A British ambassador to Israel warned as early as 1980 that Israel would detonate a nuclear bomb in case of a new war with the Arabs, according to previously secret state documents released on Thursday.
"If they [Israelis] are to be destroyed, they will go down fighting this time. They will be ready to use their atomic weapon," Ambassador John Robinson wrote in a cable to the Foreign Office on May 4, 1980.
The documents were released on Thursday as part of a 30-year rule. In addition to this cable about fear of Israel using a nuclear weapon, they also revealed that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had issues with Israel's former Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
In the documents, she described him as the "most difficult" man she had to deal with in the early years of her premiership -- and moreover, his West Bank policies, she opined, were "absurd."
Thatcher said at the time that all "efforts to convince Mr. Begin that his West Bank policy was absurd, and that there should not be Israeli settlements on the West Bank, had failed to move him."
"His response was that Judea and Samaria had been Jewish in biblical times and that they should therefore be so today," she said.
The papers reveal that, during a meeting with French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing in November 1979, Thatcher admitted she had "never had a more difficult man to deal with" than Begin. Giscard, according to the report, seemed to agree, saying he had "always been surprised at the degree of support which the Labour government had given Israel".
The French leader said he understood the support on some level as he felt France also experienced pressure to support Israel because of the large Jewish population in the country.
The archives reveal President Giscard "did not know Mr. Begin, whom he had never met, but he thought his approach fanatical and unrealistic."
Despite her apparent dislike for Begin, Thatcher stressed that Britain would not recognize the PLO until they accepted Israel's right to exist.
Thatcher criticized efforts by the foreign office to persuade her that the PLO was a political movement. "This analysis just doesn't stand up. It is riddled with inconsistencies," she scrawled on one briefing paper about the matter.
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