[News] Israel offered to sell SA nuclear weapons

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue May 25 11:34:09 EDT 2010

Revealed: How Israel offered to sell SA nuclear weapons


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."

Codename Chalet
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.

Secret agreement
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

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