Saturday 25 November 2017

Germany 'paid for Israel's nuclear bomb'

Denials: Shimon Peres
Denials: Shimon Peres

Justin Huggler

West Germany secretly funded the development of Israel's nuclear weapons, a German newspaper has claimed, despite Israeli denials.

'Welt' newspaper repeated long-standing allegations that the government of former chancellor Konrad Adenauer secretly channelled hundreds of millions of dollars into Israel's nuclear programme in the 1960s.

The newspaper insisted the claims were true, despite a categorical denial earlier this month from Shimon Peres, the former Israeli president, who is believed to have been in charge of the Israeli nuclear weapons project at the time.

In a detailed report, 'Welt' claimed the funds were disguised as a $500m loan for the development of the Negev desert.

The arrangement was agreed at a meeting between Mr Adenauer and David Ben-Gurion, the Israeli prime minister, in New York in 1960, the newspaper claimed. The agreement was informal and was never scrutinised by the West German cabinet or parliament.

It was known as "Aktion Geschäftsfreund", or "Operation Business Associate" by the West German foreign ministry.

The funds were channelled to Israel through the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau, a government-owned development bank. The bank has declined to release details of its payments to Israel under the programme.

It has long been claimed that West Germany helped to pay for Israel's nuclear weapons programme, but Mr Peres issued a denial earlier this month.

The 91-year-old told 'Spiegel' magazine the allegations were the result of a misunderstanding.

The suspicions date back to claims by Franz Josef Strauss, a former West German defence minister, about a secret meeting with Mr Ben-Gurion in Paris in 1961.

The former Israeli prime minister had "come to talk about nuclear weapons production", Mr Strauss claimed.

Mr Peres, who was also at the meeting, told 'Spiegel': "Maybe Strauss understood that, but I didn't hear Ben-Gurion say it."

He told the magazine the West German money was indeed spent on "the development of the Negev desert". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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