THE ISRAELI NUCLEAR HISTORY – in bed with european/american colonial aims and hegemony

This annotated chronology is based on the data sources that follow each entry. Public sources often provide conflicting information on classified military programs. In some cases we are unable to resolve these discrepancies, in others we have deliberately refrained from doing so to highlight the potential influence of false or misleading information as it appeared over time. In many cases, we are unable to independently verify claims. Hence in reviewing this chronology, readers should take into account the credibility of the sources employed here.

Inclusion in this chronology does not necessarily indicate that a particular development is of direct or indirect proliferation significance. Some entries provide international or domestic context for technological development and national policymaking. Moreover, some entries may refer to developments with positive consequences for nonproliferation.

Mid 1947
Chairman of the Jewish Agency David Ben Gurion creates a scientific department at the headquarters of Haganah, the semi-official Jewish defense organization, and allocates it a mandatory annual budget of 10,000 pounds.
—Cohen, Avner, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Colombia University Press, 1998), 11.

1948
Israeli scientist Ernst David Bergmann contends that “by developing atomic energy for peaceful uses, you reach the nuclear option. There are no two atomic energies.”
—’Israel to Honor Atom Scientist,” New York Times, 14 May 1966 as cited in Cohen, Avner, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Colombia University Press, 1998), 16.

1948
Israeli scientist actively explore the Negev Desert for uranium deposits on orders of the Israeli Ministry of Defense. These efforts reveal low-grade deposits near Sidon and Beersheba.
—Cordesman, Anthony, Perilous Prospects: The Peace Process and the Arab-Israeli Military Balance (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1996), 118.

March 1948
The General Staff of Haganah officially recognizes the scientific unit as a staff unit in the operations branch. This unit is responsible for coordinating and assigning tasks to the newly created Ha’il Mada, or Science Corps, commonly know by the Hebrew acronym HEMED.
—Cohen, Avner, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Colombia University Press, 1998), 11.

April 1948
In a letter to an operative in Europe, Ben Gurion instructs him to recruit Eastern European scientists who can “either increase the capacity to kill masses or cure masses; both things are important.”
—Cohen, Avner, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Colombia University Press, 1998), 11.

14 May 1948
Israel declares itself a sovereign state after the British withdraw from Palestine.

Late 1948
Ben Gurion meets with Jewish, Palestinian-born physicist Moshe Sordin, who is working on construction of the first French nuclear reactor.
—Cohen, Avner, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Colombia University Press, 1998), 25.

1949
The newly created Weizmann Institute of Science actively supports nuclear research by funding the postgraduate education of promising young Israeli scientist abroad. These scientists are intended to become the foundation of a nuclear weapons program.
— Interview with Gur, Shlomo by the author, Tel Aviv, 20 July 1992 as cited in Cohen, Avner, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Colombia University Press, 1998), 26, Jabber, Faud, Israel and Nuclear Weapons: Present Options and Future Strategies (London: Chatto & Windus, 1971), 17, Harkavy, Robert E., Spectre of a Middle East Holocaust: The Strategic and Diplomatic Implications of the Israeli Nuclear Weapons Program (Denver, CO: University of Denver for Monograph Series in World Affairs, 1977), 5 as cited in Pry, Peter, Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal (Boulder, Colorado: Westview, 1984), 5-6.

1949
The Weizmann Institute establishes a Department of Isotope Research.

—Green, Stephen, Taking Sides, America’s Secret Relations with a Militant Israel, (New York: William and Morrow Company, 1984), 148.

1949
Francis Perrin, a member of the French Atomic Energy Commission and nuclear physicist, visits the Weizerman Institute. He invites Israeli scientists to the new French research facility at Saclay and a joint research effort is subsequently set up between the two states.
—”Former Official Says France Helped Build Israel’s Dimona Complex,” Nucleonics Week, 16 Octover 1986, 6.

Late 1940s and early 1950s
The U.S. Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health provide financial support to the Weizmann Institute on defense-related projects.
— Green, Stephen, Taking Sides, America’s Secret Relations with a Militant Israel, (New York: William and Morrow Company, 1984), 177.

15 July 1951
David Ben Gurion appoints Ernst David Bergmann his scientific advisor.
—Cohen, Avner, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Colombia University Press, 1998), 28.

June 1952

Israel secretly founds its own Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) under the control of the Israeli Defense Ministry.
—Pry, Peter, Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal (Boulder, Colorado: Westview, 1984), 5-6, Green, Stephen, Taking Sides, America’s Secret Relations with a Militant Israel, (New York: William and Morrow Company, 1984), 149.

1953
Israeli scientists perfect the uranium extraction process and develop a new procedure for making heavy water, both essential components of a nuclear weapons program.
—”Israel’s nuclear defense history,” Los Angeles Times, 12 October 2003.

1953
Technical exchanges between the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) and the French Commissariat of Atomic Energy (CEA) begin and a formal agreement on cooperation between France and Israel in nuclear research is drafted.
— Green, Stephen, Taking Sides, America’s Secret Relations with a Militant Israel, (New York: William and Morrow Company, 1984), 149.

1953

In an effort to cultivate a scientific relationship with French officials, Ernst David Bergmann negotiates with CEA officials the sale of two patents (chemical uranium extraction and heavy water production) for possible commercial production. Israel receives 60 million (old) francs for the new technology.
—Cohen, Avner, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Colombia University Press, 1998), 33.

December 1953
President Dwight Eisenhower launches the Atoms for Peace campaign in an address before the United Nations General Assembly, calling for the establishment of an international uranium stockpile to be controlled and dispensed by a new international atomic energy agency. This program will later lead to the construction of the research reactor at Nachal Soreq.
— Green, Stephen, Taking Sides, America’s Secret Relations with a Militant Israel, (New York: William and Morrow Company, 1984), 154-6.

Late 1953
Two Israeli scientists, Zvi Lipkin and Israel Pelah, are sent to the French Nuclear Research Centers at Saclay and Chatillon to study reactor physics.
—Cohen, Avner, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Colombia University Press, 1998), 33.

20 January 1954

Israeli Defense Minister Pinhas Lavon makes the decision to move the physics department of Machon 4 to the Weizmann Institute. On 1 May of the same year the Department of Nuclear Physics at the Weizmann Institute is founded, with Amos de Shalit as its head.
—Cohen, Avner, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Colombia University Press, 1998), 38.

1955 to 1960
Under the auspices of the Atoms for Peace program, 56 Israelis receive training in the United States Atomic Energy Commission research centers at the Argonne National Laboratory and at Oak Ridge.
— Pry, Peter, Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal (Boulder, Colorado: Westview, 1984), 6.

1955 to 1967
Israel spends over $600 million purchasing weapons from France, including $75 million for a nuclear reactor.

— Green, Stephen, Taking Sides, America’s Secret Relations with a Militant Israel, (New York: William and Morrow Company, 1984), 150.

12 July 1955
Under the Atoms for Peace program, Israel and the United States sign a general agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation, including an agreement for the sale of a small research reactor. It is to be a light water or “swimming pool” type, 5-megawatt reactor.

— Pry, Peter, Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal (Boulder, Colorado: Westview, 1984), 5, Cohen, Avner, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Colombia University Press, 1998), 44.

1956
Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion writes that “what Einstein, Oppenheimer, and Teller, the three of them are Jews, made for the United States could also be done by scientist in Israel for their own people.”

—Cohen, Avner, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Colombia University Press, 1998), 12.

11 April 1956
A large IAEC delegation visits the AEC headquarters to discuss Israel’s nuclear plans.
—Cohen, Avner, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Colombia University Press, 1998), 51.

22 June 1956

Precipitated by a Czech-Egyptian arms deal of the previous year that more than doubles Egypt’s conventional forces, Israel formalizes a comprehensive security understanding with the French government of Guy Mollet in the city of Vermars.
—Cohen, Avner, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Colombia University Press, 1998), 48-9.

Mid-1956
The IAEC submits the information needed for its request for a $350,000 American grant for a small, pool-type reactor.
—Cohen, Avner, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Colombia University Press, 1998), 52.

21 September 1956
Israeli Director-General of the Defense Ministry Shimon Peres meets with French Foreign Minister Maurice Bourges-Maunoury, who agrees to provide Israel with a nuclear reactor. The agreement is reached at a secret meeting held outside Paris where they also finalize the specifics of Israel’s role in the Suez Canal operation. Israeli support in the Suez operation is accepted in exchange for French aid to Israel’s nuclear efforts.
—Golan, Matti, Peres (Tel Aviv: Schocken Books, 1982), 54 as cited in Raviv, Dan and Melman, Yossi, Every Spy a Prince: the Complete History of Israel’s Intelligence Community, (Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990), 63-69.

29 October 1956
The Suez operation begins. For the United Kingdom and France, the operation is a failure. Despite Israeli military success, Britton and France cede to a ceasefire in response to pressure from the U.S. and Soviet Union, which issues an implicit threat of nuclear attack if Israel does not withdraw from the Sinai.
—Farr, Warner, The Third Temple’s Holy of Holies: Israel’s Nuclear Weapons, September 1999, <http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/awc-cps.htm&gt;.

November 1956
Under the direction of President Guy Mollet, the French government agrees to supply Israel with a twenty-four-thermal-megawatt natural uranium reactor. From this point on, French and Israeli scientists collaborate towards the development of their respective nuclear weapons programs.
—Weissman, Steve and Krosney, Herbert, The Islamic Bomb: the Nuclear Threat to Israel and the Middle East, (New York, New York: Times Books, 1981), 111-112.

1957
Several West German newspapers report that Israelis and Germans are working together on atomic weapons technology.

—Peter, Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal (Boulder, Colorado: Westview, 1984), 35.

1957
The Eisenhower administration inquires about the establishment of a strict security zone and heavy construction occurring at Dimona, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion responds with assurances that the project is a textile plant. Later, the project is called a pumping station.
— Green, Stephen, Taking Sides, America’s Secret Relations with a Militant Israel, (New York: William and Morrow Company, 1984), 151.

Early 1957
The EL-102 reactor that France had agreed to supply to Israel before the Suez operation is upgraded to a large plutonium-processing reactor along the same lines as the French G-1 reactor at Marcoule (40-MW thermal power).
—Cohen, Avner, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Colombia University Press, 1998), 58.

20 March 1957
Israel signs a formal agreement with the United State for the construction of a small swimming-pool research reactor at Nachal Soreq as part of the Atoms for Peace program.
—Cohen, Avner, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Colombia University Press, 1998), 65.

3 October 1957
A formal agreement for the construction of the Dimona nuclear facility is signed by French officials. Shimon Peres assures French Foreign Minister Christian Peneau that the reactor will be used only for “scientific research.”
— Green, Stephen, Taking Sides, America’s Secret Relations with a Militant Israel, (New York: William and Morrow Company, 1984), 150, Cohen, Avner, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Colombia University Press, 1998), 58-9, Pry, Peter, Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal (Boulder, Colorado: Westview, 1984), 12.

1958
The United States becomes aware of the existence of the Dimona reactor via U-2 spy-plane overflights, but is not identified as a nuclear site.
—Cordesman, Anthony, Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East, Center for Strategic and International Studies, 15 April 2003.

Early 1958
Ground is broken for the EL-102 reactor at the Dimona complex.
— Farr, Warner, The Third Temple’s Holy of Holies: Israel’s Nuclear Weapons, September 1999, <http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/awc-cps.htm&gt;.

15 April 1958
Ernst David Bergmann denies that French-Israeli cooperation goes beyond exchange of information on uranium chemistry and heavy water.
—Cohen, Avner, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Colombia University Press, 1998), 82.

1959
Norway sells 20 tons of heavy water to Israel for use in an experimental power reactor. Despite the fact that under the conditions of the transaction Norway retains the right to inspect the heavy water for over 30 years, it does so only once, in April 1961, while it is still in storage drums at the Dimona complex.
— Mihollin, Gary, “Heavy Water Cheaters,” Foreign Policy (1987-88), 100-119.

Ref: Nti

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