Clinton's Secret Letter Protects Israeli Nukes

The State of Israel is in possession of a secret written assurance from President Bill Clinton that the United States will continue to protect Israel’s clandestine nuclear weapons program from international pressure so long as Israel maintains its policy of “nuclear ambiguity” and refrains from overt testing of its atomic arsenal.

The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, citing undisclosed Israeli sources, broke that story in March . It said former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had wrung the pledge from Clinton after the Wye River peace conference in October, 1998, and that the new prime minister, Ehud Barak, is pressing Clinton to renew it.

The Clinton letter is a secret appendix to the Wye River memorandum signed by Clinton, Netanyahu, and Palestinian Chairman Yassir Arafat to re-start the off-and-on Middle East peace negotiations. Writer Aluf Benn described the document as a “small strategic treasure” in the office safe of Zvai Stauber, foreign policy adviser to Barak, who inherited it from his predecessor.

The letter is addressed to Netanyahu. Israeli sources say Barak wants an identical letter updated and addressed to him as part of his price for signing a peace agreement with Syria. The price also would include some $17-billion in additional U.S. military aid to Israel.

The Clinton letter also is seen as written formalization of long-standing but undeclared U.S. policy first negotiated with Israel by President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s and followed by every President since then. The policy exempts Israel from the U.S. official stance against the spread of nuclear weapons in return for Israeli ambiguity on the subject.