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Arad Exposed Secret U.S. Agreement to Jump-Start Israeli Civilian Nuclear Power Industry

uzi arad and netanyahu

Uzi Arad and Bibi Netanyahu toast during happier days (Moshe Milner)

Yesterday, I reported a story from Yediot that claimed Uzi Arad had given a U.S. diplomat a copy of the secret Lindenstraus report on the second Lebanon war.  Turns out, there were two accurate claims in the report–that it involved the U.S. and a secret report.  But the rest was wrong.

Today, a different story has been reported by Channel 2 about the reason for Arad’s brusque firing by Bibi Netanyahu from his senior post as national security advisor.  The news report says that Arad briefed Israeli reporters and revealed that during the prime minister’s July 2010 visit to the White House, the U.S. and Israel secretly upgraded the level of their nuclear cooperation.  This, according to Haaretz, followed on the heels of Obama’s surprise endorsement of a nuclear-free Middle East in which all states endorsed the NPT.  This raised fears in Israel that pressure would be brought to bear against it as a non-signatory.  The agreement was meant to reassure Israel.

Since the 1970s, Israel has been punished for not signing the NPT by being prohibited from building a civilian nuclear program.  Only one other country in the world is an NPT non-signatory which received a “waiver” to build its own civilian nuclear power facility with U.S. approval: India.  This is what Arad was telling the world.  Israel had achieved what only one other country in the world had.  The ability to thumb one’s nose at NPT while having civilian nuclear power: like having your cake and eating it too.

Given the sensitivity of the subject, considering Iran’s nuclear program and Israeli-U.S. hyperventilation about the threat it poses, Arad’s revelation can only have complicated relations between the U.S. and other Mideast states.  Further, considering the U.S. was secretly upgrading cooperation with an Israel which has refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, while it railed against Iran (an NPT signatory) for having the temerity to want what Israel has had for decades–well, the hypocrisy is breathtaking.

That is what this 7th Eye report explicitly confirms, saying that the U.S. offered to provide Israel nuclear fuel for civilian uses:

Because Israel was a serious, responsible state.

…As opposed to a certain other Middle East state who didn’t yet have nuclear weapons, was an NPT signatory, but nevertheless was unserious and untrustworthy…

Though Israel has Dimona, which produces fuel for its nuclear weapons, it does not have civilian nuclear power capacity.  That’s what the U.S. was offering.   Materiel and know-how that could begin a civilian nuclear power industry in Israel, to be used by Israel to produce not only electric power, but also in technological processes and to power various types of sophisticated equipment.  Israel, of course, viewed this as a Good Housekeeping seal of approval from the White House that its status as a nuclear power was in the good graces of Washington.

All this of course put the lie to U.S. efforts to inhibit nuclear proliferation both in Iran and throughout the Middle East.  How could we look at such countries with a straight face and tell them they should remain nuclear-free, when we were rewarding Israel’s defiance of NPT with secret accords and other goodies?

Senior Israeli minister Yuval Steinitz went further in his own remarks and said that the agreement with the U.S. put in on a par with India (another NPT refuser) as a nation with which the U.S. engaged in similar secret nuclear agreements.  The message Steinitz sought to convey was that Israel, like India, could maintain its favored relationship with the U.S. while remaining outside the NPT.  He went even farther in calling the agreement a “historic declaration.”  This naturally didn’t sit well with the U.S., which could see all manner of countries, nuclear and wanna-be, lining up for similar treatment.  Not to mention, both Arad and Steinitz were explicitly undermining Obama’s call for NPT to be accepted throughout the Middle East.

Not surprisingly, the Obama administration immediately denied that there had been any agreement between itself and Israel about nuclear cooperation.  And just like that, Israel’s civilian nuclear power dreams went up in smoke.  Needless to say, this sort of thing makes a president very cranky.  So that’s why Uzi Arad was canned.  Considering the level of threat Arad had already posed to U.S. intelligence given the Rosen-Aipac spy scandal, there was surely little love lost between Arad and this administration and the latter would have shed few tears at his firing.  Haaretz also notes that poor Uzi has also lost his top level security clearance for his indiscretion.  So his career inside the security establishment seems over, at least for now.  But people like Arad in Israeli politics seem to come back like a bad penny.

The irony of Bibi being off today to none other than Washington to meet the president who originally promised (or so Israel believed) the nuclear cooperation deal isn’t lost on many Israelis or on Obama.  Couldn’t be worse timing to have such a incident clouding such a meeting.

One final word, Arad claims that he let this news slip accidentally in a briefing he gave to Israeli journalists.  If you believe this I have a bridge I want to sell you.  In fact, Arad has to say this because if he leaked the material knowingly, then he could  (and probably would) be prosecuted.  By claiming it was an accident, he makes it harder for the prosecutor to build a case against him.  The attorney general, in considering bringing charges, decided not to.  So as I wrote yesterday, Anat Kamm gets up to nine years for leaking documents far less damaging to Israel’s interests than what Arad did.  The latter almost single-handedly sunk Israel’s chance of a civilian nuclear power industry.  What did Kamm do?  Revealed that a general aided and abetted commission of a war crime for which he was not, and will never be prosecuted.  In Israel, justice isn’t blind.  It looks out for the powerful and tramples the lowly and the weak.

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{ 15 comments… add one }

  • Kern de Gaud May 18, 2011, 9:44 PM

    “The story claims the nature of the nuclear cooperation is civilian,…”

    Israel has NO civilian nuclear power program. Israel has weapons enrichment reactor and “research” reactors, but no civilian power generation reactors and no plans to develop the latter capability. It is ALL military.

    • Richard Silverstein May 18, 2011, 11:57 PM

      I substantially rewrote this post after reading the 7th Eye article linked here and after you wrote yr comment. You’ll find the issue you raised now covered when it wasn’t before.

    • israeli May 19, 2011, 2:37 AM

      come on…
      you can at least use google before you make such statements (hint – use ISRAEL NUCLEAR ELECTRICITY as keywords).
      Israeli minister if infrastructures has announced several times in the past year that construction of a nuclear power plant is in his ministry’s roadmap for the next decade.

      • Kern de Gaud May 19, 2011, 8:34 PM

        ROLFMA

        If I had a dollar for every time Israel government officials say they are going to do something, plan to do something, might do something, are considering doing something, etc, I’d never have to work a day the rest of my life.

        It will never happen. I’ve been reading the Israeli press for 8 years. “Hot air and no follow-through!” is your national motto. It won’t be long before Israel isn’t able to buy the necessary machinery and nuclear fuel from abroad even if it were serious about it.

  • Karen May 19, 2011, 3:28 AM

    the US is coming out more pathetic for everyday, watch the obama speech today, will he condemn israeli refusal to peace? No he will do the aipac-funded-rant about Iran..as usual,.not to mention what netanyahu will deagagoue about tommorow in congress or what the aipac-meeting in washington this weekend will be about.

  • eliyahu May 19, 2011, 5:43 AM

    I do not understand. Maybe Richard you should clarify this, why does Israel needs any ones permission for a civilian nuclear project? and what does it has anything to do with NPT.
    For example France, UK, Russia, china all have both nuclear weapons, and civilian nuclear plants.

    Israel does not sign NPT, because then the world will know EXACTLY how many weapons it possess. Its just a strategic choice of a delicate ambiguity over sheer intimidation, like in the case of Pakistani-India-China triangle.

    • Richard Silverstein May 19, 2011, 12:57 PM

      To create a nuclear power plant for civilian use you need all sorts of permits & importation of major pieces of equipment. A country cannot built its own nuclear power plant with all its own parts & machinery. The other nations you mention are all NPT signatories. That’s why they have nuclear power plants & nuclear weapons.

      • free man May 19, 2011, 10:57 PM

        Wasn’t it the other way around ?
        Those countries posses Nuclear weapons and the Used the NPT to prohibit other nations from having them ?

  • fiddler May 19, 2011, 9:36 AM

    The way I see it, Arad has done the world a favour, wouldn’t you agree?
    The question is, if he leaked the information deliberately, why? Scuttling Israel’s prospects for a civilian nuclear program probably wasn’t on his mind, so what was?

    • Richard Silverstein May 19, 2011, 1:03 PM

      He wanted to brag about how much Israel was getting away with in gaining equivalency with India. Israeli leaders are almost all braggarts, to their embarrassment in situations like this which require delicacy & discretion.

      • free man May 19, 2011, 10:54 PM

        This is interesting.
        Care to add a link ?

  • Andy May 19, 2011, 10:50 AM

    “Since the 1970s, Israel has been punished for not signing the NPT by being prohibited from building a civilian nuclear program.”

    Given the problems in dealing with nuclear waste, I’m not so sure that “punished” is the right word to use here.

  • Miriam May 19, 2011, 6:34 PM

    Richard…
    .there are many unknowns which are only now coming out thanks largely to FOIAs of declassified materials which discuss Israelis actions in “obtaining” US HEU material– whether the U235 was ‘taken’ from NUMEC in Pennsylvania or 200 tons of NEU from Argentina routed thru W. Germany the US govt turned its head…even covered it up (as did Johnson and Helms). CIA’s NIE on Israel back in 68 concluded that they already had nuclear weapons.

    As for ‘dealing with” nuclear waste….I have read more than one report which indicated that low level nuclear waste has been dumped in areas in proximity to the poorest Bedouins camps, who are “allowed” to live in proximity to the waste piles. I dont think that there is much thought has been given to management of nuclear waste (which doesn’t really exist, (wink, wink, nudge nudge).

  • Oui December 24, 2013, 10:37 AM

    Search: WikiLeaks Israel nuclear issue egypt “uzi arad”

    Are you sure the truth doesn’t lie in between both stories?

    Viewing cable 09TELAVIV2757, U/S TAUSCHER’S DECEMBER 1-2 VISIT TO ISRAEL

    ¶5. (S) Due to the U.S. administration’s prioritization of arms control and nonproliferation, Arad also noted that the GOI had recently reconvened a high level committee on these issues comprised of GOI officials and experts from outside the government. He noted that the committee had been formed during President George Herbert Walker Bush’s administration to analyze treaties such as the CWC and CTBT, but stopped meeting in 2007. U/S Tauscher expressed interest in meeting with the group during her next visit to Israel; Arad took the
    request on board.

  • Oui December 24, 2013, 10:39 AM

    Ynet Special Coverage WikiLeaks and Israel

    (Sept. 2010) – Special Ynetnews coverage from Israel: Hundreds of thousands of secret documents uncovered by WikiLeaks website reveal ‘behind the scenes’ of diplomatic world.

    WikiLeaks exposé: Israeli officials accused Egypt of undermining ties

    (Haaretz) Nov. 30, 2010 – The cable, from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, quoted Uzi Arad, chairman of Israel’s National Security Council, as accusing Egypt’s Foreign Ministry of harming relations with Jerusalem.

    The central topic of discussion was preparations for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference that took place six months later in New York. In the lead-up to the summit, Egypt applied heavy pressure on the U.S. to support a call for the supervision of Israel’s nuclear facilities and the convening of an international summit on denuclearizing the Middle East.

    Tauscher met with a group of high-ranking Israeli officials involved with the nuclear issue and asked that Israel show flexibility on its nuclear facilities ahead of the conference.


    According to the document, Arad described Egypt’s Foreign Ministry as a “‘nagging problem’ in the relationship, particularly regarding the proposal for a nuclear-free Middle East, and noted that Israel wanted to see a ‘reversal of trends’ from Egypt regarding Iran’s nuclear program.”


    The documents shed light on Israeli political squabbling as well. On April 18, 2007, the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv sent a cable summarizing a meeting between Benjamin Netanyahu, then opposition leader, and visiting U.S. congressmen in which Netanyahu lambasted then-prime minister Ehud Olmert for his handling of the Second Lebanon War.

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