The Kennedy/Ben Gurion/Eshkol Nuclear Exchange


Document 1. On 5 July, less than ten days after Levi Eshkol became prime minister, Ambassador Barbour delivered a 3-page letter to him from President John Kennedy. Not since President Eisenhower's message to Ben Gurion, in the midst of the Suez crisis in November 1956, had an American president been so blunt with an Israeli prime minister. Kennedy told Eshkol that the American commitment and support of Israel 'could be seriously jeopardized' if Israel did not let the United States obtain 'reliable information' about Israel's efforts in the nuclear field. In the letter Kennedy presented specific demands on how the American inspection visits to Dimona should be executed. Since the United States had not been involved in the building of Dimona and no international law or agreement had been violated, Kennedy demands were indeed unprecedented. They amounted, in effect, to American ultimatum.

Source: Israel State Archive, Jerusalem
For more information: Israel and the Bomb, 153-162.

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