In this Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012 file photo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu uses a red marker on a diagram of a bomb as he describes his concerns over Iran’s nuclear ambitions during his address to the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters. Photo: Seth Wenig/AP
A majority of Americans believe Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be investigated by the FBI for nuclear weapons technology smuggling before being allowed to enter the United States according to a new poll.
In 2012 the FBI declassified and released files (PDF archive) of its investigation into how 800 nuclear weapons triggers were illegally smuggled from the U.S. to Israel. According to the FBI, the Israeli Ministry of Defense ordered nuclear triggers (krytrons), encrypted radios, ballistic missile propellants and other export-prohibited items through a network of front companies. Smuggling ring operations leader Richard Kelly Smyth alleged that Netanyahu worked at one of the fronts – Heli Trading owned by confessed spy and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan – and met with him frequently to execute smuggling operations.
The poll was commissioned by the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy (IRmep). When informed of the incident, most Americans (54.9 percent) indicate that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be investigated by the FBI before an upcoming U.S. visit.
Israel officially designated the smuggling operation “Project Pinto.” Smyth was captured, prosecuted and incarcerated in 2002 after years on the run as an international fugitive. The krytrons were believed to be destined for Israel’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.
Only 25.8 percent of Americans polled believe Netanyahu should be allowed to freely visit the U.S. while 15.9 percent say said he should neither be investigated nor allowed to enter the U.S.
Younger respondents (age 18-24 and 25-34) are generally more likely to want Netanyahu investigated (73.6 percent and 62.0 percent) than older Americans. Reponses vary little between income categories. However females (63.4 percent) were more likely than males (50.4 percent) to prefer Netanyahu be criminally investigated before being allowed to enter America.
Netanyahu has recently announced plans to break diplomatic protocol and address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and Congress in March, 2015 without coordinating his state visit with the White House.
The IRmep poll, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percent, was fielded January 26-28, 2015 by Google Consumer Surveys and received 1,507 responses. The poll question, response choices and statistically significant results may be viewed online and cross-tabulated.
Grant F. Smith is the author of America’s Defense Line: The Justice Department’s Battle to Register the Israel Lobby as Agents of a Foreign Government. He currently serves as director of research at the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy in Washington (IRmep), D.C. Read other articles by Grant, or visit Grant’s website.