Article Image
IPFS News Link • Central Intelligence Agency

Report How the Israelis Hoodwinked JFK on Going Nuclear

• By Avner Cohen, William Burr

In October 1961, the CIA issued a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Israel, the first since the discovery of the Dimona reactor less than a year earlier, in which the CIA's analysts assessed broadly the rationale and character of the Israeli nuclear program. For nearly 55 years it was kept secret, until it was quietly declassified in its entirety last year. It sheds light on what the U.S. intelligence community thought about the Israeli nuclear project in the first year of the Kennedy administration, while the Dimona reactor was still under construction. The CIA judgment was straightforward and unequivocal: Israel was placing itself in a position to "produce sufficient weapons-grade plutonium for one or two crude weapons a year by 1965-66, provided separation facilities with a capacity larger than that of the pilot plant now under construction are available." At a minimum, U.S. intelligence knew that the Dimona project was about weapons capability, not about energy, electricity, or development — as the Israelis had tried to spin the ongoing project.