Friday, December 09, 2016

The Vela Incident: Israeli nuclear test and U.S. cover up

"On the political side, the Carter administration had much at stake on the issue of the Vela flash, which eventually leaked to the media in late October 1979.  Had it been confirmed that it was a nuclear test, and that South Africa and/or Israel were prime suspects, significant diplomatic complications would ensue.  That was particularly so in the case of Israel, not least because the very existence of its nuclear program was a political taboo in Washington, something never to be acknowledged.  Admission that Israel and South Africa had tested a bomb could unravel President Carter’s most important international legacy – the peace treaty he just had negotiated between Egypt and Israel, signed only six months earlier at the White House.  And to impose sanctions against Israel for violating U.S. nonproliferation legislation and the Limited Test Ban Treaty would have been a political catastrophe. The aversion to even identifying the test as a nuclear event was so intense that Leonard Weiss, a scientist and nonproliferation expert on the staff of Senator John Glenn (D-OH), recalls that at a briefing a senior State Department official told him “that if I continued to say that the Vela event was a nuclear test, my reputation would be destroyed."