Israel’s Nuclear Ambiguity Reconsidered
The Israeli policy of “nuclear opacity” — by which that country’s presumptive nuclear weapons program is not formally acknowledged — is examined in the new book “The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb” by Avner Cohen (Columbia University Press, October 2010).
For a variety of reasons, the author concludes that Israel’s “nuclear opacity” is obsolete and will have to be replaced, sooner or later, with a forthright acknowledgment of what everyone already believes to be the case anyway.
Cohen, an Israeli scholar who was trained as a philosopher, provides a lucid account of how nuclear opacity has “worked,” i.e. served Israeli interests, by providing the benefits of deterrence without the negative political and strategic consequences that could ensue from overt disclosure. But its time has passed, he says.
“I argue that the old Israeli bargain with the bomb has outlived its usefulness, that it has become increasingly incompatible with contemporary democratic values at home and with the growth of international norms of transparency, and that it is time for Israel and others to consider a new bargain.” Among other things, he says, the continuing development of nuclear weapons-related technology in Iran is likely the force the issue to a new degree of clarity.
For the time being, however, there is no sign of any change in Israel’s position on the matter. “Israel has a clear and responsible nuclear policy, and it has frequently reiterated that it will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East,” David Danieli of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission told Haaretz last month. “Israel neither adds to nor subtracts from this statement.”
Avner Cohen’s “The Worst-Kept Secret” was reviewed recently in the New York Times and the Forward.
The FAS Nuclear Notebook is one of the most widely sourced reference materials worldwide for reliable information about the status of nuclear weapons, and has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987.. The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by the staff of the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Information Project: Director Hans […]
On 14 April 2023, the Belarusian Ministry of Defence released a short video of a Su-25 pilot explaining his new role in delivering “special [nuclear] munitions” following his training in Russia. The features seen in the video, as well as several other open-source clues, suggest that Lida Air Base––located only 40 kilometers from the Lithuanian border and the […]
A photo in a Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) student briefing from 2022 shows four people inspecting what appears to be a damaged B61 nuclear bomb.
In early-February 2023, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) had informed Congress that China now has more launchers for Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) than the United States. The report is the latest in a serious of revelations over the past four years about China’s growing nuclear weapons arsenal and the deepening […]