The Pentagon recently declassified a 1987 top-secret report revealing previously unknown details about Israel’s nuclear capability, a move that is being perceived in Israel as Obama administration payback for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress earlier this month.
The Jewish Daily Forward, a liberal U.S.-based newspaper, on Wednesday published an article by Israeli investigative journalist Michael Karpin detailing the Pentagon report.
Karpin, who has written extensively about Israel’s nuclear development, described his reaction to the declassification as one of “astonishment.” Karpin wrote:
In early February, the Pentagon declassified a 386-page report from 1987, exposing for the first time ever the actual depth of top-secret military cooperation between the United States and Israel — including, amazingly, information about Israel’s unacknowledged nuclear program.
In view of the caustic tension that has increased lately between Washington and Jerusalem, the timing of the publication’s declassification, after a long legal process, might raise a few eyebrows. I have some knowledge about the build-up process of Israel’s nuclear capacity and after reading the report in question I must express my astonishment: I have never seen an official American document disclosing such extensive revelation on subjects that until now were regarded by both administrations as unspeakable secrets.
Feeding the questions about the Obama administration’s motivation in releasing the document is that its authors had also researched the nuclear capabilities of European NATO allies, but only their findings on Israel were declassified.
The Israeli media are asking why the Pentagon chose to release a nearly 30-year-old report in February, at the height of tension between the White House and Israel over Netanyahu's speech to Congress. (Photo: Getty Images)
“Strangely, quite a significant amount of the material that the American experts had assembled in Israel was released with this declassification, while everything that they wrote on their NATO allies has been blacked out or withheld by the Pentagon,” Karpin wrote. “It’s another strange aspect of this story and, along with the timing, demands further scrutiny of the defense department’s motives.”
The Israeli media examined if the timing of the declassification was politically motivated.
The right-wing Arutz Sheva news site asked: “Obama revenge for Netanyahu's Congress talk?” and called the declassification “unprecedented.”
The news site NRG framed the declassification as being “against the background of the storm caused by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to Congress.” Netanyahu spoke to a joint meeting of Congress on March 3 where he criticized an emerging negotiated deal over Iran's nuclear program as a threat to Israel's security.
The 1987 report was written by the non-profit the Institute for Defense Analysis which does research on national security for the U.S. government.
The report titled “Critical Technological Assessment in Israel and NATO Nations” described Israel’s nuclear development in the 1970s and 80s and asserted that Israeli scientists were working on hydrogen fusion which could potentially create bombs a thousand times more powerful than atom bombs.
“It should be emphasized that in the history of the relations between the two countries, there is no other published official American document that mentions in any way the Israelis development of hydrogen bombs,” Karpin noted.
The Israeli government has always kept a posture of nuclear ambiguity, never confirming its nuclear weapons capability in an effort to avert a regional nuclear arms race.
The report noted that Israeli nuclear labs – at least in the 1970s and 80s – “are equivalent to our Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge National Laboratories.”
The Forward reported that the report was released following a Freedom of Information Act application three years ago by American journalist Grant Smith, an outspoken Israel critic.
Due to the long wait time following his application, Smith followed up with a lawsuit. A D.C. judge compelled the Pentagon to address his request, the Forward reported.