Israel and Chemical/Biological Weapons: History, Deterrence, and Arms Control

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David Ben-Gurion and the Development of>.

Science in Israel, pp. 26-27; and excerpted in David Ben-Gurion, Be-hilahem 24 Sara Leibovitz-Dar, “Haydakim Besherut Hamedinah.”

Israel [When Israel Fights] (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1950), p. 236. The author did 25 Ibid., p. 6. Colonel Gur told the author similar things in a long interview on the English translation. July 20, 1992. However, some HEMED BEIT veterans insisted that they do not 6 Shimon Peres, Battling for Peace: A Memoir (London: Weidenfeld & recall even a single occasion when Gur expressed such reservations at the Nicolson, 1995), p. 132. time. In fact, they recall that he was always present as HEMED commander 7 Tom Segev, The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust (New York: when high officials, such as Ben-Gurion, visited the unit at its Abu Kabir Hill and Wang, 1993), p. 82. facility. Veterans of HEMED BEIT.

8 In a letter to a noted Israeli scientist, Ben-Gurion wrote, “There is a saying, 26 Colonel Shlomo Gur, July 7, 1992. ‘the dead will not praise God,’ and if we face the threat of destruction—and 27 Ibid. unfortunately we do, and Hitler’s Holocaust was only the most extensive and 28 Ibid. terrible of the attempts to destroy us during our history—to a certain extent 29 Ibid. this is the most fateful of our existence.” David Ben-Gurion to Professor Shmuel 30 Ibid.

Sambursky, March 17, 1963, David Ben-Gurion Archive, Letters;citedinAvner 31 Ibid. Cohen, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), 32 Ibid. p. 358. 33 Thomas J. Hamilton, “Arab Assails the Idea of Minority Shifts,” New York 9 David Ben-Gurion, War Diaries, 1948-1949 (in Hebrew), vol. 3 (Tel Aviv: Times, July 24, 1948; Leibovitz-Dar, “Haydakim Besherut Hamedinah.” Misrad Habitachon, 1982), pp. 852-53. 34 The first reference to the capture of the Israeli soldiers appeared in Israel on

10 Ben-Gurion to U.S. President John F. Kennedy, June 24, 1962, John F. May 28, 1948, when the daily newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, cited a Reuters item Kennedy Presidential Library, Boston, MA. from Cairo that reported the capturing of the two Israelis and their confession.

11 Ben-Gurion, War Diaries, entries of April 26, 1949, and October 23, 1950. For Leibovitz-Dar, “Haydakim Besherut Hamedinah.” a detailed analysis of Ben-Gurion’s views, see Zaki Shalom, David Ben-Gurion: 35 Ibid.

The State of Israel and the Arab World 1949-1956 (in Hebrew) (Sdeh Boker: 36 Ibid. When the author interviewed Colonel Shlomo Gur in July 1992, he Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Press, 1995). acknowledged that he had been aware of HEMED BEIT activities during the

12 Professor Yuval Ne’eman, Head of the Planning Division of the IDF in 1953- 1948 war but stressed that he had not been part of the chain of command, and 54, personal communication with author, May 1997. that he maintained serious reservations about the need for such operations. In

13 Cohen, Israel and the Bomb, pp. 339-49. the interview, Gur did not specify what the operations were, nor did the author

14 Aharon Katachalsky [Katzir] was probably the Israeli native-trained scien- press him on that. HEMED BEIT was a peripheral issue in that interview. tist that Ben-Gurion admired most. Aharon reportedly had open access to 37 Ibid.

Ben-Gurion. At times, after discussing executive matters, Ben-Gurion engaged 38 See, for example: , maintained by the Khalil Sakakini Aharon in philosophical discussions about the end and limits of scientific Cultural Center, as well as the website of the Center for Research and Docu-inquiry. Colonel Shlomo Gur, Tel Aviv, Israel, interview by author, July 7, 1992. mentation on Palestinian Society at Birzeit University,

15 Aharon Katachalsky [Katzir] was the first to discuss the bombing of crdps/>.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki with Ben-Gurion. Renana Leshem, Tel Aviv, Israel, 39 Hamilton, “Arab Assails the Idea of Minority Shifts.” interview by author, 1996. 40 On the cholera outbreaks in Egypt and Syria in 1947, see W. Seth Carus,

16 Ephraim Katzir, “The Beginning of Defense Research: Ben-Gurion and the Bioterrorism and Biocrimes: The Illicit Use of Biological Agents Since 1900, HEMED” (in Hebrew), David Ben-Gurion and the Development of Science in Working Paper (Washington DC: Center for Counterproliferation Research, Israel (Jerusalem: Israel National Academy of Science, 1989), pp. 25-42; Munya February 2001), pp. 87-88.

Mardor, RAFAEL (Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defense Publishing House, 1981), 41 Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, speech delivered to U.K. House of Commons, Lon-pp. 70-72. don, November 24, 1999,

17 Cohen, Israel and the Bomb, pp. 14-17. lectures/lect-rr.html>. The author was unable to verify any admission regard-

18 Peres, Battling for Peace, p. 134. ing the use of BW in those portions of Ben-Gurion’s diaries that are available

19 In his eulogy for Bergmann, Shimon Peres described the extraordinary alli- to researchers. ance between Ben-Gurion and Bergmann: “Bergmann’s scientific vision was 42 Benny Morris, “The Origins of the Palestinian Refugee Problem,” in Laurence attracted to Ben-Gurion’s statesmanlike vision, and the plowman met the sower. J. Silberstein, ed., New Perspectives on Israeli History (New York: New York

50 The Nonproliferation Review/Fall-Winter 2001


University Press, 1991), pp. 46-47. Not Growing,” Yediot Ahronot, August 14, 1998, pp. 16-20.

43 Benny Morris, Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict 65 Ibid. Recently it became known that the Israeli State Comptroller criticized (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999), p. 217. the government for unnecessary efforts to keep the issue of the BW threat

44 Sara Leibovitz-Dar, “Haydakim Besherut Hamedinah,” pp. 6-7. outside the public debate. This policy illustrates how sensitive and secretive

45 Mardor, RAFAEL, pp. 53-66, 78-79, 104-6; Shlomo Gur, interview by author, the BW issue is in the eyes of governmental officials.

Tel Aviv, June 1993. 66 On the Klingberg case, see the following items: Peter Pringle, “Israel Germ

46 Mardor, RAFAEL, pp. 69-75; Cohen, Israel and the Bomb, pp. 27-31. Expert Feared in Soviet Union,” Observer, September 8, 1985; Ian Black, “Israel

47 Mardor, RAFAEL, p. 75. Holds Scientist for Spying,” Guardian (London), February 26, 1988; Michael

48 Norman Rose, Chaim Weizmann: A Biography (New York: Viking, 1986), Binyon, “ Riddle of three-way Spy Swap Report,” Times (London), February pp. 453-54. On Weizmann’s strong resentment of the changes at the Sieff 27, 1988; Peter Pringle, “‘Missing’ Israeli Scientist Was Jailed as Spy,” Inde-Institute, see Mivhar Igrot [Selected Letters] (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1988); and pendent (London), August 4, 1993, p. 12; Alex Fishman, et al.,“Prof.Klingberg Mardor, RAFAEL, p. 75. Passed on the KGB Secrets of Biological Warfare,” Hadashot (in Hebrew),

49 Aaron Klieman, ed., “Chaim Weizmann to Ernst Bergmann,” July 2, 1951, August 3, 1993, pp. 4-5; Yossi Melman, “The Soviet Spy Marcus Klingberg cited in Barnet Litvinoff, ed., The Letters and Papers of Chaim Weizmann, Submitted Pardon Request on Health Grounds,” Ha’aretz (in Hebrew), Au-August 1947-June 1952, vol. 23, series A (New York: Rutgers University, gust 4, 1993; Michael Rotem, “Klingberg Was to be Part of 3-Way Spy Swap,” 1980), p. 304. Jerusalem Post, August 6, 1993; “L’espion qui venait du Yiddishland,” Nouvel

50 Bergmann wrote Ben-Gurion on July 1, 1951, “The establishment of an Observateur, January 6, 1994, pp. 60-64; Clyde Haberman, “Israel Lifts Secrecy authorized organ for research, especially when the research is military, as a Veil from Spy Convictions,” New York Times, May 4, 1995, A3; Batsheva Tsur, division at the Ministry of Defense under your sponsorship would be like a “Court Orders Klingberg Free,” Jerusalem Post, September 4, 1998; P. R. declaration that the government and the state consider science one of the Kumaraswamy, “An Embarrassment of Spies,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scien-pillars of the nation’s building.” Mardor, RAFAEL, p. 80. tists (March-April 1999), pp. 14-15, 61.

51 On the parallel establishment of the nuclear research center, see Cohen, 67 Melman, “The Soviet Spy Marcus Klingberg.”

Israel and the Bomb, 25-97. 68 Pringle, “‘Missing’ Israeli Scientist Was Jailed as Spy,” p. 12.

52 Anonymous former senior Israeli officials, interviews by author. 69 Pringle, “’Missing’ Israeli Scientist Was Jailed as Spy”; Aharon Priel, “No-

53 Mardor, RAFAEL, pp. 92-93. body Knows,” Ma’ariv, October 24, 1983; Fishman et al., “Prof. Klingberg

54 The author coined this phrase; it is not Bergmann’s. Passed on the KGB Secrets of Biological Warfare.”

55 Bergmann designed and implemented a similar organizational arrangement 70 Pringle, “‘Missing’ Israeli Scientist Was Jailed as Spy”; Fishman et al., for HEMED GIMMEL, the historical predecessor of Israel’s nuclear program. “Prof. Klingberg Passed on the KGB Secrets of Biological Warfare”; Melman, In 1951-52, HEMED GIMMEL was transferred from the military to become a “The Soviet Spy Marcus Klingberg Submitted Pardon Request on Health state-sponsored nuclear research center. The new entity also had a double Grounds”; Rotem, “Klingberg Was to be Part of 3-Way Spy Swap”; Haberman, identity: it was a classified research institute within the MOD (Machon 4) and, “Israeli Lifts Secrecy Veil from Spy Convictions.” primarily for public and international convenience, also a laboratory of the 71 “Israel Town Assails Bio Building,” Associated Press, October 8, 1998. IAEC (the predecessor of the Soreq nuclear research center). See Cohen, 72 Mark Lavie, “Rumors Abound About Israeli Center,” Associated Press, Israel and the Bomb, chap. 2-3. October 24, 1998.

56 For the historical context see: Barton Bernstein, “Origins of Biological War- 73 Abramovitz and Allon, “The Place Where Oranges are Not Growing,” pp. fare Programs,” in Susan Wright, ed., Preventing a Biological Arms Race 16-20; Peter Hirschberg, “Inside the Low White Buildings,” Jerusalem Re-(Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990), pp. 9-26; Susan Wright, “Evolution of Biologi- port, December 21, 1998, p. 18; Aliza Marcus, “In Israeli Town, Rare Challenge cal Warfare Policy, 1945-1990,” in Wright, ed., Preventing a Biological Arms to Arms Plant,” Boston Globe, November 24, 1998, p. A1; “Israelis Play Dice Race, pp. 26-68; Brian Balmer, “The Drift of Biological Weapons Policy in the with Danger at Germ Warfare Plant,” Guardian, October 12, 1998, p.10. Due to UK, 1945-1965,” Journal of Strategic Studies, (December 1997), pp. 115-45; the Israeli societal taboo and military censorship, there is almost no Israeli-Leitenberg, “Biological Weapons in the Twentieth Century.” based material about IIBR; references to CBW activity are based on “foreign

57 Bergmann to David Ben-Gurion, December 5, 1952, in Mardor, RAFAEL, pp. sources.”

94-95; Cf. Bergmann to Ben-Gurion, May 4, 1955, in Igeret, Israeli Academy of 74 “Israel’s Secret Institute,” Foreign Report, August 20, 1998.

Sciences, November 2000, p. 30. Mardor, EMET’s administrator, wrote the 75 Peter Hirschberg, “Inside the Low White Buildings,” Jerusalem Report, following about Bergmann: “While it was natural to me that a prominent scien- December 21, 1998, p. 18. tist as Professor Bergmann would seek to expand pure [basic] science, and not 76 Peter Hirschberg, Harms van den Berg, and Herman Stall, “The Fatal Fallout solely for defense needs, I could not always identify with such a trend, which from El Al Flight 1862,” Jerusalem Report, December 21, 1998, pp. 16-21. was a violation of EMET’s objectives.” See Mardor, RAFAEL, p. 95. 77 See, for example, Aluf Benn, “Chemical Weapons Convention: Israel’s Deci-

58 Anonymous former senior Israeli officials. sion Time,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 57 (March-April 2001), pp. 22-24.

59 Anonymous close associates of Bergmann, interviews by author, Israel, 78 For a description of the activities and management, including the mission 1992-96. statement, of IIBR, see

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