Milchan - Getty Images - 2005
Milchan with Shimon Peres in 2005. Photo by Getty Images
Text size

Israeli businessman and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan played a central role in supplying Israel with sketches and blueprints of uranium enrichment centrifuges for the nuclear reactor in Dimona, a new biography claims.

On Monday, Haaretz reported about the new book, "Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan," written by Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman, which recounts Milchan's life story, from his days as a boy in Rehovot through his friendships with Israeli prime ministers, U.S. presidents and Hollywood stars.

Milchan's services to the Israeli security industry have been made public before, but he has always denied or refused to acknowledge them. This is the first time Milchan confirms these claims, albeit indirectly.

Even though the authors claim to have written an unofficial biography, Milchan agreed to meet with them, answer their questions and correct their mistakes. One of the major sources for the book was Israel President Shimon Peres, a close friend of Milchan.

"I am the one who recruited him," Peres is quoted as saying. This occurred in the 1960s, when Peres was serving as deputy minister of defense. The relationship continued in the 1970s, when Peres became minister of defense and then recruited Milchan as an agent for Lakam, an acronym for the so-called Science Liaison Bureau. Lakam is the name of a secret unit in the Defense Ministry that was tasked with purchasing equipment, namely technological parts and materials, for Israel's alleged nuclear program.

According to the book, Milchan later contacted one of the senior executives in the German company GKT from Julich, part of the European consortium Urenco, which produced centrifuges for uranium enrichment. The executive left the blueprints of the centrifuges on his kitchen table, which allowed an Israeli nuclear agent to photograph them. The entire operation lasted several days.

Based on these sketches, the book says, Israel set up a centrifuge factory in Dimona and was able to produce fissile material, used for nuclear weapons.

It is worth mentioning that Doctor A. Q. Khan, the Pakistani scientist and "father" of the Pakistani atomic bomb, stole the same blueprints a few years later from Urenco. In the 1990s, Dr. Khan sold the blueprints to Libya and Iran, enabling the Ayatollah's regime to establish the uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, based on these same blueprints.

Milchan was operating clandestinely for years, yet in the mid-1980s U.S. Customs uncovered an attempt to smuggle "switches" - equipment that can be used both for medical purposes and for nuclear weapons manufacture - by the California-based Milco company, owned by Milchan.

The company's CEO, Richard Kelly Smyth, was arrested and released on bail. He fled the country soon after.

Smyth was declared a fugitive, and according to some reports found refuge in Israel. In 2001, he was captured in Spain and was brought back to the United States where he was tried and imprisoned. The FBI began an investigation into Milchan's affairs, yet he has never been charged.

According to the book, right after the "switches" fiasco Milchan called his friend, Peres, then prime minister, and asked for his help in dealing with the Ronald Reagan administration. Milchan is quoted in the book as saying he never received money for his services, and that everything he did was for the State of Israel.