israeli nuclear weapons program

Written by Mirwaise Khan 11:47 am

A JCPOA for the Growing Israeli Nuclear Weapons Program

Israel is a nation involved in uranium enrichment programs – just like Iran. While these programs are not acknowledged by the Israeli government, expert opinions confirming these statements are available. The author argues for a framework (like the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action i.e. the Iran nuclear deal) for Israel’s quietly escalating nuclear projects.

Nuclear Weapons to Be Nipped in the Bud

On 11th April 1995, the UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 984 was adopted to avoid the danger of nuclear war and prevent the escalation of a nuclear weapons program. In this respect, Iran was called to sign the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) in exchange for the withdrawal of sanctions and economic relief from the US, EU, and UNSC.

Under the pretext of JCPOA, which was signed between Iran and P5+1, on 14th July 2015, Iran was called to banish the stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, limit its uranium enrichment up to 3.67% for the next 15 years, and not build heavy water facilities for the same period. The monitoring of Iranian compliance with JCPOA was also ensured through regular access of IAEA to Iranian nuclear facilities.

The US and the JCPOA

JCPOA, or commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, remained in its place until President Trump declared the deal worthless and withdrew on 8th May 2018. Following the US withdrawal, the Trump team reversed and reimposed sanctions on Iran in November 2018.

Since then, the deal remained fallen apart until the Biden team recently met the Iranian delegation in Vienna on 6 April 2021 to rejoin JCPOA but with new terms and conditions. Iran insists that before rejoining JCPOA the US must make its first move by eliminating all the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.

Israeli Nuclear Weapons Program

Is Iran the only Middle Eastern nation involved in uranium enrichment for its quest for nuclear technology? No, it is not because Israel is another Middle Eastern nation that has been involved in nuclear activities since 1949 to develop nuclear weapons.

Hence, if both Iran and Israel are equally involved in nuclear activities, then, why is it that western powers continuously sanction Iran and compel it for a nuclear deal like JCPOA, while giving Israel a supreme indemnity by ignoring Israel’s involvement in nuclear weapon development?

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Although Israel has not officially announced itself as a nuclear power, the evidence suggests that Israel holds a fully functional nuclear weapons program and currently possesses 80 to 130 nuclear warheads. The Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization and the first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, began the Israeli nuclear program in 1948 and directed the Israeli Geologist to search for uranium resources in the Negev Desert.

In 1949, Israel established its first Nuclear Research and Development Centre at Weizmann Institute in Rehovot. By 1950, low-grade uranium deposits were found in the Negev Desert and the production of heavy water started. In 1956, France and Britain invaded Egypt to obtain control of the Suez Canal which was nationalized by the Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser.

During the invasion, the Israeli Armed Forces supported France and, in return, France provided Israel with nuclear expertise, uranium supplies and secretly built an underground nuclear reactor for Israel at Dimona in the Negev Desert.

The Smuggled Uranium

Israel has smuggled uranium supplies four different times to meet the requirement of its nuclear program. The first was “Apollo Affairs” in 1965, when Mossad agent Dr. Zalman Shapiro, smuggled 200 pounds of highly enriched uranium to Israel. The second is termed “Operation Plumbate”, when Israel smuggled 200 tons of uranium oxide or yellowcake from Antwerp, Belgium, which were sealed in 560 oil drums.

The third and fourth incidents were the stealing of uranium supplies from the loaded trucks by the Mossad agents in Britain in 1968 and France in 1969. Israel also got 20 tons of heavy water from Norway in 1959 and 20 tons more from Britain in 1961 for its nuclear program.

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Allies Come to Assistance

The location of the full-scale testing of Israeli nuclear weapons is still unclear but different expert opinions are available based on the intelligence sources. Firstly, it is believed that the French nuclear test was the joint test of two countries, which made both Israel and France nuclear powers.

Secondly, the western intelligence sources believe that Israel conducted its first nuclear test underground in the Desert of the Negev in 1963. Finally, the bright flash detected by the US spy satellite “Vela” on 22 September 1979 near the Indian Ocean is presumed to be the joint nuclear test of Israel-South Africa as both countries had engaged in nuclear cooperation during the 1970s and 1980s.

The US had come to know about the secret Israeli reactor complex at Dimona in 1958 and yet it did not use the UNSC platform to pressurize Israel to roll back its nuclear activities. While knowing that Israel had an active nuclear program, the US still provided US-made aircraft — A-4 Skyhawk, F-15E, F-4 Phantom, and F-16 — to Israel that could carry nuclear weapons.

Towards Nuclear Disarmament

The aforementioned evidence substantiates the fact that the Israeli nuclear bomb emerged with the aid of countries like the US, UK, France, Argentina, Belgium, Norway, and South Africa. Therefore, UNSC cannot expect Iran to abandon its nuclear desire when Israel is ignored despite being involved in nuclear activities for the last seven decades and that, too, with the help of three permanent members of the UNSC, that is, the US, UK, and France.

Why is it that we allow Israel to have a nuclear program even if it is for peaceful purposes but impel Iran to not have it for the same peaceful objectives? This gives an impression that the UNSC is untroubled by the Israeli nuclear weapons program but is at odds with the nuclear activities of Iran. We need to understand that such two-facedness of the UNSC is a barrier in the full implementation of UNSC Resolution 984.

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Therefore, I believe that If the UNSC desires Iran to forgo its nuclear activities, then it must act fairly by pressurizing Israel to revoke its nuclear activities and dismantle its nuclear warheads. Hence, both Israel and Iran must be dealt with the same standards, and, just like Iran, Israel must also be compelled to sign an Israeli-type JCPOA to avoid the proliferation of the nuclear weapons program in the Middle Eastern region. 

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About the Author(s)

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Mirwaise Khan is pursuing an MPhil in Finance from BUITEMS. He also works as a columnist and has been writing opinion and editorial articles for the Daily Times.

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