Argentina helped Israel develop its covert nuclear program by selling the Jewish state dozens of tons of uranium oxide, classified documents published by U.S. magazine Foreign Policy indicated on Monday. Yellowcake is a powdered form of uranium that can be used to fuel a nuclear reactor to produce plutonium for building weapons.
How and from whom Israel purchased the necessary materials to develop a sophisticated nuclear program is a hot media topic. Jerusalem has an official policy of ambiguity and refuses to divulge any details about its nuclear program, two factors that amplify global curiosity over the reactor in Israel's Negev Desert, near the town of Dimona.
The fog is lifting on a part of that mystery, though. The U.S. National Security Archives recently released 42 previously classified documents revealing important details about Israel's nuclear program, which have been summarized by the authors of the Foreign Policy report.
In the summer of 1964, the State Department and CIA sent a joint letter to U.S. embassies in Israel and Argentina requesting that they check unverified information about an apparent deal in which Argentina agreed to sell Israel 80-100 tons of yellowcake.
The American embassy in Argentina reportedly confirmed the sale, which embarrassed the State Department because its diplomats in Jerusalem should have been privy to the deal, and because Israel had agreed with the U.S. to pursue a nuclear program for "peaceful purposes only."
Though relations between Israel and the U.S. are very strong today, they were less so while Israel was building the nuclear reactor near Dimona. Israel was relying heavily on France for assistance, including a supply of uranium.
However, then-President Charles de Gaulle changed French policy toward Israel, and it appears that in 1963 he ordered that his country stop supplying uranium to Israel. Jerusalem therefore decided to reach out to Argentina, according to the report.