuclear weapons
programme was revealed by Mordechai Vanunu to the
Sunday Times in 1986. He provided photographs
taken inside the Dimona nuclear site and gave
detailed descriptions of the processes involved
in producing part of the nuclear material but
provided no written documentation.
Documents seized by Iranian students from the US
embassy in Tehran after the 1979 revolution
revealed the Shah expressed an interest to Israel
in developing nuclear arms. But the South African
documents offer confirmation Israel was in a
position to arm Jericho missiles with nuclear warheads.
Israel pressured the present South African
government not to declassify documents obtained
by Polakow-Suransky. "The Israeli defence
ministry tried to block my access to the Secment
agreement on the grounds it was sensitive
material, especially the signature and the date,"
he said. "The South Africans didn't seem to care;
they blacked out a few lines and handed it over
to me. The ANC government is not so worried about
protecting the dirty laundry of the apartheid
regime's old allies." - guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
The memos and minutes that confirm Israel's nuclear stockpile
Documents reveal how then-defence minister Shimon
Perez tried to sell South Africa's apartheid government the bomb
Israel documents: South African general says country should get
This is the secret memo by
Africa's military chief of staff, General RF
Armstrong, asking for nukes on the Jericho
missiles. It has been revealed before, but its
context was not understood. We now know the memo
was the direct result of a meeting between PW
Botha and Shimon Peres, and the basis of Botha's
demand for nukes. This memo was uncovered by
Peter Liberman and published in the Nonproliferation Review.
Declassified memo from General RF Armstrong
Israel documents: Cover page of memo revealing secret nuclear
This cover page of an ISSA
Africa agreement) meeting in Pretoria between
Israeli and South African officials on 30 June
1975 establishes the presence of General Armstrong, who wrote the nuclear memo.
Minutes of third ISSA meeting, 30/6/1975
Israel documents: Memo showing secret nuclear agreement with So
This document details the another ISSA meeting
during which Botha says he needs the 'right
payload' and Peres offers it in 'three sizes'
Minutes from further ISSA meeting
Israel documents: Page 2 states existence of agreement with Sou
This is the cover page and two other pages from
the secret military agreement between Israel and
South Africa, signed by both Shimon Peres and
Botha. Note on page two there is a clause that
says the very existence of the agreement is
secret. Both men have signed the agreement on page three.
Israel-South Africa agreement
Israel documents: Peres letter to South Africa's apartheid go
In this letter, dated 11 November 1974, Peres
says Israel and the South African apartheid
government share a "common hatred of injustice"
and urges a "close identity of aspirations and interests".
Letter from Shimon Peres, 11/11/1974
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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