Book claims Israel sent arms to Argentina in Falklands War

Argentinian journalist says Menachem Begin supported military junta to avenge the 1947 hanging of Irgun fighter Dov Gruner.

operation israel argentina_311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
operation israel argentina_311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
LONDON – Israel secretly provided arms to Argentina during its 1982 Falklands War with Britain because of then Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s hatred of the British, according to a book published this week.
Written by Argentinean journalist Hernan Dobry, the book, Operation Israel: The Rearming of Argentina During the Dictatorship 1976-1983, claims that Begin had such a deep-rooted hatred of Britain that Israel covertly became the biggest supplier of military equipment to the Argentine military junta.
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An array of equipment and arms was sent to Argentina by Begin, including gas masks, radar alert systems, air-to-air missiles, fuel tanks for fighter jets and even French-built Mirage fighter jets, the book states.
The Falklands war was fought between Argentina and Britain over the disputed Falklands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands. Britain launched the war in April 1982 after Argentinean troops invaded the British-controlled islands and it ended in June with the surrender of Argentina.
In total, 255 British troops and 650 Argentineans were killed during the 72-day conflict.
The book asserts that Begin never forgave the British for the hanging of his close friend and Irgun member Dov Gruner by the Mandate authorities in 1947.
Dobry claims that Argentina was so desperate for any ally that could supply arms and other war supplies that the Argentine Air Force contacted the Israeli defense company Isrex in Buenos Aires. The company was willing to help, but needed further authorization from Jerusalem and requested a meeting with Begin.
According to Israel Lotersztain, a sales representative from Isrex in Argentina, Begin said during the meeting: “You’ve come to talk badly about the British. Is this going to be used to kill the English?
Kadima [go ahead], Dov [Gruner] from up there is going to be happy with the decision. Obviously, it must be all done perfectly,” Begin allegedly stated.
“He [Begin] hated the English above all,” Lotersztain said. “Everyone had forgotten the British occupation, but not him.”
A close colleague, Jaime Weinstein, said that Begin, “had a deep hatred and resentment towards the British.
“He did all that was possible to help Argentina, selling her weapons during the Malvinas [Falklands] conflict,” he added.
“The Jewish state was not only willing to supply the government of [Argentinean president] Leopoldo Galtieri in everything it needed but was also proactive in advising and conveying their experiences in combat,” Dobry maintained.
The arms and supplies were dispatched to Peru, however, because Israel had close relations with Britain and could not appear to openly support Argentina.
According to the book, Dobry said that then-Peruvian president Fernando Belaunde Therry allowed Israel to use Peru’s main ports, Lima and Callao, and the arms and supplies were covertly flown to Buenos Aires on Aerolineas Argentinas planes.
It also maintains that larger planes were needed for some of the heavier equipment and Belgian planes flying under the Luxembourg flag were used. This had to be approved by the Mossad, the book says.
However, British intelligence services kept track of aircraft landing in Peru and even photographed some of the arrivals.
“A newspaper once published a picture showing the loading on to an Aerolineas Argentinas plane and the British ambassador in Israel took the photo to Begin and hell broke out,” Lotersztain said.
“They were aware of the whole operation to the extent that sometimes, when we discussed whether some supplies had arrived, we would say, ‘Let’s ask the English,’” he added.