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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Memorandum Assuring France There Are No Nuclear Weapons In Israel

(March 23, 1965)

France is concerned that Israel might be making nuclear weapons with their Dimona reactor. The United States assures France that this is not happening, but does admit that Israel might have the ability to do so in the near future. Rusk expects open communication between France and the United States on this issue.

196. Telegram From the Department of State of the Embassy in France/1/

4902. Paris for Ambassador. You should convey following oral message to FonMin from Secretary:

I understand that during your recent visit to Washington you mentioned Israel's Dimona reactor to Mr. Ball. In this connection, you may have seen the article in the March 14 issue of the NYTimes on nuclear developments in Israel. The article is generally accurate with the important exception, however, that visits by American scientists to Israel's facilities have been at the invitation of the Government of Israel and were not in the nature of inspections.

The visits to Dimona were part of regular exchanges of visits by scientific experts in connection with both U.S. installations and those of Israel. Our experts have seen enough to draw what appears to be a reasonable conclusion that the Dimona reactor is not being used to produce materials for nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, they also concluded that, should the Israeli Government decide to produce such materials and weapons from them, there is an increasing Israeli capability to do so.

Under these circumstances, the United States believes it is highly desirable that Israel accept IAEA safeguards on all of its facilities. Since the U.A.R. has no nuclear weapons capability for the foreseeable future, we think Israeli acceptance of IAEA safeguards might induce President Nasser to accept similar controls. Extension of IAEA safeguards to all nuclear facilities in the Near East would be a major step toward abating the area arms race.

The United States continues to follow this situation with concern and would hope for close consultations between our two governments regarding any evidence of the introduction of nuclear weapons into that area./2/


/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, AE 11-2 ISR. Confidential. Drafted by Russell and Richard G. Long in EUR/WE; cleared by Davies, Talbot, Brown in INR, Officer in Charge of Atomic Energy Affairs in SCI Charles W. Thomas, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Robert C. Creel; and approved by Ball. Repeated to Tel Aviv.

/2/Ambassador Bohlen reported in telegram 5448 from Paris, March 26, that he had that day conveyed the oral message to Foreign Minister Couve de Murville, who expressed doubt that Israel would accept the IAEA safeguards. He said that although according to French information, there was no evidence of any attempt by Israel to produce materials for nuclear weapons, he thought Israel would prefer to keep that possibility open. (Ibid.)

Sources: U.S. Department of State