Thursday, July 12, 2018

PART 7:THE SAMSON OPTION : AN ISRAELI DECISION & A PRESIDENTIAL GIFT

THE SAMSON OPTION 
Israel's Nuclear Arsenal and 
American Foreign Policy
By Seymour M. Hersh


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13 
An Israeli Decision
Image result for images of Yigal Allon, 
In early December 1967, Yigal Allon, the 1948 war hero and advocate of West Bank resettlement, was given a private look at Israel's nuclear future. It moved him to tears. He and a group of aides had been invited to inspect the early work on Israel's first nuclear missile field, under construction at an obscure site known on the map as Hirbat Zachariah, in the foothills of the Judean Mountains west of Jerusalem. The expertly concealed shelters, not identified for years by the American intelligence community, were to be burrowed into the ground at the end of an unmarked road lined with closed-circuit cameras. 

The shelters represented the best of Israeli technology and ingenuity. They were being built by Tahal, the government owned water planning corporation, which was then negotiating with the shah of Iran to build a forty-two-inch oil pipeline to relay Iranian crude to the Israeli port cities of Elat and Ashdod. The smooth barrels through which the missiles would be launched had been imported into the country marked as lengths of pipeline.* Israel was many years away from anything amounting to a nuclear missile capability—the first field test of the Jericho I had been held, with mixed results, only a few months before. The missile, jointly being developed with France's Dassault Company, had guidance problems: it wasn't yet capable of going where it was aimed. 
* A Tahal representative was appointed in 1966 by Prime Minister Eshkol to the expanded and revamped Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, to serve on the new power and water subcommittee. Missile tubing also may have been shipped to Israel described as water mains.
Nonetheless, those first shelters represented, as Allon clearly understood, a new kind of military security for the nation. "Allon got all excited," one Israeli observer recalled. "Here's a man who had fought in 1948 with only a British submachine gun, and now—twenty years later—here is Israel building nuclear missiles. We're a people," added the observer, "who have come back from the dead. In one generation we have become the warriors—the Sparta of our time." 

Allon couldn't resist boasting about what he had seen. A few days later, he stunned his cabinet colleagues by warning Egypt in a public speech at Haifa that Israel would reply in kind to any Egyptian attack on a population center using advanced weapons. "Every weapon Egypt can produce or purchase with the aid of a great power," he said, "we can match, sometimes with and sometimes without the aid of a big power." As a member of the prime minister's select committee on national security issues, Allon had great credibility. But no Israeli official had ever publicly acknowledged the existence of a nuclear missile system, and Allon's cryptic assertions were privately attacked by other government officials as a breach of security and publicly criticized in the press for creating a panic. 

Israel's missile program, code-named Project 700, had been envisioned years earlier by Ernst David Bergmann as the final, costly step toward the Samson Option. One former Israeli government official recalled seeing figures indicating that the over all long-range price of Project 700, if fully authorized by the prime minister's national security committee, would be $850 million—more than was budgeted for all Israeli defense expenditures in 1967. The staggering price of the missiles was more than matched by other elements of the nuclear system, and the overall cost of the nuclear program continued to be the major barrier to the bomb and the biggest hurdle for the official who emerged in the late 1960s with responsibility for Israel's nuclear future, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan. 
Image result for images of Moshe Dayan.
Allon's visit to Zachariah had had a strategic purpose: he was being proselytized by Dayan, who, with his black eye patch and flair for the dramatic, had emerged from the Six-Day War as an international hero. The war's aftermath also gave Dayan and his pro-nuclear colleagues a renewed opportunity to publicly condemn the major target of their prospective bombs—the Soviet Union. Dayan was among the first in the Eshkol cabinet to predict that the Soviets, searching for any foothold they could get in their ideological struggle with the United States, would fill the power vacuum in the Middle East and become the major threat to Israel. In early July, Dayan warned in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper of West Germany that if the Soviets chose to unite with the Arabs against Israel, he would not "hesitate an instant to advise his government to fight and defeat the Russians just like the Arabs. . . . Israel need be intimidated by no one." 

Dayan was articulating the sense of isolation that had worked its way into the top levels of the Israeli leadership, in a way not felt since the 1956 Suez Crisis. Charles de Gaulle had responded to the war by accusing Israel of being the aggressor and canceling all of France's arms sales to Israel, abrogating twelve years of close French support for Israel. De Gaulle also delayed the pending shipment of fifty previously purchased Mirage III jet fighters. He even claimed to newsmen that he had not known of Dassault's contract with Israel until the first field test in 1967 of the Jericho I (although the French firm would continue to work with Israelis on the missile program for another year). 

The Soviets and their satellites in the Eastern bloc, with the exception of Romania, had gone further: all diplomatic relations with Israel were severed. The Soviets also immediately began rearming their Arab clients. President Nikolai V. Podgorny made a triumphant state visit to Cairo in late June and was greeted by hundreds of thousands of cheering Egyptians. Planeloads of Soviet arms began arriving shortly thereafter, initiating an extensive and rapid buildup of the depleted Egyptian war stores, all of which would be renewed within a year. Moscow eventually sent Soviet advisers and high-performance MiG fighters to Egypt; in return, the Russians were granted preferential treatment at four Mediterranean harbors as well as virtual control of seven Egyptian air bases. The Soviets were similarly generous in their support for Syria and Iraq, the other losers (along with Jordan) in the Six-Day War. 

Israeli intelligence intercepted high-level communications between Cairo, Damascus, and Moscow that were replete with boastful talk about the next war in the Middle East, and little discussion of the last one. The Soviet fleet was suddenly being deployed in greater force in the Mediterranean, with two or three ships—obviously attempting to intercept Israeli communications—parked off the Israeli coast. There was no response to these provocations, as seen by the Israelis, from the world's other great superpower, the United States. 

In late August 1967, the Arab nations, buoyed by the Soviet support and guided by Soviet advice, gathered for the first post war summit at Khartoum and agreed on what became known as the "three no's"—no peace, no negotiations, and no recognition. 

Dayan's drive for the bomb was heightened by his conviction that Israel could not depend on America to deter a Soviet attack. In 1966, he had spent time as a journalist in South Vietnam and come away "very much worried," as he later told NSC adviser Walt Rostow, about "the steadiness of the United States in honoring its commitments." In a crisis, Israel either would or would not—as in Suez—be supported by Washington, depending on the White House's assessment of its international and regional interests. Dayan believed Moscow similarly would be willing to come to the aid of the Arabs not because of a deep concern for the Middle East, but to protect its prestige and international interests. Whatever their motives, Dayan was convinced that the superpowers would dictate events in the Middle East unless Israel took steps to arm itself fully. Israel's survival, in Dayan's view, was now dependent on its ability to mass-produce nuclear weapons and target them at the Soviet Union—just as the French goal was to target its forcedefrappe at Moscow. 

Dayan's mission in late 1967 and early 1968 was to convince his fellow cabinet members that if the Soviets could be persuaded that the Israeli threat was credible, they might decide that there was no Middle East war worth fighting. A credible Israeli bomb also would deter the Soviets from taking any steps in the Middle East that would jeopardize Israel's survival— such as agreeing to supply an Arab nation with a nuclear weapon. In Dayan's scenario, Israeli intelligence agents would secretly inform their Soviet counterparts as soon as Dimona's assembly line went into full production. And when Israel developed its first bomb in a suitcase, Moscow also would be told —and reminded that there was no way to stop Mossad from smuggling a nuclear weapon across the border by automobile or into a Soviet port by boat. As for the rest of the world, including the United States, there would still be studied ambiguity on the question of whether Israel had the bomb. The argument for an Israeli "bomb in the basement" was born. 

Dayan got a boost in his lobbying sometime in the last few months of 1967 when the Israelis learned from American intelligence that the Soviet Union had added four major Israeli cities —Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheba, and Ashdod—to its nuclear targeting list. This most sensitive information was apparently obtained unofficially, according to a former member of Prime Minister Eshkol's staff: "We got it in a non-kosher way," the Israeli explained, without amplification.* 
* American intelligence officials subsequently told me that the United States did not obtain a physical copy of the Soviet nuclear targeting list until the early 1970s. Some human intelligence about Soviet targets did exist, however, and it was that information, known only to a few in the CIA and elsewhere, that conceivably could have been passed along to the Israelis.
A second boost was supplied by Henry Kissinger, then New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefellers foreign policy adviser in the campaign for the Republican nomination. Kissinger met privately in February 1968 with a group of Israeli scholars at the Jerusalem home of Major General Elad Peled, director of Israel's Defense College, where Kissinger had taught the year before. His message, according to Shlomo Aronson, an academic who has written on Israeli nuclear policy, was electrifying: the United States would not "lift a finger for Israel" if the Soviets chose directly to intervene by, "say, a Soviet missile attack against the Israeli Air Force bases in Sinai." Aronson, who attended the meeting, quoted Kissinger as making three declarations: "The main aim of any American President is to prevent World War III. Second, that no American President would risk World War III because of territories occupied by Israel. Three, the Russians know this." 

By early 1968, it was obvious that the overwhelming victory in the Six-Day War had solved none of Israel's basic political and military problems in the Middle East. Yitzhak Rabin, the army chief of staff, flew to Washington in mid-December 1967 and said as much in a meeting with General Earle G. Wheeler, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "Rabin opened the conversation by stating that Israel finds itself in the peculiar position of having won the war, but not the peace," Wheeler noted in a memorandum for the record, later declassified and put on file in the LBJ Library. "Israel was in a less favorable position now than prior to 5 June [when the war began]. The Soviets do not want a peaceful settlement," Rabin told Wheeler. "Their objective is to maintain a climate of tension, whereby they can continue to foster an increasing Arab dependence on Soviet power and influence . . . with a view toward maintaining Soviet access to port and air terminal facilities and, ultimately, control of Arab oil." 

America's Jewish community responded to the dramatic June victory with showers of money and increased visits; tourism was booming in late 1967, and so was the Israeli economy. Israel's success, as Ambassador Walworth Barbour told his doubting staff in the American embassy in Tel Aviv, had cemented its relationship to Washington. Yet for Dayan and many of his supporters at Dimona and elsewhere, America had proved its basic unreliability as an ally a month before the Six Day War when it failed to respond to Nasser's closing of the Strait of Tiran and blockade of Elat. Israeli foreign ministry documents showed that Dwight Eisenhower had promised in writing after the Suez debacle in 1956 that the United States would use force, if necessary, to keep the strait open. Israel called on Johnson to keep that commitment after Nasser's blockade and felt betrayed upon learning that the State Department considered Eisenhower's commitment to have expired when Eisenhower left office in early 1961. Only a treaty ratified by the U.S. Senate was binding on subsequent administrations, the Israelis were told. Washington, without knowing it, was playing into the hands of Moshe Dayan and his nuclear ambitions. 
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But Israel was not yet a full nuclear power: no senior official had authorized the reactor and reprocessing plant to begin systematically turning out plutonium. Financial fears continued to haunt the leadership. One Israeli official recalled seeing estimates indicating that by the early 1970s a full-scale nuclear weapons program, including warheads and missiles, would be chewing up more than 10 percent of Israel's overall budget— nearly $1 billion. Pinhas Sapir, renowned among Israel's leader ship as the economic boss of the newly formed Labor Party,* was a strong believer in government loans and investments to promote economic development; dollars for Dimona never made much sense to him. In his view, an Israeli bomb would only lead to conflicts with the United States and a lessened flow of American contributions. 
* American intelligence officials subsequently told me that the United States did not obtain a physical copy of the Soviet nuclear targeting list until the early 1970s. Some human intelligence about Soviet targets did exist, however, and it was that information, known only to a few in the CIA and elsewhere, that conceivably could have been passed along to the Israelis.
Dayan, one Israeli official recalled, made a critical decision early in 1968. He telephoned Sapir and asked him to spend a day with him, just as he had done with Allon. The two men went to Dimona. "He showed him the whole thing, from A to Z," the Israeli said. "Nobody had seen the whole reprocessing facility. Sapir was like a cat with sour cream. He came back and said to Allon, who was still resisting a full nuclear commitment: 'Have you seen it all? I've seen it and you don't know shit.** There will be no more Auschwitz's.'" 
** It should be noted that there is no such expression in Hebrew as "You don't know shit." The Israeli who used that phrase in an interview was fluent in idiomatic English and, in his translation, was trying to describe the essence and import of Sapir's comment to Allon.
Sometime early in 1968, Dimona finally was ordered into full scale production and began turning out four or five warheads a year—there were more than twenty-five bombs in the arsenal by the Yom Kippur War in September 1973. There is no evidence that the Israeli cabinet ever made a formal decision about Dimona. Nonetheless, production of the first assembly line bomb, whether officially sanctioned or not, was quickly known to the top layer of national security officials and widely applauded. An Israeli recalled that champagne was broken out at Dimona, and in some government offices in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, at word that the first bomb had been assembled. It was widely believed, the Israeli added, that the first warhead had the following phrase welded, in Hebrew and English, onto its exterior: never again.

One former Israeli government official explained the bureaucratic procedure behind the decision to open Dimona's assembly line by saying, with a shrug and a smile, that Moshe Dayan had unilaterally decided that he had received the support of the key money men and had all the authority he needed—as defense minister—to turn Israel into a nuclear power. A similar suggestion was made at the time to Dr. Max Ben, Ernst Bergmann's American friend, by Amos Deshalit. 'We were talking about Dayan," recalled Ben, "and Amos said, 'He's the guy who's acting on his own.'"* 
* In April 1976, Time magazine reported that shortly after the Six-Day War, Dayan "had secretly ordered the start of construction" on a reprocessing plant. Prime Minister Eshkol then decided, said the magazine, that "they could only rubber-stamp a project already under way." The article, despite its confusion about the reprocessing plant, which was already finished by 1967, provided the world with its first hard information about the Israeli weapons program. The story carried no byline, apparently because it was reported by David Halevy, who, as an Israeli citizen, was subject to government censorship. Halevy, a former intelligence and army officer, was known for good contacts inside the Israeli government and intelligence community; it was widely believed inside the Israeli government, which officially denied the story, that his basic source was Moshe Dayan. 

With the decision finally taken, the bureaucracy closed ranks, as Israelis always do in matters of state security. The first necessity was the acquisition of uranium ore—lots of it. Mossad knew that there were hundreds of tons of ore sitting in a warehouse near Antwerp, Belgium, available for purchase in Europe, but that option theoretically did not exist: such sales in Europe were controlled by Euratom, the Common Market nuclear agency, and it was inconceivable that approval would be forthcoming for a large sale to Israel. Dimona was, after all, under no international supervision. Even if such a sale could be arranged, no one in Israel was willing to let the world know that Dimona, ostensibly a twenty-four-megawatt reactor capable of consuming no more than twenty-four tons of ore in a year, was purchasing an eight-year supply of uranium. Mossad's solution was to approach one of its agents in West Germany in March 1968 and ask him to make the purchase of the uranium—for $4 million—allegedly on behalf of an Italian chemical company in Milan. The sale was approved by Euratom in October, and the uranium was shipped out of Antwerp aboard a vessel renamed the Scheersberg A. The Scheersberg A had been purchased, with Mossad funds, by another Israeli agent-in-place in Turkey. Once at sea, according to published accounts that were confirmed by Israeli officials, the uranium ore was transferred to an Israeli freighter guarded by gunboats and taken to Israel. The disappearance of the huge shipment of uranium ore was known, of course, within months to Euratom; it wasn't much longer before U.S. and European intelligence agencies were reporting internally that the Israelis were involved. It took nine years, nonetheless, before word of the uranium hijacking reached the press, and the affair eventually became the subject of a 1978 book, The Plumbat Affair. Israel's response to the book and to the earlier newspaper accounts was to continue to deny that it had a nuclear capability. No one, except for a few public-interest advocates and a few reporters, seemed to care. 



14 
A Presidential Gift 
After the Six-Day War, and despite Israeli complaints about the increased Soviet threat in the Middle East, the Johnson administration turned out once again to be a fitful ally in Israel's eyes, as the President—anxious to avoid a break with the Arab world—joined de Gaulle and embargoed all arms deliveries to Israel for 135 days. America did so, bitter Israelis noted, while the Soviets continued to resupply their allies. Johnson also publicly eschewed any firm commitment to defend Israel in a crisis. He was asked by CBS newsman Dan Rather at an end-of-the-year press conference whether the United States had "the same kind of unwavering commitment to defend Israel against invasion as we have in South Vietnam." His answer satisfied few Israelis: "We have made clear our very definite interest in Israel, and our desire to preserve peace in that area of the world by many means. But we do not have a mutual security treaty with them, as we do in Southeast Asia." 

Nonetheless, Prime Minister Eshkol was eager to make a second state visit to Washington in January 1968 to plead for the sale of F-4 jet fighters to balance the Soviet introduction of MiGs into Egypt. The F-4 was the most advanced fighter in the American arsenal, and the Pentagon and State Department argued that Israel did not need such aircraft to maintain a military advantage against the Egyptians, whose MiG-2's had a much more limited range and bombing capacity. Introducing the top-of-the-line F-4's into the Middle East would be an unwarranted and unnecessary escalation; Israel would remain superior with the previously supplied A-4 Skyhawk bombers. 

But Johnson, or some of his senior staff, apparently still hadn't given up on persuading Israel to accept the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and were willing to trade fifty F-4S for it. In a pre-summit memorandum for Johnson on January 5,1968, Walt Rostow discussed two lists—"What We Want" and "What We'll Give." The want list included the Rostow reminder "We think we have an acceptable NPT. We believe this will serve Israel's long-range security. We expect Israel to sign." The give list included twenty-seven more Skyhawks and a promise to "cut lead time if Israel needs Phantoms." 

Rostow's suggestion that it would be possible to link the Phantom sale to the NPT was farcical, given Israel's commitment to Dimona and the ample U.S. intelligence—much of it supplied by Wally Barbour's embassy in Tel Aviv—about that commitment. Many years later, in an interview, Rostow acknowledged that he had had few doubts about Israel's nuclear goals: "If you were to ask me what I thought in the sixties, I thought they were moving to put themselves in a position to have a bomb. Everybody and his brother knew what Israel was doing."

There was a similar lack of realism in the White House's approach to the broader Middle East picture, as summarized in Rostow's January 5 memorandum: "We can't support an Israel that sits tight. . . . The Arabs need hope of Israeli concessions—on refugees, Jerusalem, letting new refugees return to the West Bank, avoiding permanent moves in occupied lands." The issues would stay the same for at least the next twenty-three years. [And there is the issue,we have and Israel has broken each point too many times now to keep count.The current situation in Israel is ludacris given the UN Mandate,as Israel has stuffed it so far up the West's ass,the West acts like it does not exist,and Israel is the One who has been there forever.They could not be any more wrong DC] 

Rostow had to know that the Israeli military had gone on a virtual rampage at the end of the Six-Day War in the newly occupied areas of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Golan Heights, ransacking and destroying Arab homes in an obvious attempt to drive Palestinians and other Arabs off their land and into Jordan and Syria. More than one hundred Arab homes were demolished in the Old City of Jerusalem on the first night after the war by Israeli troops, operating under floodlights with bulldozers. Teddy Kollek, Jerusalem's mayor, explained in a 1978 memoir why such speed was necessary: "My overpowering feeling was: do it now; it may be impossible to do it later, and it must be done." Bulldozers and dynamite were used with especial ferocity throughout the West Bank; the village of Qalqiliya, west of Nablus, had 850 of its 2,000 homes destroyed during three days of Israel occupation. Moshe Dayan later accused the Israeli soldiers of taking "punitive" action in the village and ordered cement and other goods to be provided to the villagers for rebuilding. 

There was a brief period after the war in which many senior Israelis, among them Dayan and David Ben-Gurion, openly questioned the wisdom of holding on to the occupied lands.* They saw the war as offering Israel a chance to trade land for lasting peace; Jews, Ben-Gurion often said to his followers, made lousy rulers. "Sinai? . . . Gaza? The West Bank? Let them all go," Ben-Gurion told an American reporter. "Peace is more important than real estate. We do not need territories." Levi Eshkol expressed his own doubts to the visiting Abe Feinberg a few weeks after the war, saying in Yiddish, "What am I going to do with a million Arabs? They fuck like rabbits." 
*James Critchfield, a longtime CIA official who was chief of the Near East Division in 1967, recalled that Dayan and Zvi Zamir, then head of Mossad, joined forces with him and James Angleton at the end of the Six-Day War in a brief and ill-fated attempt to stop the abuse in the West Bank and elsewhere. The goal, said Critchfield, was to reach a quick accord on trading land for peace before the Israelis began settling the occupied territories. Dayan and Zamir were convinced that such a step would be "a disastrous development," said Critchfield. "We had to reverse it immediately, or it'd be a fait accompli." The goal was to start negotiations with Jordan's King Hussein, who had entered the war reluctantly and late, and was eager to negotiate an end to Israeli attacks on his country and his palace. "We started talking and we were making progress," said Critchfield. "I'd kept Mac Bundy [who had returned briefly to the White House as Johnson's special national security assistant for the Middle East] informed and he'd approved it. Twelve days after the end of the war, I thought we ought to remind Mac that we were doing it." A White House meeting was arranged with Bundy and Nicholas D. Katzenbach, then the under secretary of state. "We were told to knock it off," Critchfield said. "They thought it was not well prepared. Angleton argued that if we do not act now with Dayan's and Zamir's support, there will be settlements in the West Bank. As we walked out, Mac said to me, I'd forgotten how passionable Angleton could be. We were at Yale together.' " Katzenbach subsequently said he had no recollection of the meeting. Critchfield, who retired from the Agency in 1974, wasn't surprised at the loss of memory: "They made a dumb act, and wanted to forget it.

Competing against those practical concerns were the religious and philosophical views of many Revisionist Zionists who believed, along with Menachem Begin and his mentor, the late Vladimir Jabotinsky, that Israel's expansion into the West Bank was not an issue of politics, but a historical necessity; the West Bank was the birthplace of the Jewish people, and the area, part of Eretz Israel, had not been occupied during the war but "liberated." The Revisionists' position emerged as the government's policy over the years. The Israeli intransigence over return of the territories, coupled with the rearmed Arabs' desire for revenge, doomed United Nations Resolution 242, which called for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories in return for Arab commitments of territorial integrity and peace. It had been unanimously approved by the United Nations Security Council in late November 1967. 

Things couldn't have gone worse, from the Israeli point of view, at the Johnson-Eshkol summit meeting in early 1968 at the President's ranch in Texas. Eshkol and his advisers, including Ephraim (EfFy) Evron, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, who was a Johnson favorite, had sat through a day of briefings at which a series of Senate and Defense Department officials argued against selling F-4's to Israel. "Johnson was stiffing them on the Nonproliferation Treaty," recalled Harry C. McPherson, one of the President's advisers. "Finally he gets up and said, 'Let's all go piss.' So we all go into a huge bathroom and piss. As Johnson's leaving he sees Effy looking hangdog. 'What's the matter, Effy?' Effy said, 'We're not going to get our F-4's.' 'Oh goddam, Effy,' Johnson said, 'you're going to get the F-4S. But I'm going to get something out of Eshkol. But don't tell him.'" 

McPherson and Evron thought that Johnson's comment amounted to a commitment, but what Johnson wanted to get, Israel could not give. One of Dayan's followers recalled the despair over the seemingly relentless American pressure for IAEA inspections: "We realized we were out there alone." 

Dayan's men were too pessimistic. Israel had the best friend it could have—the President. Within weeks of the summit meeting with Eshkol, Johnson was presented with a CIA estimate concluding—for the first time—that Israel had manufactured at least four nuclear warheads. He ordered CIA Director Richard M. Helms to bury the report, and Helms obeyed the order, as he always did. 

The CIA estimate was not a result of any intelligence break through, explained Carl Duckett, who, by 1968, had become the Agency's assistant director for science and technology, but arose out of a dinner he had with Edward Teller, the eminent nuclear physicist who had devoted much of his life to weapons building. Duckett had briefed Teller in the past and, as he acknowledged, stood in awe of him. Teller had arranged for the private dinner to deliver a pointed message, Duckett recalled: "He was convinced that Israel now had several weapons ready to go." Teller explained that he had just returned from Israel— he had a sister living in Tel Aviv and was a frequent visitor there—where he had many contacts in the Israeli scientific and defense community. "He'd talked to a lot of his old friends," Duckett said, "and he was concerned." Teller was careful to say that he had no specific information about Israeli nuclear weapons. But it was his understanding, Teller told Duckett, that the Agency was waiting for an Israeli test before making any final assessment about Israeli nuclear capability. If so, the CIA was making a mistake. "The Israelis have it and they aren't going to test it," Duckett recalled Teller explaining. "They might be wrong by a few kilotons [on the yield of an untested bomb], but so what?" 

Duckett was as impressed as Teller wanted him to be: "It was the most single convincing piece of evidence I got the whole time I was in the CIA."* He reported the conversation to Helms the next morning: "I can tell you that everybody was very concerned." The Office of Science and Technology had just distributed a top-secret estimate on nonproliferation, and Duckett decided that an update, known inside the intelligence community as a "Memo to Holders," would be dispatched. "It was very brief," Duckett recalled. "The conclusion was that they [the Israelis] had nuclear weapons." 
*Duckett acknowledged that his faith in Teller was shaken more than a little, how ever, a few years later when Teller arranged another meeting to confide that he was convinced that the Soviet Union would conduct a first strike with thermonuclear weapons across the United States on July 4, 1976—the two hundredth anniversary of American independence. 

Another factor in that conclusion was the widespread belief inside the Agency that the Israelis were somehow behind the reported disappearance of some two hundred pounds of weapons-grade uranium from the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC), a privately owned nuclear enriching plant in Apollo, Pennsylvania. The company's owner, Zalman Mordecai Shapiro, a devout Jew with close ties to Israel, insisted that the uranium loss—first reported by Shapiro in 1965 —was routine, an inevitable by-product of the difficult task of enrichment. Duckett and many others in the intelligence community thought otherwise. Duckett acknowledged that he had no evidence that Shapiro's uranium had been diverted to Israel, but "made an assumption" that it had while preparing the up dated Israeli estimate. "Assuming a crude device, Israel could have made four weapons with the Shapiro material," Duckett said, and the initial draft of the Memo to Holders revealed that there was new evidence suggesting that Israel had three to four nuclear weapons. 

Without the Teller report and the suspicions about Shapiro, Duckett acknowledged, the CIA didn't have much to go on. The Agency had been unable to determine whether Israel had built, as suspected, an underground chemical reprocessing plant at Dimona. The Agency also had not been able to pene trate any of the military commands or intelligence services of Israel. And no Israeli had defected to the United States with nuclear information. The National Security Agency and its electronic eavesdropping also had not been much help, Duckett said, although it had provided early evidence suggesting that some Israeli Air Force pilots had practiced bomb runs in a manner that made sense only if nuclear weapons were to be dropped. 

Thin as its evidence was, Duckett was now willing to state in a top-secret written report that Israel was a nuclear power. The revised estimate was more than a little bit sensitive, Duckett knew, and he cleared it first with Dick Helms. The CIA director told Duckett not to publish the estimate in any form and also declared that he himself would be the messenger with bad tidings. Helms walked the Duckett information into the Oval Office and gave it to the President. Johnson exploded, as Helms later recounted to Duckett, and demanded that the document be buried: "Don't tell anyone else, even [Secretary of State] Dean Rusk and [Defense Secretary] Robert McNamara." Helms did as he was told, but not without trepidation: "Helms knew that he would get in trouble with Rusk and McNamara if they learned that he had withheld it."* 
*Helms, despite his public image as a suave spymaster, was more of a bureaucrat than most newsmen and government officials in Washington could imagine. One of Helms's senior deputies recalled the occasion in the last year of the Johnson administration when an angry President ordered a twenty-four-hour halt to all CIA intelligence collection and reporting on Vietnam. The President's goal was to prevent a leak, and his assumption seemed to be that if he could stop the voluminous traffic to and from the CIA, he would do just that. Of course, shutting off the communications link had its obvious perils, and the senior CIA staff were sure that Helms would ignore, or override, the irrational presidential order. Not so. Although he most certainly knew better, Helms followed orders and stopped the traffic. "You don't question what a President can do," the CIA director told his dispirited aides. 
Johnson's purpose in chasing Helms—and his intelligence— away was clear: he did not want to know what the CIA was trying to tell him, for once he accepted that information, he would have to act on it. By 1968, the President had no intention of doing anything to stop the Israeli bomb, as Helms, Duckett, Walworth Barbour, William Dale, and a very few others in the U.S. government came to understand. 

Moshe Dayan's unilateral action to push Dimona into full-scale production carried what should have been a huge risk—a nuclear-armed Israel would find it impossible to sign the Nonproliferation Treaty, and Israel thus would not get its F-4's from the Johnson administration. The pressure from the Washington bureaucracy on that issue remained intense, especially at the Pentagon, where Clark Clifford, who had replaced Robert McNamara as secretary of defense at the end of January, and his senior aides were adamant. Clifford and his colleagues had no idea where their President really stood on the question of Israel and the NPT. In October 1968, one month before the presidential election, Johnson formally approved the F-4 sale in principle, but left the bargaining over delivery dates and other details to be negotiated. Paul C. Warnke, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, recalled thinking there still was "an outside chance" Israel could be forced to sign the NPT in exchange for immediate delivery. "It was worth doing," he added, as a sign of a more even-handed approach to the Middle East. 

Warnke called in Yitzhak Rabin, newly named as Israel's ambassador to Washington, and began asking some tough questions about the bomb—direct questions that, obviously, had never before been posed to him by a high-level American official. "I was trying to find out what they had," recalled Warnke, "and then stop it." The discomfited Rabin asked Warnke for a definition of a nuclear weapon: "I said," added Warnke, " 'It's if you've got a delivery device in one room and the nuclear war head in another room.' " The ambassador then asked: "Do you have a nuclear weapon unless you say you do?" A Warnke aide, Harry H. Schwartz, also was at the meeting and recalled an even tougher Warnke remark. "Mr. Ambassador," Schwartz quoted Warnke as saying, "we are shocked at the manner in which you are dealing with us. . . . You, our close ally, are building nuclear bombs in Israel behind our back." Rabin denied it, said Schwartz. 

The ambassador, of course, was enraged by the encounter, which he subsequently claimed had nothing to do with nuclear weapons. In his memoirs, published in 1979, Rabin depicted the basic issue as Warnke's insistence that the United States, as a condition of the F-4 sale, be permitted to have on-site supervision of every Israeli arms manufacturing plant and every defense installation engaged in research and development. "To say I was appalled would be a gross understatement," Rabin wrote. "I sat there stupefied, feeling the blood rising to my face." He left the meeting, he added, and began passing "broad hints" to Israel's supporters in Congress and elsewhere to generate support for the F-4 sale. 
Image result for images of Major General Mordechai HodImage result for images of  Abe Feinberg.
Rabin did more than just pass hints. He and Major General Mordecai Hod,[L] the Israeli Air Force's chief of staff, went to see one of the few Americans who could get the President to change his mind—Abe Feinberg.[R] "They were agitated," Feinberg recalled. "Needed to see me right away. 'Everything you've done about the Phantoms is going down the drain. Clifford is insisting on the NPT.'" Feinberg had met privately a few weeks earlier with Johnson and Walter Rostow and heard the President declare that there would be "no conditions" to the F-4 sale. "So I picked up the telephone," he said, "called the White House, and asked for Rostow." The national security adviser was having dinner at Clifford's house, and Feinberg,who was well known to the White House switchboard operators, was patched through. "Walt gets on the telephone," continued Feinberg, "and I say, 'Walt, you and I and the President were together and Johnson said no conditions.' Walt agrees. I say, 'When you get back to the table, tell that to Clifford.'" 

Clifford, who did not recount the incident in his 1991 memoir, Counsel to the President, telephoned the President and got the message. Paul Warnke arrived at a later meeting of his staff, all of whom favored tying the F-4 sale to Israeli acceptance of the NPT, and dramatically drew his hand across his neck. The NPT was out. Harry Schwartz recalled Warnke's account of the Clifford-Johnson dialogue: "Clifford called Johnson and LBJ said, 'Sell them anything they want.' 

" 'Mr. President, I don't want to live in a world where the Israelis have nuclear weapons.' " 

'Don't bother me with this anymore.' And he hangs up." 

Johnson had given essentially that same message at the beginning of the year to Dick Helms'. 

In his memoirs, President Johnson recounted with pride the formal White House ceremony in which the United States, the Soviet Union, and more than fifty other nations signed the NPT. The treaty, he wrote, was "the most difficult and most important ... of all the agreements reached with Moscow" during his presidency. Why, then, did he make it possible for Israel to flout the NPT and keep its F-4's? Johnson's decision had nothing to do with domestic politics or the heavy lobbying on the issue from Israel's supporters in the Congress: his abrupt conversation with Clark Clifford took place after Nixon had won the 1968 Presidential elections. There's also no evidence that Johnson felt he was in debt to the Israeli government for its support of his policies in Vietnam; American Jews, despite that support, were overwhelmingly hostile to the war. "A bunch of rabbis came here one day in 1967 to tell me that I ought not to send a single screwdriver to Vietnam," the President complained to Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban in late 1968, "but on the other hand, [the U.S.] should push all our aircraft carriers through the Strait of Tiran to help Israel." 

There is no ready explanation for Johnson's refusal to deal with the Israeli nuclear bomb. His decision not to stop the F-4 sale had given Israel, as Johnson had to know, a high-performance aircraft capable of carrying a nuclear weapon on a one way mission to Moscow. It was, perhaps, nothing more than his farewell gift to the Israeli people and his way of repaying the loyalty of Abe Feinberg. 

There is no question that Feinberg enjoyed the greatest presidential access and influence in his twenty years as a Jewish fund-raiser and lobbyist with Lyndon Johnson. Documents at the Johnson Library show that even the most senior members of the National Security Council understood that any issue raised by Feinberg had to be answered. In late October 1968, for example, Rostow was given a memorandum by a White House aide about Israeli press coverage of the "NPT-Phantom problem . . . just to give you a factual basis for your continued dealings with Feinberg. . . ." By 1968, the government of Israel had rewarded Feinberg for his services by permitting him to become the major owner of the nation's Coca-Cola franchise. It would quickly become a multimillion-dollar profit center.* 
* Israel had rewarded other financial supporters with similarly lucrative business deals. In 1959, for example, Tricontinenal Pipelines, Ltd., an international investment group controlled by Baron Edmund de Rothschild, was given the concession to operate a sixteen-inch oil pipeline between Elat and Haifa, via Ashdod. The contract, signed by then Finance Minister Levi Eshkol on behalf of Israel, committed the state to ship at least 1.5 million tons of oil through the pipeline for the next fifteen years. Edmund de Rothschild was, according to Abe Feinberg, another major contributor to Dimona's start-up costs. 
Feinberg's role as a fund-raiser was nonpareil in the Johnson White House: his cash was, on occasion, supplied directly to Walter W. Jenkins, the President's most trusted personal aide, and his fellow political operatives in the White House—and not to the Democratic Party. There were others in the Jewish political establishment, men such as Arthur B. Krim, the New York attorney and president of United Artists, who raised large amounts of money specifically for the Democratic Party. Feinberg's status was different, recalled Myer Feldman, Johnson's aide for Jewish affairs: "Abe only raised cash—where it went only he knows." 

Feinberg acknowledged that he had a special cache: "A lot of people were afraid publicly to give as much as they could, so they arranged sub rosa cash payments. It had to be done laboriously—man-to-man. Raising money is a very humiliating process," he added. "People you don't respect piss all over you." Feinberg's special status became clear to some in the White House after the press revealed on October 14, 1964, that Walter Jenkins had been arrested a week earlier in the bathroom of a Washington YMCA on homosexual solicitation charges. The arrest took place three weeks before the 1964 presidential election. Johnson, in New York when word of the arrest—which he had attempted to suppress—became public, insisted that he and others in the White House distance themselves from the potentially scandalous incident. There was one immediate problem: at least $250,000 in cash that had been raised by Feinberg was in Jenkins's safe and needed to be removed. Johnson telephoned Feldman and ordered him and Bill Moyers, another trusted aide and sometime speechwriter, to clean out Jenkins's safe. Feldman was not surprised by the assignment: "Jenkins is the only person who knew everything that was going on. He took shorthand notes—reams of notes—ever since Johnson came into the Congress." Feldman also knew that Jenkins was especially trusted on national security issues. What he and Moyers did not know was that they would find the Feinberg money. "Bill said, 'What do we do with this?' I said, 'I don't know. You handle it.'" The cash was in a briefcase. 

Moyers, asked about the incident in early 1991, said his memory was vague, but acknowledged that "circumstances did lead me to believe" that Jenkins had a private cache of money in his safe. "I think there was a private fund. There was a lot of cash washed around in Washington in those days." Asked specifically whether the cash was meant for the Democratic campaign, Moyers said, "I don't know and I don't know what happened to it. Anybody who smelled of money was always routed to Walter. He was the contact man for the contributors and he took his secrets to the grave with him." 

Moyers, now a prominent television personality, recalled the time in the Johnson White House when "a guy from North Carolina came to see me. He'd been routed from Walter—who wasn't in—to me. He had a leather satchel and left it in my office. I ran out and told my secretary to find him." The man was grabbed just as he was leaving the West Entrance, but refused to take back the briefcase. "He said," Moyers recounted, " 'Oh no, I left it for Jenkins and Moyers.' I told her to take it to Mildred [Walter Jenkins's secretary]." 

President Johnson, Moyers added, "was an equal opportunity taker. He'd take from friends and adversaries just because he thought that's the way the system worked. No decisions were made on the basis of cash," Moyers added, "but cash did give you access." Asked about Feinberg, Moyers said, "I always thought Abe Feinberg had a lot of impact on Johnson; he had a big role to play." 

Harry Schwartz, Paul Warnke's deputy, who died in early 1991, had a special reason to be frustrated by the Johnson administration's inability to get Israel to sign the NPT. He had been stunned a year earlier when a group of Israeli military attaches had come into his Pentagon office and asked for a Low Altitude Bombing System (LABS) for nuclear weapons. The computerized bombing system provided time for an aircraft to drop its weapons and roll away to avoid the blast effects. "I just laughed at them," recalled Schwartz. The Israelis cited the buildup of the Egyptian Army across the Sinai Canal and insisted that the LABS was needed only to "lob" high-explosive bombs onto the Egyptian emplacements. "I told them," said Schwartz, "that any American who sells you a bombsight for that purpose is crazy, and I'm not crazy." 

There was a friendly private lunch early in the Nixon administration with Ambassador Rabin, well after Israel began receiving the F-4S. Schwartz decided to bring up the Israeli bomb, which Israel was still publicly insisting was only an option: "I think what you should do is what you're doing now. Don't ever haul one out, because your little government will disappear. The Soviets almost assuredly have your country targeted." 

"Mr. Schwartz," calmly replied Rabin after a moment, "do you think we are crazy?

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The Tunnel




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