Avner Cohen is a writer, historian, and professor, well known for his works on Israel’s nuclear history.
- From the Wilson Center/Home Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
[Avraham Hermoni was an Israeli science counselor in the Israeli embassy in Washington, whose involvement in the Israeli nuclear program was instrumental to its ultimate success.]
I will end this introduction with an amusing anecdote that Hermoni told me that took place sometime during the period when Hermoni was the science attaché at the Israeli embassy in Washington D.C. (approximately 1969–72). One evening, during an intermission of a cultural event at the Kennedy Center, Hermoni noticed John Hadden, the former CIA station chief in Tel Aviv (1964-68), in the audience. Hermoni knew well that one of Hadden’s most important tasks while in Israel was to monitor the nuclear project. As they recognized each other in distance, Hadden shouted, “Avraham, does it work?” to which Hermoni promptly responded, “One hundred percent it does.” Both laughed.
What does this little anecdote tell us, beyond a little laughter? Maybe it suggests that even in those early days, the big secret was not that big, and it was already “the worst-kept secret.”
2. Note from Cohen’s The US Discovery of Israel’s Secret Nuclear Project
published in April, 2015, in GWU’s National Security Archive/The Nuclear Vault:
Some interviewees claimed that certain people in the U.S. intelligence community were sympathetic to the Israelis and deliberately concealed or bypassed certain information instead of passing it along. For example, the late John Hadden, the CIA station chief in Tel Aviv from 1964-68, held that view strongly. He asked me to treat his suspicions with discretion so I did not publicize them when he was alive.