According to secret South African documents, Mr Peres, then Israel’s defence minister, responded to a request in 1975 from the white minority government for Jericho Missiles by offering to fit them “in three different sizes”, The Guardian reported. The 1975 documents marked “top-secret” provide the first documentary corroboration of a nuclear relationship between South Africa and Israel that was long suspected but until now never proved. At the time, South Africa was years away from being able to build their own nuclear bomb.
South Africa eventually built its own nuclear bombs, albeit possibly with Israeli assistance. But the collaboration on military technology only grew over the following years. South Africa also provided much of the yellowcake uranium that Israel required to develop its weapons.
The Apartheid government was interested in buying Jericho missiles “if the correct payload was available”. The deal collapsed on cost issues. South Africa later developed six nuclear weapons, an arsenal long rumoured to have been built with Israeli help. According to academics, Israel gave South Africa 30g of tritium, a gas used to enhance the explosive power of nuclear weapons, in exchange for a large quantity of uranium.
The existence of Israel’s nuclear weapons programme was revealed by Mordechai Vanunu to the Sunday Times in 1986. He provided photographs taken inside the Dimona nuclear site and gave detailed descriptions of the processes involved in producing part of the nuclear material but provided no written documentation.
Documents seized by Iranian students from the US embassy in Tehran after the 1979 revolution revealed the Shah expressed an interest to Israel in developing nuclear arms. But the South African documents offer confirmation Israel was in a position to arm Jericho missiles with nuclear warheads.
Israel pressured the present South African government not to declassify documents obtained by Polakow-Suransky. “The Israeli defence ministry tried to block my access to the Secment agreement on the grounds it was sensitive material, especially the signature and the date,” he said. “The South Africans didn’t seem to care; they blacked out a few lines and handed it over to me. The ANC government is not so worried about protecting the dirty laundry of the apartheid regime’s old allies.”