Robin Yapp – Telegraph.co.uk April 21, 2011
Air to air missiles, missile radar alert systems, fuel tanks for fighter bombers and gas masks were dispatched from Israel apparently destined for Peru but were then transported on to Argentina, it claims.
As the British Task Force sent to reclaim the islands after the 1982 Argentine invasion of the Falklands began to get the upper hand, Argentina’s ruling military junta was left with few choices from which to source replacements for equipment lost in war.
But according to ‘Operation Israel: the rearming of Argentina during the dictatorship (1976/1983)’ the junta found that Begin was willing to strike an agreement.
Interviews conducted by the author of the book, the Argentine journalist Hernan Dobry, reveal that Begin saw the deals as a form of revenge for the hanging of a personal friend, Dov Gruner, by the British Mandatory Authorities in Palestine in 1947.
After the Argentine Air Force contacted Isrex, the Israeli defence company, a meeting was arranged between representatives of the company and Begin
Israel Lotersztain, a salesman for Isrex Argentina, said Begin interrupted the Isrex officials as they tried to explain the situation, saying: “You’ve come to talk badly about the British. Is this going to be used to kill the English? Kadima (go ahead).
“Dov [Gruner] up there is going to be happy with the decision. Obviously, it must be all done perfectly.”
Gruner was sentenced to death for his part in an attack on a police station by Irgun, the Zionist underground paramilitary movement which Begin commanded before the state of Israel was established.
As he awaited hanging, he wrote a letter to Begin, thanking him for his support and emphasising his belief in Irgun.
“He [Begin] hated the English above all; everyone had forgotten the British occupation, but not him” according to Lotersztain.
His colleague Jaime Weinstein agreed, saying: “He did all that was possible to help Argentina, selling her weapons during the Malvinas [the Argentine name for the Falklands] conflict.”
Israel needed a third party to help with the deal so that the British would not know that it was helping Argentina and this is where Peru, despite the fact that it had tried to broker a peace plan which Argentina rejected, came in.
Dobry reveals that Fernando Belaunde Therry, the Peruvian president, authorised Israel to transport arms and equipment to Lima and Callao, Peru’s main port, before being secretly flown to Buenos Aires aboard Aerolineas Argentinas planes.
The Peruvian Air Force signed blank purchase orders, which enabled Argentina to request whatever they needed from Israel.
“The task was to support them in everything we could, and there was no problem to sign a purchase order,” said a high-ranking Peruvian officer.
According to the book, which has been previewed in the Argentine newspaper La Nacion, larger planes than the Peruvian Air Force could provide were needed for some heavier equipment leading to the involvement of a Belgian company using the Luxembourg flag which was approved by Mossad.
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,” said Lotersztain.
“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’”.
There were five flights in total from Tel Aviv to Buenos Aires via Lima, loaded with equipment such as gas masks, radar warning systems to prevent fire from enemy missiles, air to air missiles, duvet jackets and spare parts.
Additional fuel tanks for fighter bombers supplied by Israel were particularly important for Argentina’s war effort as they enabled pilots to fly to the Falklands and return to the Argentine mainland without stopping.
Dobry discovered that Israel sent 1,500-litre tanks rather than the standard 1,300-litre models and writes that this meant the British Task Force had to move its fleet further east to prevent further bombings.
“The Jewish state was not only willing to supply the government of Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri in everything it needed but was also proactive in advising and conveying their experiences in combat,” said Dobry.