HOW ISRAEL OFFERED TO SELL
- SOUTH AFRICA NUCLEAR
Exclusive: Secret apartheid-era papers give first official
- evidence of Israeli nuclear weapons
The Guardian, Sunday 23 May 2010
The secret military agreement signed by Shimon Peres, now president
- of Israel, and P W Botha of South Africa.
Secret South African documents reveal that Israel offered to sell nuclear
- warheads to the apartheid regime, providing the first official documentary
- evidence of the state's possession of nuclear weapons.
- The "top secret" minutes of
- meetings between senior officials
- from the two countries in 1975
- show that South Africa's defence
- minister, PW Botha, asked
- warheads and Shimon Peres, then
- Israel's defence minister and now
- its president, responded by offering
- them "in three sizes". The two men
- also signed a broad-ranging agreement
- governing military ties between the
- two countries that included a clause
- declaring that "the very existence of
- this agreement" was to remain secret.
- The documents, uncovered by an
- American academic, Sasha
- Polakow-Suransky, in research for
- a book on the close relationship
- between the two countries, provide
- evidence that Israel has nuclear
- weapons despite its policy of
- "ambiguity" in neither confirming
- nor denying their existence.
The Israeli authorities tried to stop
- South Africa's post-apartheid
- government declassifying the documents
- at Polakow-Suransky's request and the
- revelations will be an embarrassment,
- particularly as this week's nuclear
- non-proliferation talks in New York
- focus on the Middle East.
They will also undermine Israel's attempts
- to suggest that, if it has nuclear weapons,
- it is a "responsible" power that would not
- misuse them, whereas countries such as
- Iran cannot be trusted.
A spokeswoman for Peres today said
- the report was baseless and there
- were "never any negotiations" between
- the two countries.
She did not
- comment on the
authenticity of the
- South African documents show that
- the apartheid-era military wanted the
- missiles as a deterrent and for potential
- strikes against neighbouring states.
- The documents show both sides met
- on 31 March 1975.
- writes in his book published in the US
- this week, The Unspoken Alliance:
- Israel's secret alliance with apartheid
- South Africa.
Among those attending the meeting was the South African military chief of staff,
Lieutenant General RF Armstrong. He immediately drew up a memo in which he laid
out the benefits of South Africa obtaining the Jericho missiles but only if they
were fitted with nuclear weapons.
- The memo, marked "top secret" and dated the same day as the meeting with the Israelis,
has previously been revealed but its context was not fully understood because it was not
known to be directly linked to the Israeli offer on the same day and that it was the basis
for a direct request to Israel. In it, Armstrong writes: "In considering the merits of a
weapon system such as the one being offered, certain assumptions have been made:
a) That the missiles will be armed with nuclear warheads manufactured in RSA
(Republic of South Africa) or acquired elsewhere."
But South Africa was years from being able to build atomic weapons. A little more than
two months later, on 4 June, Peres and Botha met in Zurich. By then the Jericho project
had the codename Chalet.
The top secret minutes of the meeting record that: "Minister Botha expressed interest
- in a limited number of units of Chalet subject to the correct payload being available."
- The document then records: "Minister Peres said the correct payload was available in
- three sizes. Minister Botha expressed his appreciation and said that he would ask for
- advice." The "three sizes" are believed to refer to the conventional, chemical and
- nuclear weapons.
The use of a euphemism, the
- "correct payload",
- sensitivity over
the nuclear issue and
- would not have been used had it been
- referring to conventional
- It can also
only have meant nuclear
- warheads as Armstrong's
clear South Africa was interested
- in the Jericho missiles solely as a
delivering nuclear weapons.
In addition, the only payload the South
- Africans would have needed to obtain
- from Israel was nuclear. The South
- Africans were capable of putting
- together other warheads.
Botha did not go ahead with the deal in
- part because of the cost.
- any deal would have to have had final
- approval by Israel's prime minister and
- it is uncertain it would have been
NOTE: Date Of Document (22 November, 1974)
- 11 Years Exactly After
Mossad (Jack Ruby) Assassination Of U.S. President
- John Fitzgerald
MI5 \ MI6 Assassination Of J.F.K. And Robert Nesta Marley:
South Africa eventually built its own nuclear bombs, albeit possibly with Israeli
- assistance. But the collaboration on military technology only grew over the
- following years. South Africa also provided much of the yellowcake uranium
- that Israel required to develop its weapons.
The documents confirm accounts by a former South African naval commander,
- Dieter Gerhardt – jailed in 1983 for spying for the Soviet Union. After his
- release with the collapse of apartheid, Gerhardt said there was an agreement
- between Israel and South Africa called Chalet which involved an offer by the
- Jewish state to arm eight Jericho missiles with "special warheads". Gerhardt
- said these were atomic bombs. But until now there has been no documentary
- evidence of the offer.
Some weeks before Peres made his offer of nuclear warheads to Botha, the
- two defence ministers signed a covert agreement governing the military alliance
- known as Secment. It was so secret that it included a denial of its own existence:
- "It is hereby expressly agreed that the very existence of this agreement...
- shall be secret and shall not be disclosed by either party".
The agreement also said that neither party could unilaterally renounce it.
- The existence of Israel's nuclear
- weapons programme was revealed
- by Mordechai Vanunu to the Sunday
- Times in 1986.
- photographs taken inside the
- Dimona nuclear site and gave
- detailed descriptions of the
- processes involved in producing
- part of the nuclear
- provided no written
Documents seized by Iranian students from the US embassy in Tehran after
- the 1979 revolution revealed the Shah expressed an interest to Israel in
- developing nuclear arms. But the South African documents offer confirmation
- Israel was in a position to arm Jericho missiles with nuclear warheads.
Israel pressured the present South African government not to declassify
- documents obtained by Polakow-Suransky. "The Israeli defence ministry
- tried to block my access to the Secment agreement on the grounds it was
- sensitive material, especially the signature and the date," he said.
- The South Africans didn't seem to care; they blacked out a few lines and
- handed it over to me. The ANC government is not so worried about protecting
- the dirty laundry of the apartheid regime's old allies."