Tel Aviv and Pretoria's Nuclear Tango

Publication Type:

Journal Articles


International Politics, International Politics, Tehran, Volume 4, Number 8, p.21–39 (2011)



1979 Vela test, Israel, Nuclear Programme, South Africa


The coming together of Israel and South Africa on nuclear, missile and military fields; though puzzling can be understood if the entire geo?political situation the countries found themselves in. Both states were international pariahs and to top it off felt that they were surrounded by hostile neighbours. This article tracks cooperation between Israel and South Africa from the 1950s when South Africa began supplying uranium to Israel. Thereafter the bonhomie expanded to training of each other?s scientific personnel. Israel and South Africa also collaborated in the missile field with declassified documents released from South African archives pointing to Tel Aviv offering to sell its Jericho?2 nuclear capable missiles to Pretoria as well as Pretoria allowing Israel to test its longer range missiles from the Overberg test range. In addition, the bilateral cooperation also extended to testing of Israeli nuclear weapons in South Africa as brought to light by the 1977 aborted preparations and the subsequent 1979 nuclear test picked up by the American Vela satellites.