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Monday, May 24, 2010
Office of the President: Complete denial of Guardian article - never negotiated nuke weapons deal with S. Africa

Spokesperson’s Department
Office of the President

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Response to the article published by The Guardian today:

There exists no basis in reality for the claims published this morning by
The Guardian that in 1975 Israel negotiated with South Africa the exchange
of nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, The Guardian elected to write its piece
based on the selective interpretation of South African documents and not on
concrete facts.

Israel has never negotiated the exchange of nuclear weapons with South
Africa. There exists no Israeli document or Israeli signature on a document
that such negotiations took place.

The Office of the President regrets The Guardian’s decision to publish such
an article without requesting comment from any Israeli officials.

The Office of the President intends to send a harsh letter to the editor of
The Guardian and demands the publication of the true facts.

For More Information:
Ayelet Frish – Spokesperson of the President 050-620-5111
Meital Jaslovitz – Assistant to Spokesperson of the President 050-420-5230

3 HaNassi St., Jerusalem Israel 92188 Tel. +972-2-6707256 Fax.
Email: spokesperson@president.gov.il

Revealed: how Israel offered to sell South Africa nuclear weapons
Exclusive: Secret apartheid-era papers give first official evidence of
Israeli nuclear weapons
Chris McGreal in Washington
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 23 May 2010 21.00 BST

Secret South African documents reveal that Israel offered to sell nuclear
warheads to the apartheid regime, providing the first official documentary
evidence of the state's possession of nuclear weapons.

The "top secret" minutes of meetings between senior officials from the two
countries in 1975 show that South Africa's defence minister, PW Botha, asked
for the warheads and Shimon Peres, then Israel's defence minister and now
its president, responded by offering them "in three sizes". The two men also
signed a broad-ranging agreement governing military ties between the two
countries that included a clause declaring that "the very existence of this
agreement" was to remain secret.
The documents, uncovered by an American academic, Sasha Polakow-Suransky, in
research for a book on the close relationship between the two countries,
provide evidence that Israel has nuclear weapons despite its policy of
"ambiguity" in neither confirming nor denying their existence.

The Israeli authorities tried to stop South Africa's post-apartheid
government declassifying the documents at Polakow-Suransky's request and the
revelations will be an embarrassment, particularly as this week's nuclear
non-proliferation talks in New York focus on the Middle East.

They will also undermine Israel's attempts to suggest that, if it has
nuclear weapons, it is a "responsible" power that would not misuse them,
whereas countries such as Iran cannot be trusted.

South African documents show that the apartheid-era military wanted the
missiles as a deterrent and for potential strikes against neighbouring

The documents show both sides met on 31 March 1975. Polakow-Suransky writes
in his book published in the US this week, The Unspoken Alliance: Israel's
secret alliance with apartheid South Africa. At the talks Israeli officials
"formally offered to sell South Africa some of the nuclear-capable Jericho
missiles in its arsenal".

Among those attending the meeting was the South African military chief of
staff, Lieutenant General RF Armstrong. He immediately drew up a memo in
which he laid out the benefits of South Africa obtaining the Jericho
missiles but only if they were fitted with nuclear weapons.

The memo, marked "top secret" and dated the same day as the meeting with the
Israelis, has previously been revealed but its context was not fully
understood because it was not known to be directly linked to the Israeli
offer on the same day and that it was the basis for a direct request to
Israel. In it, Armstrong writes: "In considering the merits of a weapon
system such as the one being offered, certain assumptions have been made: a)
That the missiles will be armed with nuclear warheads manufactured in RSA
(Republic of South Africa) or acquired elsewhere."

But South Africa was years from being able to build atomic weapons. A little
more than two months later, on 4 June, Peres and Botha met in Zurich. By
then the Jericho project had the codename Chalet.

The top secret minutes of the meeting record that: "Minister Botha expressed
interest in a limited number of units of Chalet subject to the correct
payload being available." The document then records: "Minister Peres said
the correct payload was available in three sizes. Minister Botha expressed
his appreciation and said that he would ask for advice." The "three sizes"
are believed to refer to the conventional, chemical and nuclear weapons.

The use of a euphemism, the "correct payload", reflects Israeli sensitivity
over the nuclear issue and would not have been used had it been referring to
conventional weapons. It can also only have meant nuclear warheads as
Armstrong's memorandum makes clear South Africa was interested in the
Jericho missiles solely as a means of delivering nuclear weapons.

In addition, the only payload the South Africans would have needed to obtain
from Israel was nuclear. The South Africans were capable of putting together
other warheads.

Botha did not go ahead with the deal in part because of the cost. In
addition, any deal would have to have had final approval by Israel's prime
minister and it is uncertain it would have been forthcoming.

South Africa eventually built its own nuclear bombs, albeit possibly with
Israeli assistance. But the collaboration on military technology only grew
over the following years. South Africa also provided much of the yellowcake
uranium that Israel required to develop its weapons.

The documents confirm accounts by a former South African naval commander,
Dieter Gerhardt – jailed in 1983 for spying for the Soviet Union. After his
with the collapse of apartheid, Gerhardt said there was an agreement between
Israel and South Africa called Chalet which involved an offer by the Jewish
state to arm eight Jericho missiles with "special warheads". Gerhardt said
these were atomic bombs. But until now there has been no documentary
evidence of the offer.
Some weeks before Peres made his offer of nuclear warheads to Botha, the two
defence ministers signed a covert agreement governing the military alliance
known as Secment. It was so secret that it included a denial of its own
existence: "It is hereby expressly agreed that the very existence of this
agreement... shall be secret and shall not be disclosed by either party".

The agreement also said that neither party could unilaterally renounce it.

The existence of Israel's nuclear weapons programme was revealed by
Mordechai Vanunu to the Sunday Times in 1986. He provided photographs taken
inside the Dimona nuclear site and gave detailed descriptions of the
processes involved in producing part of the nuclear material but provided no
written documentation.
Documents seized by Iranian students from the US embassy in Tehran after the
1979 revolution revealed the Shah expressed an interest to Israel in
developing nuclear arms. But the South African documents offer confirmation
Israel was in a position to arm Jericho missiles with nuclear warheads.

Israel pressured the present South African government not to declassify
documents obtained by Polakow-Suransky. "The Israeli defence ministry tried
to block my access to the Secment agreement on the grounds it was sensitive
material, especially the signature and the date," he said. "The South
Africans didn't seem to care; they blacked out a few lines and handed it
over to me. The ANC government is not so worried about protecting the dirty
laundry of the apartheid regime's old allies."

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