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JFK & Israel's Nuclear Program: Ben-Gurion's Reply Regarding Dimona Visits

(May 29, 1963)

This is a memorandum from the Department of State Executive Secretary, Brubeck, to the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs, McGeorge Bundy, commenting on Prime Minister Ben Gurion's reply on the U.S. request for semi-annual visits to Dimona

Mr. Komer has requested comment on Prime Minister Ben-Gurion's reply to the President's letter of May 19,/2/ which pressed hard our case for semi-annual visits by American scientists, commencing in May.

On the debit side, the Prime Minister's reply assents to annual not semi-annual visits, commencing not this month but late this year or early in 1964. The conditions for the once-a-year permission are to be such as those for the visits which have already taken place. (This is potentially unsatisfactory since both previous visits were short and resulted in less than complete access.) The Prime Minister keeps a door open to the inauguration of other than peaceful programs in Israel when he states that, "we should have to follow developments in the Middle East" and "we in Israel cannot be blind to the more actual danger now confronting us". Finally, the Prime Minister would appear to be backtracking from the position he took with the President in May 1961 when he assented to visits by neutrals as well as Americans. In the present letter, he apparently seeks to make this "either-or" not both.

As to the pluses, the Prime Minister reiterates Israel's peaceful intentions regarding Dimona "as absolutely binding".

Our first objective in considering the matter of our response to the Prime Minister's less than fully satisfactory reply is to determine from the scientific and intelligence communities whether a single visit annually, supplemented by our other means of intelligence, would be adequate to keep ourselves informed of Israel's programs. We have requested such an evaluation urgently. If it is concluded that one visit a year is not adequate, we would have the alternatives of (1) a further Presidential letter pressing for more frequent visits on grounds of the technical considerations involved, not of questioning Israel's good faith, or (2) asking our emissary on disarmament to take this up in connection with his forthcoming trip.

Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963: Near East, 1962-1963, V. XVIII.