Israel's alleged possession of nuclear weapons and its potential to set off an arms race in the Middle East were a source of concern to the Nixon administration in 1969, The New York Times reported Thursday, citing newly released documents.
"The Israelis, who are one of the few peoples whose survival is genuinely threatened, are probably more likely than almost any other country to actually use their nuclear weapons," Henry Kissinger, who served as President Richard Nixon's national security adviser, warned in a July 19, 1969 memorandum.
The U.S. National Archives on Wednesday released documents from the Nixon Presidential Library, according to the Times report. By law, classified documents are to be reviewed for possible release after 25 years.
The memoranda reveal the dilemmas with which the administration wrestled vis-a-vis Israel's nuclear weapons program, long considered to be a sore point in the U.S.-Israel alliance.
Moreover, it showed concern on the part of Kissinger that Israel may have systematically stolen material from the U.S. for its nuclear development.
"This is one program on which the Israelis have persistently deceived us," Kissinger wrote, "and may even have stolen from us."
"There is circumstantial evidence that some fissionable material available for Israel's weapons development was illegally obtained from the United States about 1965," Kissinger wrote, dismissing inspections as a possible solution since, "we could never cover all conceivable Israeli hiding places."
Kissinger even suggested possibly withholding the sale of Phantom fighter jets to Israel as a way of compelling Jerusalem to yield on the nuclear issue, the Times said.
"Israel will not take us seriously on the nuclear issue unless they believe we are prepared to withhold something they very much need," Kissinger wrote.
"On the other hand, if we withhold the Phantoms and they make this fact public in the United States, enormous political pressure will be mounted on us," the former national security adviser wrote. "We will be in an indefensible position if we cannot state why we are withholding the planes. Yet if we explain our position publicly, we will be the ones to make Israel's possession of nuclear weapons public with all the international consequences this entails."
The documents also detail Mideast policy proposals that the administration had raised, among them enlisting the Saudis to aid in peacemaking efforts as well as backing a Kurdish rebellion in Iraq, according to the Times.
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