Israel had a plutonium device ready to turn into a nuke in 1967 war

Israel had a plutonium device ready to turn into a nuke in 1967 war
Former Israeli atomic official Elie Geisler describes guarding the core, which he says was hidden in a former
British police station in central Israel
2 May 2019

5/2/2019 US journal: Israel had a plutonium device ready to turn into a nuke in 1967 war | The Times of Israel 2/4
Professor Avner Cohen (James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies)

Cohen’s assessment is based largely on interviews he conducted
in 1999 and 2000 with Col. (res.) Yitzhak Yaakov, who oversaw
the military’s weapons program and claimed to have been behind
the plan. The interviews were not published until 2017, four
years after Yaakov’s death, to coincide with the 50th anniversary
of the war.
These nuclear plans were “the last secret of the 1967 war,”
Cohen told The New York Times in 2017, when he released
Yaakov’s interview transcripts.
According to Cohen, this view is further supported by this new testimony, in which Geisler recounts his role in
defending what he says was one of the few plutonium cores in Israel’s possession at the time.
“During my inspections, I reacted on the fact that I had under my control the  1st Jewish, Israeli nuclear core,” he
In his testimony — parts of which were published in a book
under a pseudonym in 2017 — Geisler describes a minicivil war that nearly took place at the site, as Col. Yaakov
demanded access to the technically civil-run facility.
Due to an apparent mix-up, his permission to enter the
site never arrived, and a standoff ensued — Yaakov backed
by IDF cadets and Geisler by a contingent of border guards.
Geisler recalled telling Yaakov that “if he tried to use force,
we would unnecessarily spill Israeli blood.” To avoid
violence, Geisler called one of his superiors, which would
normally amount to a breach of protocol, and was told that
they “knew about Colonel Yaakov and his visit, but for
some reason — someone forgot or something else — had
not informed me.”
According to Cohen, Geisler’s account matched a claim
made by Yaakov in his 1999 interview that “there was
some problem” in gaining access to the site.
Geisler apparently believes that Yaakov’s attempt to enter the site amounted to “an illegitimate effort by the IDF to
claim custody over the nation’s nuclear weapons,” according to Cohen.
“I just happened to be there and was an eyewitness to events, some of which I understood their powerful historical
footprint, and some I did not. This is why it took me several decades before I could put these memories to paper,”
Geisler told Cohen, who compiled the account into one cohesive article from multiple interviews and conversations.
However, Cohen disputes this view, saying he believes that Yaakov’s actions were not an attempted military coup, but
rather derived from real confusion and unclear organizational structure, “genuine growing pains of Israel’s abrupt,
improvisational entry into the nuclear age.”
‘The package’
From 1963 to 1973, Geisler worked in Israel’s nuclear program as part of the classied Scientic Authority, a civil
organization responsible for the country’s weapons development efforts, according to the testimony.
In the weeks preceding the war, Geisler was sent with a contingent of border guards to the British Mandate-era Qatra police station outside Gedera and tasked with guarding a “package,” a wooden crate containing a radioactive “metallic “My primary job was to take care of the ‘package’ by using Geiger and other counters to verify the safety and security of the object — the core — and to ascertain that no radiation leakage was present,” Geisler wrote.
As the device released both gamma and alpha radiation, he was convinced that this was the “real thing,” a plutonium

Geisler believes that at that time, Israel would have only had enough radioactive material to create one or two cores,
though some have claimed two or three were produced.
“I would stand in this small room and stare at the object with much awe, having seen photos and movies of the
devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” he said.
“I knew perfectly well that the use of the device would be the ‘last resort’ of the political leadership of the country,
whose policy was, and remains to this day, not to be the rst to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East, neither
conrming nor denying the Israeli nuclear-weapon capability,” Geisler added.
He developed contingency plans with the commander of the border guards for how they could move the core “to an
assembly point, where it would join with the remainder of the device.”
According to Cohen, in his interviews in 1999 and 2000, Yaakov
detailed the plan to detonate such a device, which was codenamed “Shimshon,” or Samson, after the biblical character.
Yaakov said this plan derived from deep fear.
“Look, it was so natural,” Yaakov told Cohen. “You’ve got an
enemy, and he says he’s going to throw you to the sea. You
believe him.”
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“How can you stop him?” he asked. “You scare him. If you’ve got
something you can scare him with, you scare him.”
According to the Yaakov, the plan would see Israel “scare” Egypt by detonating an atomic device on a mountaintop site
about 12 miles from an Egyptian military complex at Abu Ageila.
“The plan, if activated by order of the prime minister and military chief of staff, was to send a small paratrooper force
to divert the Egyptian army in the desert area so that a team could lay preparations for the atomic blast,” the report
“Two large helicopters were to land, deliver the nuclear
device and then create a command post in a mountain
creek or canyon. If the order came to detonate, the
blinding ash and mushroom cloud would have been seen
throughout the Sinai and Negev deserts, and perhaps as far
away as Cairo.”
As it turned out, Israel’s victory was swift and decisive and
there was no need for any doomsday plan, but Yaakov still
believed Israel should have gone ahead with it and openly
declared its nuclear prowess.
In 2001, some two years after his conversations with Cohen, Yaakov was arrested in Israel and charged with passing
secret information with intent to harm state security. Though it was not detailed in the indictment, this offense was
tied to a memoir that Yaakov had written.
He was acquitted of the main charge but found guilty of the unauthorized handing over of secret information. Yaakov
received a two-year suspended sentence.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report

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