FRIDAY, JULY 17, 2015
In 1981 the tiny nation of Israel executed a military plan which was roundly criticized across the world (including the United States). It was only with the hindsight of history that we can now say that Menachem Begin's decision to bomb an Iraqi nuclear reactor may have saved the world from a Sadaam Hussein with nuclear weapons.
Eight years ago we were told that SOMETHING happened in the Syrian desert. Israel was silent and Syria told a tale which changed more often than the IRS changes it's tune about the tea party targeting scandal. First they said that the IAF dropped a fuel tank in the Syrian desert, then they bombed a strategic location, then they bombed a warehouse, then Syria said that there was NO Raid, blamed the US for the attacks, and they finally said the IDF bombed nothing important, just a construction site. It turned out to be a nuclear reactor.
To do justice to both stories, we will break them up into two posts. Today Iraq!
Just like Iran today, Iraq protested that its interest in nuclear energy was peaceful, at the time Iraq was a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), placing its reactors under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. Some experts remained unconvinced that the IAEA monitoring program was sufficient to guarantee that weapon research was not being conducted. They also claimed that an Osiris class reactor was not particularly useful to countries which have no established reactor programs, but that it was capable of producing plutonium.
Israel first pursued a diplomatic solution to the situation. The villain of the Temple Mount and Israel's foreign minister Moshe Dayan went to the United States for help. However, Israel failed to obtain assurances that the reactor program would be halted. In meetings with the Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger and Secretary of State Alexander Haig, there was agreement about the Israeli assessment regarding the Iraqi nuclear threat. American representatives even verified Israeli assessments that Iraq was working to reach nuclear capability and would exploit the ability to influence and destroy Israel. Despite the American consensus, the Americans refused to act, perhaps because they did not truly grasp the danger, or because they did not want to upset Iraq, then fighting America’s enemy, Iran.
Yitzchak Shamir, negotiated with French presidents Valery Giscard-D’Estaing and his successor François Mitterand. The French proved intransigent, looking out for their own economic interests as Iraq was by far their top customer for military hardware. The payments to France came mostly in the form of oil. According to Shamir, French Minister for Foreign Affairs Claude Cheysson told him that there were only two major Arab powers: Iraq and the PLO. Despite Shamir’s personal affinity toward the French, as they had sheltered him while he was a member of the pre-state uprising against the British occupation of Israel, he was extremely disappointed when he realized that France was unwilling to cooperate and prevent Saddam Hussein’s Iraq from becoming a nuclear state, despite urgent and emotional pleas by the Israelis that Iraq was preparing a nuclear holocaust against Israel and the Jewish people. (source Yitzhak Shamir, “The Failure of Diplomacy,” Israel’s Strike Against the Iraqi Nuclear Reactor 7 June, 1981, Jerusalem: Menachem Begin Heritage Center: 2003, 13-14.)
Just like today with Iran there were political considerations, but this time the politics were in Israel:
According to Moshe Nissim, it was the need to contend with the danger of an atom bomb in the hands of a dangerous and irresponsible Arab ruler who would not hesitate to use it against Israel that convinced Begin of the urgency and necessity to destroy the Iraqi reactor. In addition, Begin knew the Likud had a chance of losing the upcoming elections. If Labor, led by Shimon Peres, came into power, Begin feared the plans to prevent Iraq from obtaining a nuclear arsenal would be shelved. Begin, however, was not about to let Israel’s security be weakened due to election consideration (Moshe Nissim, “Leadership and Daring in the Destruction of the Israeli Reactor,” Israel’s Strike Against the Iraqi Nuclear Reactor 7 June, 1981, Jerusalem: Menachem Begin Heritage Center: 2003, 21)
As the IDF reported it:
4 pm, the evening before the Shavout holiday, 1981, orders were given to begin operations. At 5:35.a squadron of IAF F-16 fighter aircraft flew over Iraqi skies and dropped a number of bombs. The nuclear reactor was completely destroyed. Mission accomplished. One after another, the pilots shouted the code word "Alpha" into their radios, signaling their success. Zev Raz, Amus Yadlin, Chagi katz, Amir Nahumi, Yiftach Spector, Yisraeli Shapir, and Ilan Ramon- changed history, erasing the nuclear threat of the enemy.
Iraq established a nuclear program in the 60's and with the cooperation of the USSR built a nuclear reactor ten km's southeast of Baghdad. 16 years later, Iraq began to broaden their nuclear programs and were supported by France who provided them with a nuclear reactor. The reactor consisted of two buildings, the "Tamuz" 1- the first reactor that produced uranium, and the "Tamuz" 2. The Israeli government convened to discuss the growing nuclear threat in that region. Israel was doubtful about Iraq's claims that the nuclear program was for the benefit of its citizens. Their doubt increased when the IDF Intelligence Branch published intelligence reports that Iraq's operations posed a real threat to Israel's very existence- and Israel was forced to draw up plans to destroy the reactor.
On the 14th of May, Prime Minister Menachem Begin, authorized the bombing of the nuclear reactor. Ezer Wiezmen, the then Defense Minister, opposed the operation and resigned from the government two weeks later.
During a cabinet meeting the plan was formally authorized by Begin.
"A large clock is hanging over us, ticking. Iraq's intent to produce nuclear weapons poses a great danger to every man woman and child in the state of Israel", the prime minister remarked.
The plan was kept in complete secrecy. From the get-go it was understood that the most effective way to implement a successful mission would be one conducted by the Israeli Air Force. It was decided that the operations would be done by F-16 fighter aircrafts that the IAF had received the year before. An Israeli Air Force squadron of 8 F-16's heavily armed, as well as a number of F-15's providing air cover and fighter support would implement the mission. One of the primary focuses during the planning stage was which direction the planes would fly. (11,000 km each way), over hostile territory and with a limited supply of fuel dictated the flight path. The plan was set for the seventh of July, zero hour-30 minutes before sunset.
"We flew over the Tigris river, looking down we saw the nuclear reactor. Our target lay before us clear as day."The pilots that participated in the mission were selected for their impeccable flight records and were trained in secret and requested to implement the operations with no second thoughts. In the afternoon hours of the 6th of June, the plan was set in motion. All the members of F-16 squadron were called up for duty. On the morning of June 7th, 1981 8 F-16 fighter aircraft left Israeli airspace heading west towards the Tigris River, next to Baghdad. The flight to Iraq took upwards to an hour. Radio transmission was silenced. The Iraqis were caught completely off guard. The Iraqi radar system was incapable of picking up on the impending danger.
Major General Amus Yaldun, one of the eight combat pilots that participated in the mission and now head of the IDF Intelligence Branch, related, during an interview with IAF journalists, about the famous flight. "Each aircraft flew with three full tanks of gas, two air to air missiles and two bombs each weighing one ton. We flew in two groups of four. The first group was led by Colonel (res.) Zev Raz, the "First Jet" squadron leader, and the second group was lead by Brigadier General (res.)Amir Nehomi, commander of the "Northern Knights". I was number two in the first quadroon. We headed south of the Jordon River, passing over the Saudi desert. We reached the Tigris River in a short amount of time.
The blast of the first bombs echoed in the distance. One of them hit the center of the reactors roof. Once the bombs were releases, I felt the impact of the explosions shaking my plane. This was the end of the Iraqi nuclear reactor "Tamuz" 1." The Israeli planes made a roundabout turn west, heading home. "The direction home was facing the sun as to prevent the enemy from following us. We received report of the second squadron's attack on the reactor.
Files released by the British National Archives in 2011 show that Britain's ambassador to Washington, Sir Nicholas Henderson, was with US Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger as the news came of the bombing came in:
We felt great. A- Because of completing the mission and B- Because all of us, the whole squadron, had come home in peace."At the time, the attack was widely criticized. Israel responded that its actions were self-defensive and thus justifiable under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. Critics rejected the idea of "pre-emptive self-defense". France, in particular (again no surprise), was outraged over the loss of a French national as a result of the attack, and since the raid diplomatic ties between France and Israel have remained strained. The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 487, calling upon Israel "to place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards", and stated that Iraq was "entitled to appropriate redress for the destruction it suffered". Israel has not complied with these requests. The United States supported the resolution condemning the Israeli action — not the country as other nations tried to do. Their course of action was to withhold a contingent of aircraft already promised to Israel.
"Weinberger says that he thinks Begin must have taken leave of his senses. He is much disturbed by the Israeli reaction and possible consequences," Sir Nicholas cabled London.Of course the UN General Assembly passed a resolution trashing Israel for saving herself.
Britain's ambassador in Baghdad, Sir Stephen Egerton, disclosed that the Iraqis had been just as surprised when the Israeli F15 fighters appeared in their skies.
"The diplomatic corps had a ringside view of the belated ack-ack and missile reactions to the raid when we were gathered for the Italian national day reception on the Bund [waterside]," he wrote.
Over twenty years later when the world began to face a terrorist threat as never before the world began to realize the service performed by Israel, the IAF and Menachem Begin.
Just imagine a world with Iraq or, God Forbid, a terrorist with their hands on a nuclear weapon. If it wasn't for Menachem Begin, a Prime Minister with guts to give the orders to protect Israel, knowing (but not caring) that a world would absolutely freak, and the heroes of the IDF who flawlessly performed their mission, this scary world have happened already.For those who are still questioning PM Netanyhu's reaction to Barack Obama's P5+1 deal, remember what happened thirty-four years ago, and understand that Israel will do anything it takes, no matter what the world thinks, to defend herself. And if they do, eventually the world will say thank you. But it really doesn't matter.
The White Paper meant that Great Britain was causing the death of hundreds of thousands of Jews who could have escaped the Holocaust, had they a place that would take them in. The US refused to take them onto American soil FDR believed there were already too many Jews in the U.S. and Churchill refused to take them on English soil.
Decommissioned in 1946, the ship the President Warfield was bought for $8,000 as scrap by the Western Trading Company (a front for the Haganah, which later became the Israel Defense Forces). Jewish-American Sam (the Banana Man) Zemurray was instrumental in obtaining the ship for the Haganah, which would explain its Honduran registration as Zemurray United Fruit Company, a company which pretty much owned Honduras). The President Warfield was refitted in Baltimore and sailed from that port for France on 25th February 1947 where it picked up over 4,500 Jewish refugees.
On 17th July 1947, the President Warfield was renamed “Exodus 1947” in a ceremony on the open sea, the Zionist blue-white flag with the Star of David was hoisted and “Hatikvah, (the Hope)” which eventually became the Israeli national anthem, was sung over and over.
As described by a refugee Noah Klieger, “we were determined not to surrender the ship to the British without a fight. It was an unequal battle, and eventually the Royal Navy boarding party, using truncheons and light firearms, succeeded in bringing the "Exodus" under its control. The clash had lasted several hours and resulted in three deaths –- Second Officer William (Bill) Bernstein, an American Aliyah Bet volunteer crew member, a 15-year-old refugee Zvi Jakubowitz, and one other. Some 150 were injured, including other American volunteer crew members."
After reaching Haifa, British soldiers transferred the "Exodus 1947" passengers, exhausted from the sea journey and the battle, to three freighters converted into caged prison ships. It was named “Operation Oasis.”
The three caged prison ships, departed Haifa with the "Exodus" passengers. The refugees assumed that as illegal emigrants they would be interned in camps on the island of Cyprus. But the three prison ships were sailing towards the European mainland, back towards France. The conditions on board these ships were harsh. The refugees lay crammed together in the bare holds of the freighters.
The ships first landed at Toulon, France, where the passengers were ordered to disembark. When the French authorities refused to use force to remove the refugees from the ship, British authorities, fearing adverse public opinion, decided to wait until the passengers disembarked of their own accord. The British Foreign Secretary tried to scare them off the ship by threatening to send them back to Germany. But the passengers didn't budge. They forced the issue by declaring a hunger strike, so the British sent them to Hamburg, Germany where the British authorities compelled the passengers to disembark, and some were forcibly removed from the ship. The British then took the 4,500+ passengers many of whom were refugees from concentration camps and transferred to displaced persons camps in Germany.
Displaced persons in camps all over Europe protested vociferously and staged hunger strikes when they heard the news. Large protests erupted on both sides of the Atlantic. The ensuing public embarrassment for Britain played a significant role in the diplomatic swing of sympathy toward the Jews and the eventual recognition of a Jewish state in 1948.
The ship's ordeals were widely covered by international media, and caused the British government much public embarrassment. The former passengers were permitted to immigrate to Palestine in small groups, and most were present in Israel on May 15 1948 when the nation their plight helped to create, declared its independence.
A confidential report kept in the files of the child-tracing service and dated 31 October 1947 makes it clear that the phenomenon of anti-Semitism did also exist among the echelons of the British Mandate powers. Using sharp words, the report gives a disparaging assessment of the Jewish committee established in Pöppendorf stating that the reason for the children's being destined for Palestine were incomprehensible considering that not even one of the children had “Palestinian” parents.
The correspondence files bear witness to the fact that these children often times were completely on their own. Some of them had fled the Germans together with their parents leaving Poland for the Soviet Union. Having arrived in the SU, they had been deported by the Soviets to Siberia. And not seldom did it occur there that the children lost their parents, brothers and sisters and their whole family to a premature death caused by forced hard labour their dear ones were not able to cope with.It is said that the events of the Exodus voyage convinced the US government that the British mandate of Palestine was incapable of handling the Jewish refugees problem, and that a United Nations-brokered solution needs to be found. The US government then intensified its pressures on the British government to return its mandate to the UN, and the British in turn were more than willing to accept this.
Sixty-Eight years ago, the British appeased the Arabs, denied Jews entry into the Holy land and sent them back to the Germany from which they had just escaped. Today the US, Britain and its European allies are still appeasing radical Islamists, their terrorism, their call for the destruction of Jewish State, and the anti-Semitic hatred they teach their children.
The battle to save Israel and the Jews no longer takes place on a rickety old ship, the Jewish State now has a modern army for protection, sometimes the battle takes place in the White House or Congress, make no mistake about it...the Jewish people are just as precarious position today as they were 1939 or in 1947. The only read difference is that anti-Semitism is now back in favor.