The origins of the U.S. shield of Israel’s nuclear program date to a 1969 summit between President Nixon and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, documents released in the past few years show.
There is no one piece of paper that actually describes the accord. However, the closest acknowledgment of the deal came in 2007, when the Nixon Library declassified many of the papers of former National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger. A July 7, 1969, memorandum to Mr. Nixon titled, “Israeli Nuclear Program,” said that by the end of 1970, Israel would likely have 24 to 30 French surface-to-surface missiles, 10 of which would have nuclear warheads.
Mr. Kissinger, who later became secretary of state, wrote that ideally, the U.S. would prefer Israel to have no nuclear weapons, but that was not attainable.
He added that “public knowleadge is almost as dangerous as possession itself,” arguing that an Israeli announcement of its arsenal or a nuclear test could prompt the Soviet Union to offer Arab states a nuclear guarantee.
“What this means is that: While we might ideally like to halt actual Israeli possession, what we really want at a minimum may be just to keep Israeli possession from becoming an established international fact,” Mr. Kissinger wrote.
In December 2006, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hinted publicly at this reality.
Responding to a question about the Iranian program in light of Israels nuclear arsenal, he said: “Israel is a democracy, Israel doesn’t threaten any country with anything, never did. The most that we tried to get for ourselves is to try to live without terror, but we never threaten another nation with annihilation. Iran openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Can you say that this is the same level, when they [Iran] are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as America, France, Israel, Russia?”