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JFK & Israel's Nuclear Program: Kennedy Letter to Eshkol Regarding Visits to Dimona

(August 26, 1963)

This is a telegram from the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel transmitting a letter from President Kennedy to Prime Minister Eshkol concerning visits to Dimona.

"Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

"Your letter of August 19 was most welcome here. I appreciate that this was a difficult decision, yet I am convinced that in generously agreeing to invite our scientists to visit the Dimona complex on the regular basis that was proposed you have acted from a deep wisdom regarding Israel's security in the longer term and the awesome realities which the atomic age imposes on the community of man.

You have suggested that an initial visit take place toward the end of this year in the pre-startup stage. I am asking Ambassador Barbour to keep in touch with you so that the visit can be arranged for at a time when the reactor's core is being loaded and before internal radiation hazards have developed.

The recent overwhelming endorsement of the partial test ban treaty has moved us all a small step in the direction of a more peaceful world. Our purpose must be to continue striving toward the effective control of the power of the atom so that it may be used only for the welfare of man. The spirit you have shown in your letter to me is a clear indication that you share that same high purpose.

Sincerely, John F. Kennedy"

In conveying foregoing, you should say: "President Kennedy has taken note of the Prime Minister's request that for the present information obtained from the visits envisaged in this exchange of letters should not be passed on to Nasser. The USG will of course comply with this request, but the President is also taking note of the fact that the Prime Minister has not fully made up his own mind, and has asked you to express his own belief that there are real advantages for security in setting to rest any fears which might otherwise lead to nuclear weapons acquisitions efforts by others in the area. It was this notion, shared on both sides, which underlay the agreement of May 1961 between the President and Ben-Gurion, and the President hopes that there can be further consideration of this matter as opportunity serves."

You should inform Prime Minister that you expect President's reply to Ben-Gurion's May 12 letter on Israel's security problems will be received shortly.

Embassy should arrange with PriMin a point of continuing contact (perhaps through Science Attaché Webber on Embassy side) for determination of timing end-1963 visit, keeping Department continuously informed.


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