Israel Says Iran’s Lying About Its Nuclear Program? That’s Rich.

News Abroad
tags: Israel, Iran Nuclear Agreement

Walter L. Hixson is distinguished professor at the University of Akron. He is author, among other works, of "American Settler Colonialism: A History" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) and the forthcoming text American Foreign Relations: A New Diplomatic History (Rutledge, 2015). 

"Nuclear reactor in dimona (israel)" by American reconnaissance satellite KH-4 CORONA - Uncropped version at Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

At last week’s UN meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued to thunder about an as yet nonexistent Iranian nuclear threat. It is remarkable how few historians and almost no one in the mainstream media points out Israel’s own mendacious path to cultivation of nuclear weapons and its torpedoing of US and international efforts to keep the Middle East a nuclear free zone.

Beginning with the Kennedy administration the Israelis successfully lobbied for millions of dollars in American military assistance, including tanks and aircraft, in return for supposedly embracing the nuclear non-proliferation regime. The Israelis secretly developed nuclear weapons capability anyway in blatant violation of their pledges to the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. As Secretary of State Dean Rusk observed in 1965, Israel had "deliberately misled us initially about the nature of the nuclear facility at Dimona therefore we must assume Israel intends to make its decisions on whether to produce nuclear weapons without consulting us.” Rusk urged a policy in which “we should press Israel now for acceptance of [International Atomic Energy Agency] safeguards,” adding “there is great urgency about this matter in view of the disturbing signals we’ve been getting from Israel.”i

Rather than confronting Israel over its secret nuclear program the United States continued arms shipments and sided with the Jewish state in the June1967 war even after the Israelis pummeled the defenseless intelligence vessel the USS Liberty in the midst of the conflict. After the six-day war the United States acquiesced to Israeli intransigence in response to UN Security Council Resolution 242, a land for peace formula approved on November 22, 1967, under which Israel would withdraw from occupied Arab territories in return for recognition. Egypt, Jordan, and Israel formally endorsed Resolution 242, but the Israelis soon claimed the resolution’s reference to “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” did not mean specifically “the” territories it had just seized. In reality there was nothing ambiguous about Resolution 242, including the provision for the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”ii

Tel Aviv’s thinly veiled justification for rejecting a viable international settlement of the conflict reflected the same tactics Israel employed in fending off American efforts to commit Israel to nuclear non-proliferation. Just weeks prior to the 1967 war National Security Adviser Walt W. Rostow declared, “Israel has never leveled with us on its nuclear intent” and was instead “quietly but steadily” advancing an agenda “to produce nuclear weapons.”iii Added diplomat Joseph Sisco: “Underneath the official posture, our intelligence indicates that Israel is rapidly developing a capability to produce and deploy nuclear weapons.” The only possibility of deterring Israel would be to make clear that development of a nuclear weapons capability would precipitate a “fundamental change in the US-Israel relationship.”iv Rather than confronting Israel the United States acquiesced to the tortured ex post facto Israeli explanation that it had meant only that it would not “introduce” nuclear weapons into the Middle East by means of publically stating that it had developed the capability. In other words, Israel would cultivate nuclear weapons but not admit that it was doing so and this, Israeli leaders said with a straight face, was what they meant by non-proliferation.

Perhaps Netanyahu’s alarum over the “Iran nuclear threat” reflects an internalization of Israel’s own history of mendacity in rejecting non-proliferation in order to develop nuclear weapons and present the world with a fait accompli. The double standard of U.S. acquiescence to myriad examples of Israeli aggression and violations of international law is lost on most Americans because of their religious and cultural affinity for Israel, as well as the deep pockets of the Israel Lobby. The double standards are not, however, lost on Arabs, or on Persians for that matter.

i Memorandum from Rusk to Johnson, May 10, 1965, Foreign Relations of the United States 1964 to 1968: Vol. 18, Arab-Israeli Dispute 1964 to 1967 (Washington: US Government Printing Office, 2000), 454-55.

ii United Nations General Assembly Resolution 242, November 22, 1967,

iii Rostow to Johnson, April 20, 1967, FRUS: Arab-Israeli Dispute, 797.

iv Joseph Sisco, “Israel’s Nuclear Policy and Implications for the United States,” April 3, 1969, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1967-1969, Political and Defense, Box 1557, Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library, Austin, Texas.