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Secret apartheid-era papers give first official evidence of Israeli nuclear weapons
he secret military agreement signed by Shimon Peres, now president of Israel, and P W Botha of South Africa. Photograph: Guardian
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.
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.
his is the secret memo by South Africa's military chief of staff, General RF Armstrong, asking for nukes on the Jericho missiles. It has been revealed before, but its context was not understood. We now know the memo was the direct result of a meeting between PW Botha and Shimon Peres, and the basis of Botha's demand for nukes. This memo was uncovered by Peter Liberman and published in the Nonproliferation Review.
This cover page of an ISSA (ISrael-South Africa agreement) meeting in Pretoria between Israeli and South African officials on 30 June 1975 establishes the presence of General Armstrong, who wrote the nuclear memo.
This document details the another ISSA meeting during which Botha says he needs the 'right payload' and Peres offers it in 'three sizes' (paragraph 10).
This is the cover page and two other pages from the secret military agreement between Israel and South Africa, signed by both Shimon Peres and Botha. Note on page two there is a clause that says the very existence of the agreement is secret. Both men have signed the agreement on page three.
In this letter, dated 11 November 1974, Peres says Israel and the South African apartheid government share a "common hatred of injustice" and urges a "close identity of aspirations and interests".
In September 1979, a US Vela satellite detected a double flash over the Indian Ocean that was suspected, but never confirmed to be a nuclear test, despite extensive air sampling by WC-135 aircraft of the United States Air Force. If the Vela Incident was a nuclear test, South Africa is one of the countries, possibly in collaboration with Israel, that is suspected of carrying it out. No official confirmation of it being a nuclear test has been made by South Africa, and expert agencies[who?] have disagreed on their assessments. In 1997, South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad stated that South Africa had conducted a test, but later retracted his statement as being a report of rumours. In February 1994, Commodore Dieter Gerhardt, the convicted Soviet spy and former commander of South Africa's Simon's Town naval base was reported to have said: "Although I was not directly involved in planning or carrying out the operation, I learned unofficially that the flash was produced by an Israeli-South African test code-named Operation Phoenix. The explosion was clean and was not supposed to be detected. But they were not as smart as they thought, and the weather changed – so the Americans were able to pick it up."