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I Guarded Israel’s First Nuclear Device, Former Israeli Reveals in U.S. Testimony via Haaretz

Elie Geisler says he was asked during the Six Day War to guard a secret base in central Israel that held the device. He described a clash with Col. Yitzhak Yaakov, who demanded control of the base and threatened to break into it by force

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A former Israeli is claiming that during the Six Day War, he commanded a secret base in the center of the country where a nuclear core was stored that could have been used in a nuclear weapon.

In an interview appearing on the website of the Woodrow Wilson Center, Elie Geisler, who was a trained radiation inspector, tells Prof. Avner Cohen that he had been assigned to guard the device for the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission. He also told Cohen that he feared there could be armed internal Israeli conflict over control of nuclear power.

Geisler, who is now a behavioral sciences professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, has lived in the United States since 1973. He was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces in 1963, and according to his testimony, served in a secret unit whose soldiers were assigned to the Nuclear Research Center in Dimona. He was a nuclear radiation inspector, a job he continued to fill as a civilian after his military service.

[…]

According to Geisler, he and others supervised the transfer of a small “package” in a wooden crate containing the nuclear device from Dimona to the new base. “We deposited the crate in one of the rooms inside the main building,” he said. “The room was empty of any furniture and without windows.” He said the room in which the device was stored was always locked, and he had the only key. There were 28 armed border policemen under his command, some of whom were stationed in the compound’s watchtowers and were equipped with heavy weapons. “I was told that one or two other cores were in other locations,” he said. From time to time, he said, he would discuss with another person the procedures for moving the core to an assembly point, where it would be connected to the remainder of the device for possible use.

[…]

Geisler’s primary task, he said, “was to verify the safety and security of the object – the core – and to ascertain that no radiation leakage was present.” Twice a day he would measure the radiation level emanating from the object and record his findings in a diary. There was indeed radiation emanating from it, “and hence, it was the real thing.” He describes a visit to the site by former chief of General Staff Moshe Dayan, who would soon be named defense minister instead of Levi Eshkol. “I recall that he was very excited to learn that this was a real core of a nuclear weapon,” Geisler said. “He asked me if this was the real thing, and I confirmed it was.”

[…]

Yaakov, later a brigadier general, gave his own account to Cohen in interviews in 1999 and 2000, whose contents were published in 2017, four years after Yaakov’s death. Yaakov testified that official Israeli figures had planned to explode a nuclear device on a mountain in Sinai to deter Arab states from attacking. “You have an enemy, and he says that he’s going to throw you into the sea. You believe him. If you have a way to scare him, you scare him,” he was quoted as saying. In his conversations with Cohen, Yaakov recalled that “there was some problem,” and the nuclear researcher believes that Geisler’s testimony reveals the “problem” Yaakov was referring to. Naturally, not all the details about the incident are clear or can be published, so questions still remain.

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