In a successful secret mission dubbed Operation Orchard, Israel destroyed a nuclear reactor at Al-Kibar military facility in northeastern Syria. Also this week 22 years ago, the PLO and Israel stated mutual recognition, paving the way for peace negotiations, which ultimately failed.
Israel Destroys Syrian Nuclear Reactor
On September 6, 2007, Israel secretly destroyed a nuclear reactor in Syria’s Al-Kibar military facility, in accordance with the Begin Doctrine, which states that no Israeli adversary in the Middle East should be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon.
In a secret mission known as Operation Orchard, authorized by then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, eight Israeli aircraft flew along the Syrian-Turkish border shortly before 1 a.m. and destroyed the Syrian nuclear facility.
The planning began months earlier. In March, the Mossad – Israel’s national intelligence agency – raided the home of the head of Syria’s atomic energy commission in Vienna, where they discovered information about the reactor. The attack was launched after intense discussions between the American administration under the leadership of President George W. Bush and the Israeli leadership.
In a September 2012 analysis in The New Yorker by David Makovsky, senior fellow and director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at The Washington Institute, the information recovered by the Mossad operatives “was damning: roughly three dozen color photographs taken from inside the Syrian building, indicating that it was a top-secret plutonium nuclear reactor. The reactor, called Al Kibar, was nine hundred yards from the Euphrates River and halfway between the borders with Turkey and Iraq. The photographs showed workers from North Korea at the site, which was far from Syria’s biggest cities. The sole purpose of this kind of plutonium reactor, in the Mossad’s analysis, was to produce an atomic bomb.”
At a meeting in Washington on June 19 that year, “Olmert told Bush that if the US did not destroy the reactor, Israel would, even if it lacked support from the Americans,” the article states. Finally, the US declined to participate but did not prevent the Israelis from carrying through with the raid on Al Kibar, which, as noted by Makovsky, “was an unparalleled success. The Begin doctrine was reaffirmed, and neither Syria nor Hezbollah has encroached on Israel since.”
“The pressing question today,” the author wrote exactly three years ago, “is whether the lessons of that success can be applied to Iran, which has insisted, against all evidence, that its nuclear ambitions are limited to civilian purposes, and whether Israel and the US [under the Obama administration] view the threat the same way.”
The Doctrine was created by former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who ordered Israel’s successful attack on the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor in June 1981, describing it as an act of “anticipatory self-defense at its best.”
PLO States Recognition of Israel
On Sept. 9, 1993, late arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), sent a letter to then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin stating recognition of Israel. Israel in turn stated recognition of the PLO as representative of the Palestinians in peace negotiations.
According to the letter from Arafat, the PLO, among its pledges, recognizes the right of Israel to exist in peace and security, renounces terrorism, commits to a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict and affirms that those articles of the PLO covenant denying Israel’s right to exist were no longer valid.