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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Negotiations Regarding Dimona Inspections

(November 25, 1964)

This document reflects ongoing concern about Israeli nuclear program and pressure exerted on Israel to submit to inspections. It is particularly interesting that the U.S. was intent on passing information from inspections on to Israel's principal enemy, Nasser, on the pretext that this would discourage him from taking extreme measures and become even more intimately involved with the Soviet Union.

109. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel1

Washington, November 25, 1964, 7:40 p.m.

441. For Ambassador. Following instruction supersedes Deptel 434.2

In response to PM Eshkol's informal plea to President on Dimona,3 you should make following points to Eshkol privately, indicating that you are speaking on Presidential authority:

1. President appreciates the frankness of Eshkol's informal message outlining the problems posed for him by the timing of our next visit to the Dimona reactor. We can of course understand the ever present difficulty of reconciling conflicting domestic and foreign interests.

2. Nevertheless, President does feel bound to urge the importance of the semi-annual visits on which we have previously agreed. We are engaged in a continuing effort to prevent proliferation of sophisticated weapons, not least in the Near East. We believe Eshkol fully agrees that this effort is in the interests of Israel. A vital element in its success is our ability to assure all parties that none of them has attained or is seeking a nuclear capability, and to give this assurance we must be able to satisfy ourselves on this score.

3. The problem is made more acute by the recent explosion of a nuclear device by Communist China. It has alarmed many countries and made some of them--such as India--think again whether they should not attempt nuclear programs of their own. This is likely to focus Arab suspicion even more upon Israel.

4. Our interest in the security of Israel remains unchanged, but the grave responsibility which this puts upon us convinces us that we must leave no stone unturned in our efforts to maintain peace. President hopes, therefore, that Eshkol will see his way clear to arrange for a visit by our people to Dimona in late November or early December. FYI we regard early inspection of Dimona as imperative. End FYI.

5. In return, President has authorized following measures which we hope will ease Eshkol's problem:

a. We willing consider waiving Israel commitment to another six-monthly inspection until after November 1965 elections, contingent upon satisfactory findings next inspection and without prejudice to resumption schedule of six-monthly visits thereafter.

b. We also willing postpone passing results inspection to Nasser until after November 1965, unless situation in Near East such that US and Israeli interests better served by informing him. We would, of course, consult GOI before such step. However, you should emphasize that the agreement on semi-annual visits to Dimona is particularly important to our efforts with Nasser, because he knows, as does the rest of the world, that Israel is probably the only country in the Near East which has the scientific capability to produce nuclear weapons and also has a facility in being which could be converted to such production. If we were unable to reassure Nasser periodically, for example, he might well be driven to greater dependence on the Soviet Union and even to irrational military action against Israel. He would, of course, be more resistant to our urgings that he limit his own arms development, particularly in the middle field.

6. If Eshkol avers that his problem is with "hard liners" in Cabinet, you can point out our difficulty in understanding this argument, since BG personally agreed to periodic inspections in May 1963, presumably with concurrence of Cabinet.



1 Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, AE 11-2 ISR. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. The text was received from the White House; cleared by McGeorge Bundy, Talbot, and Davies; and approved by Harriman.

2 Telegram 434 was similar in substance to telegram 441, except that points 1-4, which Barbour was to convey to Eshkol, were framed as an oral message from Johnson to Eshkol. (Ibid.) A November 18 memorandum from Komer to the President, enclosing a November 5 memorandum from Harriman to Bundy and a draft of telegram 434, is in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. III.

3 See footnote 2, Document 101.

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