The Story Behind Israel’s Reported Consideration Of Exploding A Nuclear Weapon In The Egyptian Sinai — If The Arabs Were On The Verge Of Defeating Israel In The 1967 Six-Day War — And, What This Might Tell Us About A Potential Similar North Korean Plan
I received some email comments from people whom I have a lot of respect for, who argued that they did not believe that Israel actually had developed a nuclear weapon at the time the 1967 Six Day War erupted. The bottom line, in my view is that I do not think we have enough information [unclassified] that would convince me that Israel was bluffing. Indeed, the body of evidence shows that Israel, likely did have the capability, the means, and the wherewithal to detonate an atomic bomb in 1967, if they reached the conclusion it was in their national survival interests to do so.
We now know that Israel had begun to vigorously pursue a clandestine nuclear weapons program as far back as the mid-1950s, so the idea that they had successfully manufactured at least one nuclear bomb is not inconceivable. And, I doubt if any of Israel’s adversaries at the time…..would have been willing to tempt fate and call Tel Aviv’s hand. Having ‘said’ that, Ben Caspit had an article in the Middle Eastern publication, Al Monitor, writing about what he argues is “the story, behind” Israel’s reported plans to detonate a nuclear weapon in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula — if the Arabs were on the verge of defeating Israel’s military during the 1967 Six Day War.
Back in the late 1960s, no one was talking or writing about the potential that Israel had a clandestine nuclear weapons program; although, in the closing months of his presidential administration, POTUS Dwight Eisenhower learned through his Middle East diplomats and the CIA, that Israel, with French assistance, was building a nuclear reactor in the Negev desert at a complex called Dimona; and, likely were in the beginning stages of creating a nuclear weapons program. As the Eisenhower administration would later learn, Israel had actively been working on a plan to construct a clandestine nuclear weapons facility at Dimona, for at least five years before this discovery.
Avner Cohen and William Burr, writing on the April 15, 2015 edition of Politico, “How Israel Hid Its Nuclear Weapons Program, And Blocked The U.S. Efforts To Uncover Its Secret Nuclear Reactor,” wrote that “soon after Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion came to power in 1955, he launched a secret initiative to determine whether, and how Israel could build a nuclear [weapons] infrastructure, aimed at establishing an national program capable of producing nuclear explosives [weapons].” “A senior [Israeli] defense official [at the time] named Shimon Peres [who would go on to serve as Israel’s Prime Minister] took charge of the project. Within three years of [leading the project], he did the almost impossible,” Mr. Cohen and Mr. Burr wrote, “transforming the idea of a national nuclear program…..from a vague vision, into a technological achievement.”
Now. some sixty-plus years later, Mr. Caspit writes that “the international community now believes that Israel has 90-200 [nuclear] warheads. According to foreign researchers, some [nuclear] warheads are installed on Jericho missiles, while others can be delivered by fighter jets. A few, may even be delivered by German-manufactured submarines.”
Adding a little more detail and context to the New York Times story that I previously wrote about last Sunday, Mr. Caspit writes “the Egyptians would see the [nuclear] explosion [in the Sinai], from a great distance, perhaps even Cairo, and get the hint. One theory,” Mr. Caspit notes, “has it that the plan was made in response to concerns that in case of war, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nassar would use chemical weapons against Israel, just as he has used them during Egypt’s [earlier] military intervention in Yemen. Israeli leaders were not only concerned about a military defeat and annihilation; but, also the possibility that Egyptian missiles, armed with chemical warheads, would land in Haifa, Tel Aviv, or Jerusalem. In response to this potential apocalypse, Israel — prepared an apocalypse of its own.” The plan was never carried out, as I previously wrote; and, Mr. Caspit noted, as the Israeli Defense Forces, led by Moshe Dayan and Ariel Sharon, among others, swiftly overwhelmed their Arab adversaries.
My article on Sunday, was in reference to a New York Times article that revealed that Israel had developed a plan to detonate an atomic bomb in the Egyptian Sinai, in the 1967, Six Day War — if Tel Aviv believed that the Arab armies were going to prevail in the conflict. The basis for that article and revelation, was “based on an interview between Mr. Cohen and retired IDF Brigadier General Itzak Yaakov — who oversaw the operational/military aspects of the plan.
The New York Times reported that “BG. Yaakov, who led the IDF’s Weapons Development Program for operational purposes, and who died in 2013, at the age of 87,” gave an extensive interview to Mr. Cohen n 1999 and 2000, in which he stated that Israel “had developed a plan, code-named, ‘Shimshon,’ or Samson,” whereby Israeli commandos were to be flown by helicopter, with an atomic bomb, to a secret/clandestine landing site on a mountain-top about 12 miles from an Egyptian military complex at Abu Agelia,” in the Sinai Peninsula. BG. Yaakov told Mr. Cohen that he was in charge/oversaw the Samson operational planning.
“Once he reached age 70, BG. Yaakov sought ways to ensure that his contributions to Israel’s security would be remembered for posterity,” Mr. Caspit wrote. BG. Yaakov “wrote a book, supposedly a work of fiction, in which he described, among other things, the secret, 1967 operation — Samson. BG. Yaakov sent the manuscript to various publishers, friends, and public figures in the United States, along with a personal note in which he explained that it [Operation Samson] was a completely true story; but, written as a fictional account, in order to bypass Israeli censorship. He followed up by sending excerpts from his personal diary, describing this secret plan, to others in the United States. BG. Yaakov was occasionally cautioned [warned] against [writing or discussing] doing this — but, he ignored [all] those warnings,” Mr. Caspit wrote. He was, a man, over 70 years old; and, in the twilight of his life. He probably judged he did not have many years left; and, must have felt that the risk and any potential consequences for ignoring these warnings — were outweighed by what he must have believed was a critical and significant piece of political and military history from the 1967 Six Day War, that needed to be publicly acknowledged and historically documented.
“The climax came,” Mr. Caspit wrote, “when BG. (Ret.) Yaakov gave a lengthy interview with Israeli journalist Rosen Bergman, in which he described events which were detailed,” in this past Monday’s New York Times; and, also in my blog post last Sunday. Israeli authorities censored the interview; and, destroyed all digital copies of the interview, which were supposed to be used for follow-on television documentaries about the Six Day War. Then, “in 1975, when BG. Yaakov arrived in Israel from the United States, to celebrate his 75th birthday, he was promptly arrested, and charged with espionage,” Mr. Caspit noted. “BG. Yaakov was eventually convicted of lesser crimes, given a two-year conditional sentence, and released from house arrest.”
As for those who do not think that the Israeli nuclear weapons program was not far enough along to have actually conducted the nuclear detonation in 1967, a U.S. national intelligence community assessment was published in December 1958, that would undermine those doubts. A Special National Intelligence Estimate (SNIE) on Dimona, titled, “Implications Of The Acquisition By Israel Of A Nuclear Weapons Capability, signed of on December 8, 1958 by then CIA Director Allen Dulles which concluded that “on the basis of all available evidence, plutonium production for nuclear weapons is at least one major purpose of this effort,” which had begun some three years earlier at Dimona. Moreover, the SNIE concluded, “Israel would be able to produce some weapons grade plutonium in 1963/1964; and, possibly as early as 1962.”
So, it would seem that the purported secret plan by Israel to detonate an atomic bomb in the Egyptian Sinai in the 1967, Six Day War, if it appeared that the Arab armies were on the verge of overrunning and defeating their military — is plausible and believable. Barring irrefutable evidence that Israel had not yet developed and armed an atomic bomb in 1967, I believe we have to take BG. Yaakov’s statements as true and accurate.
And again, is this operation, instructive regarding North Korea? Desperate times, call for desperate measures. Would North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un authorize/order a pre-positioned nuclear weapon be detonated inside his own country — if during a military conflict against South Korean and U.S. military forces — he believed North Korea’s military was about to be defeated? Would he decide to try and kill as many South Korean and U.S. military forces by detonating a pre-positioned nuclear device — as a last ‘great’ act of defiance? Or. would such an order be disobeyed; and/or, would someone inside Un’s inner circle kill/murder the young dictator instead? And, is there a chance that the U.S. and/or, China could somehow get word to those inside this North Korean inner circle — that it would be in their best interests not to carry out any such order to detonate a nuclear bomb. One can only hope.But, we cannot plan…..on hope. V/R, RCP