326. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State1

4311. Ref: State 215923.2

In light of history it may very well be that what has happened [up] to now will be seen to have had considerably less effect on ultimate Israeli nuclear and missile intentions than what happens in coming weeks and months. Obviously if Israel is able to achieve durable peace with its neighbors any reason for, and indeed any rationale for, going nuclear would be undermined.
We have not discussed subject with Israelis since crisis began. In my many talks with GOI officials during this period they have not adverted to it once. There has been no press speculation on subject. With complete Israeli absorption in winning war and coping with post-war problems I think it unlikely that any basic decisions in this regard have been taken in past several weeks.
Still, subject must be on minds of many responsible Israelis. Israel has come through a harrowing experience in which its national existence was in jeopardy. It did so by dint of its own efforts, a fact of which Israelis are proud and from which they draw lesson that they must continue to rely increasingly on themselves. If peace proves impossible and only another nebulous state of armistice results, making another clash possible, then prudent assumption would seem to be Arabs next time may be better. Israelis, who have technical capability to build bomb, would, it may be argued, be foolish not to produce extra-conventional weapons against enemies whose total conventional military capabilities conceivably could outstrip Israel’s within another decade. If powerful nation such as Soviet Union is rearming Arabs this could reinforce Israeli conviction it irrational to eschew nuclear weapons production. (In this connection we doubt Israelis give credence to stories Chinese providing nuclear weapons to UAR. If they did they would very likely have mentioned it to us.)
We have seen in recent weeks increase of popularity of Dayan, who has been associated with those favoring the nuclear weapons development. If his star continues to rise, and that of his associates Peres and Ben-Gurion (who made the decisions to build Dimona), then, if outlook for Israeli security appears still uncertain, it would seem fair surmise that Israel might be led closer to nuclear route and development of necessary vehicles for nuclear weapons.
In this latter connection if French arms embargo continues and delivery of Dassault missile is precluded, quite possible effect would be to stimulate Israeli missile production.
All of foregoing necessarily speculative comment dwells on darker side of picture. In spite of this I do not believe that there is any compelling reason at present time for change in GOI policy of abstinence from nuclear weapons and missile production. (This is not to say Israel will not keep its nuclear technology at sufficiently high level to permit it to have option of producing nuclear weapons if changed circumstances seem make this imperative.) Financial considerations will be an inhibiting factor. For military and occupied area demands will be great for some time to come. And in spite of scare it got Israel has won great military victory that will give it time to make its decisions rationally and deliberately. Much, perhaps everything in this regard as in so much else, will depend on degree Arab readiness to come to terms.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 12 ISR. Secret; Limdis. Repeated to US Mission Geneva, and USUN. Received at 9:03 a.m.
  2. Telegram 215923 to Tel Aviv, June 24, expressed concern that in the aftermath of the recent hostilities, the Israeli Government might be impelled toward reassessing its policy toward acquisition of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and requested the Embassy’s estimate of the impact of recent events on Israeli nuclear and missile policy. (Ibid.)