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How Israel Hid Its Secret Nuclear Weapons Program

In this March 18, 2015, file photo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets supporters at the party's election headquarters in Tel Aviv. Netanyahu apologized to Israel's Arab citizens on Monday, March 23, 2015, for remarks he made during last week's parliament election that offended members of the community. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)
In this March 18, 2015, file photo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets supporters at the party’s election headquarters in Tel Aviv. Netanyahu apologized to Israel’s Arab citizens on Monday, March 23, 2015, for remarks he made during last week’s parliament election that offended members of the community. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)

 

(Politico) – For decades, the world has known that the massive Israeli facility near Dimona, in the Negev Desert, was the key to its secret nuclear project. Yet, for decades, the world—and Israel—knew that Israel had once misleadingly referred to it as a “textile factory.” Until now, though, we’ve never known how that myth began—and how quickly the United States saw through it. The answers, as it turns out, are part of a fascinating tale that played out in the closing weeks of the Eisenhower administration—a story that begins with the father of Secretary of State John Kerry and a familiar charge that the U.S. intelligence community failed to “connect the dots.”

In its final months, even as the Kennedy-Nixon presidential race captivated the country, the Eisenhower administration faced a series of crises involving Cuba and Laos. Yet, as the fall of 1960 progressed, President Dwight D. Eisenhower encountered a significant and unexpected problem of a new kind—U.S. diplomats learned and U.S. intelligence soon confirmed that Israel was building, with French aid, a secret nuclear reactor in the Negev Desert. Soon concluding that the Israelis were likely seeking an eventual nuclear weapons capability, the administration saw a threat to strategic stability in the Middle East and a nuclear proliferation threat. Adding fuel to the fire was the perception that Israel was deceitful, or had not “come clean,” as CIA director Allen Dulles put it. Once the Americans started asking questions about Dimona, the site of Israel’s nuclear complex, the Israelis gave evasive and implausible cover stories.

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