Documents show Israel offered nukes to apartheid South Africa

Sasha Polakow-Suransky


Apartheid-era government documents unearthed by an American doctoral researcher reveal that the government of Israel offered to sell nuclear warheads to the racist regime in South Africa, and could possibly provide the first documentary evidence of the existence of Israel’s purported nuclear arsenal. Successive Israeli governments have followed what is often called ‘a policy of ambiguity’, refusing to either confirm or deny the nuclear weapons’ rumored existence. But the documents, which date from 1975, contain detailed minutes of meetings between senior Israeli and South African cabinet officials, including then South African defense minister P.W. Botha and then Israeli defense minister –and Israel’s current President– Shimon Peres. Sasha Polakow-Suransky, the American academic who requested the declassification of the controversial documents, says the Israeli government tried but ultimately failed to prevent the South African government of Jacob Zuma from releasing them. The documents appear to confirm the existence of project CHALET, in which Israel agreed to equip several South African Jericho missiles with nuclear warheads. In the meeting minutes, Shimon Peres appears to respond in the affirmative to a request for weapons of mass destruction by by P.W. Botha, offering the South African government “three sizes” of weapons, a term believed to refer to conventional, chemical and nuclear. Intelligence observers will remember that the existence of project CHALET was first mentioned by South African former naval commander Dieter Gerhardt, who was released from prison in 1994 after serving a 12-year sentence for espionage on behalf of the USSR. Upon his release, Gerhard actually mentioned a “secret deal” between the Republic of South Africa and the Jewish state, which involved a number of atomic bombs. The Israeli government has issued a denial of Polakow-Suransky’s allegations, claiming that “there exists no basis in reality for the claims”. A video of Sasha Polakow-Suransky explaining his findings to Al-Jazeera English is available here.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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