05.10.

1986: Discovery of Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal Made Public

1986: Discovery of Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal Made Public
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 5 October 1986
  • The Israeli government was furious when photos of the Israeli nuclear complex in the Negev desert, as well as information on the state of Israeli nuclear technology, were published in the British press.

On this day in 1986, The Sunday Times published an article titled “Revealed: The Secrets of Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal”.

The article was in fact a report made by former Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, who revealed what sort of nuclear weapons were available to Israel.

Mordechai Vanunu had access to such information because he had worked at the Israeli nuclear research facility in the Negev desert. That important complex is located in the desert around 80 km south of Jerusalem, and west of the Dead Sea.

Vanunu worked there as a technician and shift supervisor. With time it became apparent that he was critical towards the Israeli government, and was marked as a “leftist” and “pro-Arab”.

An attempt was made to have him fired, but the union protected him. At one point, Vanunu sneaked into the nuclear complex and secretly took around 60 photos.

He was eventually fired, and moved to Australia, where he worked as a taxi driver in Sydney. One journalist suggested that he should sell his knowledge and photos to a newspaper. Therefore, in 1986, Vanunu made a deal with The Sunday Times in London, who published his story.

Naturally, the Israeli government was furious when photos of the Israeli nuclear complex in the Negev desert, as well as information on the state of Israeli nuclear technology, were published in the British press.

The Israeli secret service responded. In order to avoid a diplomatic incident with Britain, a female Mossad agent lured Vanunu to move from London to Rome, allegedly for a vacation.

There he was drugged by Israeli agents, and secretly transferred to Israel. He was sentenced to a long term in prison, where he spent 18 years.

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