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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Memorandum on Dimona Inspection and Nuclear Proliferation in the Near East

(February 5, 1965)

One of many documents at this time reflecting the Johnson Administration's concerns regarding Israel's nuclear policy and the fear that Israel was secretly engaged in weapons development.

136. Memorandum From the Department of State's Executive Secretary (Read) to the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1

Washington, February 5, 1965.


Dimona Inspection and Need to Implement Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Proliferation in the Near East

A United States inspection team visited the Dimona reactor site January 30, 1965. Although the ten hours spent at the site did not permit as detailed a visit as desirable, the team believes there was sufficient time to determine the status of activity at Dimona. Major findings (see enclosure)2 included:

1. The future direction of atomic energy development in Israel appears uncertain because anticipated acquisition of a nuclear power and desalting plant has increased Israeli interest in slightly enriched uranium fueled reactors from abroad and reduced interest in developing natural uranium fueled reactors in Israel.

2. While nothing suggests an early weapons development program, the Dimona site has excellent development and production capability that warrants continued surveillance at intervals not to exceed one year.

The team findings indicate that we can afford to accede to Prime Minister Eshkol's request that we postpone the next agreed six-monthly inspection until after the parliamentary elections in November this year.

We remain concerned that Israel may have succeeded in concealing a decision to develop nuclear weapons. The team findings must be weighed against the following facts:

1. Israel concealed the existence of the Dimona reactor from us for about two years.

2. Israeli officials did not allow adequate time for thorough inspection of the Dimona site and arranged no visits to sites of projected related facilities.

3. Israeli officials ruled questions about procurement of uranium from abroad "outside the scope of the visit" and suggested taking them up through normal diplomatic channels.

4. Israel is acquiring missiles from France designed to accommodate either high-explosive or nuclear warheads.

5. Public and private statements by Israeli officials suggest military planning that includes the use of nuclear weapons.

Given these circumstances, we urge prompt approval of the request of the Acting Secretary to the President December 18, 1964,3 for authority to initiate negotiations with Israel to extend IAEA safeguards to all Israeli nuclear facilities.4

Ben H. Read


1 Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. III. Secret; Exclusive Distribution. Filed with a brief covering memorandum from Komer to Bundy noting that the inspection was reassuring but that "we remain suspicious." The memorandum bears no indication of the drafter, but another copy indicates that it was drafted by Russell and cleared by Jernegan, Davies, Charles W. Thomas, and Scott George, Director for Atomic Energy and Aero-Space in G/PM. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, AE 11-2 ISR)

2 The enclosure, entitled "Preliminary Draft Report on Dimona Inspection Team," unsigned and undated, is not printed.

3 Not found.

4 A marginal note in Komer's handwriting next to this paragraph reads, "Not now, till we get Jordan arms sorted out."

Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, V. 18, Arab-Israeli Dispute 1964-1967. DC: GPO, 2000.