Germany helped Israel build atom bomb, says leading nuclear expert

Ben-Gurion and Adenauer in 1960By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The government of West Germany secretly funded the Israeli nuclear weapons program during the Cold War, according to a leading German nuclear expert. Today, Israeli authorities continue to deny the existence of the country’s nuclear weapons arsenal. However, it is generally accepted that the country’s atom program began as early as 1952, with the establishment of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission. By the mid-1960s, Israeli scientists had built at least one nuclear bomb; and by the time the Six-Day War broke out in 1967, the Jewish state had at least two nuclear warheads in its possession.

But how could a small, developing country fund one of the most expensive weapons programs in existence? According to Hans Rühle, one of Germany’s leading nuclear experts, the Israeli nuclear weapons program was primarily funded by the Federal Republic of Germany. Rühle was head of planning for Germany’s Ministry of Defense in the 1980s, and subsequently held various management positions in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In an article published last week in German newspaper Die Welt, Rühle says that Germany was “almost certainly” the financial powerhouse behind the ambitious Israeli nuclear weapons program.

The German expert states that the initial bilateral agreement was struck in 1960 in New York, during a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. The program, codenamed “Aktion Geschäftsfreund” (“Operation Business Partner”) was solidified during a subsequent meeting between the two men in French capital Paris, in 1961. It stipulated that Germany would lend Israel 2 billion deutschmarks (approximately $500 million) for 10 years, under the pretext of developing the Negev desert into land suitable for agricultural production. The project had been zealously promoted by Ben-Gurion ever since he had become leader of his newly founded country.

The deal, says Rühle, was administered through Germany’s government-owned Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau development bank, which specialized in providing grants to emerging economies. It bore all the hallmarks of a typical capital assistance program aimed at strengthening West Germany’s economic and political ties with developing countries. However, with the full support of the German government, the funds were secretly channeled to building several nuclear facilities in Israel, including the Negev Nuclear Research Center. The latter’s existence was publicly revealed in 1986 by Mordechai Vanunu, an Israeli engineer who had worked in the top-secret Negev facility from 1976 to 1985. The Israeli Mossad eventually abducted Vanunu from Italy and renditioned him to Israel, where he was jailed.

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4 Responses to Germany helped Israel build atom bomb, says leading nuclear expert

  1. C Ramsay says:

    So I see it as a mere footnote, but the article states that Vanunu was abducted by the Mossad and is now jailed in Israel, merely for verifying that there is an atomic program in Israel. Is he still incarcerated?

  2. intelNews says:

    @C Ramsay: Vanunu was released in 2004 but has been re-arrested several times since then. He is currently free, but is restricted from speaking to non-Israeli citizens. He has an invitation to move to the United States, but my understanding is that he is not allowed to leave Israel. [JF]

  3. TFH says:

    Vanunu should get a peace nobel.

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