Israel’s nuclear weapons program is one of the biggest military open secrets in the world. Now we know a little more about the angst inside the Pentagon in the late 1960s, as Israel was months away from activating its nuclear deterrent.
That’s all according to new documents obtained by the non-profit National Security Archive at George Washington University. In 2006, the researchers revealed the Nixon administration’s wrangling over what to do about Israel’s nuclear weapons program. But the latest round of documents shows new details about the debate—and the stark warnings from Pentagon officials about the dangers of Israeli nukes.
One of the more severe warnings came from then-Deputy Secretary of Defense David Packard. On July 14, 1969, Packard sent a memo to Melvin Laird—the secretary of defense—laying down what to discuss with the president. The memo reflected a “general consensus” among Pentagon officials and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that Israel’s weapons program would destabilize the region.
“The choices of decision before the president is to lean on the Israelis or not to lean on them,” Packard wrote. “In my opinion, not to lean on them would, in effect, involve us in a conspiracy with Israel which would leave matters dangerous to our security in their hands.”