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Nuclear program start date
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See also: Israel and weapons of mass destruction
Israel is widely believed to be the sixth country in the world to have developed nuclear weapons and to be one of four nuclear-armed countries not recognized as a Nuclear Weapons State by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the others being India,Pakistan and North Korea. Former International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei regarded Israel as a state possessing nuclear weapons,but Israel maintains a policy known as "nuclear ambiguity" (also known as "nuclear opacity"). Israel has never officially admitted to having nuclear weapons, instead repeating over the years that it would not be the first country to "introduce" nuclear weapons to theMiddle East, leaving ambiguity as to whether it means it will not create, will not disclose, will not make first use of the weapons or possibly some other interpretation of the phrase. The "not be the first" formulation goes back to before March 11 1965, when a cable from the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to
Washington noted "The Government of Israel has reaffirmed that will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Arab-Israel area."  Israel has refused to sign the NPT despite international pressure to do so, and has stated that signing the NPT would be contrary to its national security interests. Israel
Israel started investigating the nuclear field soon after its founding in 1948 and with Frenchsupport secretly began building a nuclear reactor and reprocessing plant in the late 1950s. Although
first built a nuclear weapon in the late 1960s, it was not publicly confirmed from the inside until Mordechai Vanunu, a former Israeli nuclear technician, revealed details of the program to the British press in 1986. Israel
Israel is currently believed to possess between 75 and 400 nuclear warheads with the ability to deliver them by intercontinental ballistic missile, aircraft, and submarine.
· 6 Policy
o 6.3 Use
In 1949 a unit of the Israel Defense Forces Science Corps, known by the Hebrew acronym HEMED GIMMEL, carried out a two yeargeological survey of the Negev. While a preliminary study was initially prompted by rumors of petroleum fields, one objective of the longer two year survey was to find sources of uranium; some small recoverable amounts were found in phosphate deposits. That year HEMED GIMMEL funded six Israeli physics graduate students to study overseas, including one to go to the University of Chicago and study underEnrico Fermi, who had overseen the world's first artificial and self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. In early 1952 HEMED GIMMEL was moved from the IDF to the Ministry of Defense and was reorganized as the Division of Research and Infrastructure (EMET). That June Bergmann was appointed by Ben-Gurion to be the first chairman of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC).
HEMED GIMMEL was renamed Machon 4 during the transfer, and was used by Bergmann as the "chief laboratory" of the IAEC; by 1953, Machon 4, working with the Department of Isotope Research at the Weizmann Institute, developed the capability to extract uranium from the phosphate in the Negev and new technique to produce indigenous heavy water. The techniques were two years more advanced than American efforts. Bergmann, who was interested in increasing nuclear cooperation with the French, sold both patents to theCommissariat à l'énergie atomique (CEA) for 60 million francs. Although they were never commercialized, it was a consequential step for future French-Israeli cooperation. In addition, Israeli scientists probably helped construct the G-1 plutonium production reactor and UP-1 reprocessing plant at Marcoule.
France and had close relations in many areas. Israel France was principal arms supplier for the young Jewish state, and as instability spread through French colonies in provided valuable intelligence obtained from contacts with Sephardi Jews in those countries. At the same time Israeli scientists were also observing France's own nuclear program, and were the only foreign scientists allowed to roam "at will" at the nuclear facility at Marcoule. In addition to the relationships between Israeli and French Jewish and non-Jewish researchers, the French believed that cooperation with North Africa, Israel could give them access to international Jewish nuclear scientists. Israel
After US President Dwight Eisenhower announced the Atoms for Peace initiative, Israel became the second country to sign on (followingTurkey), and signed a peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States on 12 July 1955. This culminated in a public signing ceremony on 20 March 1957 to construct a "small swimming-pool research reactor in Nachal Soreq", which would be used to shroud the construction of a much larger facility with the French at Dimona.
Main article: Negev Nuclear Research Center
The French justified their decision to provide
a nuclear reactor by claiming it was not without precedent. In September 1955 Canadapublicly announced that it would help the Indian government build a heavy-water research reactor, the CIRUS, for "peaceful purposes".When Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, France proposed Israel attack Egypt and invade the Sinai as a pretext for France and Britain to invade Egypt posing as "peacekeepers" with the true intent of seizing the Suez Canal (see Suez Crisis). In exchange, Israel would provide the nuclear reactor as the basis for the Israeli nuclear weapons program. Shimon Peres, sensing the opportunity on the nuclear reactor, accepted. On 17 September 1956, Peres and Bergmann reached a tentative agreement inParis for the CEA to sell France a small research reactor. This was reaffirmed by Peres at the Protocol of Sèvres conference in late October for the sale of a reactor to be built near Dimona and for a supply of uranium fuel. Israel
The French-Israeli relationship was finalized on 3 October 1957 in two agreements whose contents remain secret: One political that declared the project to be for peaceful purposes and specified other legal obligations, and one technical that described a 24 megawatt EL-102 reactor. The one to actually be built was to be two to three times as large and be able to produce 22 kilograms of plutonium a year.
Before construction began it was determined that the scope of the project would be too large for the EMET and IAEC team, so Shimon Peres recruited Colonel Manes Pratt, then Israeli military attaché in Burma, to be the project leader. Building began in late 1957 or early 1958, bringing hundreds of French engineers and technicians to the Beersheba and Dimona area. In addition, thousands of newly immigrated Sephardic Jews were recruited to do digging; to circumvent strict labor laws, they were hired in increments of 59 days, separated by one day off.
When Charles de Gaulle became French President in late 1958 he wanted to end French-Israeli nuclear cooperation, and said that he would not supply Israel with uranium unless the plant was opened to international inspectors, declared peaceful, and no plutonium was reprocessed. Through an extended series of negotiations, Shimon Peres finally reached a compromise with Foreign Minister Maurice Couve de Murville over two years later, in which French companies would be able to continue to fulfill their contract obligations and
would declare the project peaceful. Due to this, French assistance did not end until 1966. Israel
Top secret British documents obtained by BBC Newsnight show that Britain made hundreds of secret shipments of restricted materials to Israel in the 1950s and 1960s. These included specialist chemicals for reprocessing and samples of fissile material—uranium-235 in 1959, and plutonium in 1966, as well as highly enriched lithium-6 which is used to boost fission bombs and fuel hydrogen bombs. The investigation also showed that
Britain shipped 20 tons of heavy water directly to in 1959 and 1960 to start up theDimona reactor. The transaction was made through a Norwegian front company called Noratom which took a 2% commission on the transaction. Israel was challenged about the heavy water deal at the International Atomic Energy Agency after it was exposed on Newsnight in 2005. British Foreign Minister Kim Howells claimed this was a sale to Norway. But a former British intelligence officer who investigated the deal at the time confirmed that this was really a sale to Britain and the Noratom contract was just a charade. TheForeign Office finally admitted in March 2006 that Israel Britain knew the destination was all along. Israel Israel admits running the Dimona reactor with 's heavy water since 1963. French engineers who helped build Dimona say the Israelis were expert operators, so only a relatively small portion of the water were lost during the years past since the first operation of the reactor. Norway
In 1961, the Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion informed the Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker that a pilot plutonium-separation plant would be built at Dimona. British intelligence concluded from this and other information that this "can only mean that
intends to produce nuclear weapons". The nuclear reactor at Dimona went critical in 1962. By 1965 the Israeli reprocessing plant was completed and ready to convert the reactor's fuel rods into weapons grade plutonium. Israel
The exact cost for the construction of the Israeli nuclear program are unknown, though Peres later said that the reactor cost $80 million in 1960 dollars, half of which was raised by foreign Jewish donors, including many American Jews. Some of these donors were given a tour of the Dimona complex in 1968.
Weapons production 1967–present
Completed Dimona complex as seen by US Corona satellite on November 11, 1968
In order to produce plutonium the Israelis needed a large supply of uranium ore, some of which was procured by the Mossad on the pretense of buying it for an Italian chemical company in Milan. Once the uranium was shipped from Antwerp it was transferred to an Israeli freighter at sea and brought to
. The orchestrated disappearance of the uranium, named Operation Plumbat, became the subject of the 1978 book The Plumbat Affair. Israel
Estimates as to how many warheads
has built since the late 1960s have varied, mainly based on the amount of fissile material that could have been produced and on the revelations of Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu. Israel
Mordechai Vanunu's photograph of a Negev Nuclear Research Center glove box containing nuclear materials in a model bomb assembly, one of about 60 photographs he later gave to the British press
By 1969, U.S. Defense Secretary Melvin Laird believed that
might have a nuclear weapon that year. Later that year, U.S. President Richard Nixon in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir pressed Israel to "make no visible introduction of nuclear weapons or undertake a nuclear test program", so maintaining a policy of nuclear ambiguity. Before the Yom Kippur War Peres nonetheless wanted Israel to publicly demonstrate its nuclear capability to discourage an Arab attack, and fear of Israeli nuclear weapons may have discouraged Arab military strategy during the war from being as aggressive as it could have been. Israel
The CIA believed that Israel's first bombs may have been made with highly enriched uraniumstolen in the mid-1960s from the US Navy nuclear fuel plant operated by the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation, where sloppy material accounting would have masked the theft.
By 1974 US intelligence believed Israel had stockpiled a small number of fission weapons,and by 1979 were perhaps in a position to test a more advanced small tactical nuclear weaponor thermonuclear weapon trigger design.
The CIA believed that the number of Israeli nuclear weapons stayed from 10 to 20 from 1974 until the early 1980s. Vanunu's information in October 1986 said that based on a reactor operating at 150 megawatts and a production of 40 kg of plutonium per year, Israel had 100 to 200 nuclear devices. Vanunu revealed that between 1980–1986 Israel attained the ability to build thermonuclear weapons. By the mid 2000s estimates of
's arsenal ranged from 75 to 400 nuclear warheads. Israel
Several reports have surfaced claiming that
has some uranium enrichment capability at Dimona. Vanunu asserted that gas centrifuges were operating in Machon 8, and that a laser enrichment plant was being operated in Machon 9 (Israel holds a 1973 patent onlaser isotope separation). According to Vanunu, the production-scale plant has been operating since 1979–80. The scale of a centrifuge operation would necessarily be limited due to space constraints.[specify] Laser isotope separation, however, if developed to operational status, could be quite compact. If highly enriched uranium is being produced in substantial quantities, then Israel 's nuclear arsenal could be much larger than estimated solely from plutonium production. Uranium enrichment could also be used to re-enrich reprocessed uranium into reactor fuel to more efficiently use Israel 's uranium supply. Israel
In 1991 alone, as the Soviet Union dissolved, nearly 20 top Jewish Soviet scientists reportedly emigrated to
, some of whom had been involved in operating nuclear power plants and planning for the next generation of Soviet reactors. In September 1992, German intelligence was quoted in the press as estimating that 40 top Jewish Soviet nuclear scientists had emigrated to Israel since 1989. Israel
In a 2010 interview Uzi Eilam, former head of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, told to the Israeli daily Maariv that the nuclear reactor in Dimona had been through extensive improvements and renovations and is now functioning as new, with no safety problems or hazard to the surrounding environment or the region.
Main article: Vela Incident
On 22 September 1979, a US Vela satellite, built in the 1960s to detect nuclear tests, reported a flash resembling a nuclear detonation in the southern Indian Ocean. After weighing the information the NSC concluded that it could not tell whether a test had occurred or not.The Carter administration then created a scientific panel led by MIT professor Jack Ruina, to analyze the reliability of the Vela detection; they concluded in July 1980 that the flash "was probably not from a nuclear explosion," Author Richard Rhodes asserts that the Carter administration was concerned about disrupting relations with South Africa, so the administration deliberately obscured their conclusions by putting forward a cover story that the flash was a result of natural causes. According to Rhodes and Seymour Hersh, the explosion was a nuclear test conducted by
Israel with the cooperation of . Hersch writes that the explosion was actually the third joint Israeli-South African nuclear test in the South Africa Indian Ocean, and the Israelis had sent two IDF ships and "a contingent of Israeli military men and nuclear experts" for the test.
The Israeli nuclear program was first revealed publicly on 13 December 1960 in a small Time article, which said that a non-Communistnon-NATO country had made an "atomic development." On December 16, the Daily Express revealed this country to be Israel, and on December 18, US Atomic Energy Commission chairman John McCone appeared on Meet the Press to officially confirm the Israeli construction of a nuclear reactor and announce his resignation. The following day The New York Times, with the help of McCone, revealed that
France was assisting . Israel
The news led Ben-Gurion to make the only statement by an Israeli Prime Minister about Dimona. On December 21 he announced to the Knesset that the government was building a 24 megawatt reactor "which will serve the needs of industry, agriculture, health, and science," and that it "is designed exclusively for peaceful purposes." Bergmann, who was chairman of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission from 1954 to 1966, however said that "There is no distinction between nuclear energy for peaceful purposes or warlike ones"  and that "We shall never again be led as lambs to the slaughter".
On 5 October 1986, the British newspaper The Sunday Times ran Mordechai Vanunu's story on its front page under the headline: "Revealed: the secrets of
's nuclear arsenal" Israel
The first public revelation of
Israel's nuclear capability (as opposed to development program) came from NBC News, which reported in January 1969 that decided "to embark on a crash course program to produce a nuclear weapon" two years previously, and that they possessed or would soon be in possession of such a device. This was initially dismissed by Israeli and US officials, as well as in an article in The New York Times. Just one year later on July 18, The New York Times made public for the first time that the US government believed Israel to possess nuclear weapons or to have the "capacity to assemble atomic bombs on short notice." Israel reportedly assembled 13 bombs during the Yom Kippur War as a last defense against total defeat, and kept them usable after the war. Israel
The first extensive details of the weapons program came in the London based Sunday Times on 5 October 1986, which printed information provided by Mordechai Vanunu, a technician formerly employed at the Negev Nuclear Research Center near Dimona. For publication of state secrets Vanunu was kidnapped by the Mossad in Rome, brought back to
, and sentenced to 18 years in prison for treason and espionage. Although there had been much speculation prior to Vanunu's revelations that the Dimona site was creating nuclear weapons, Vanunu's information indicated that Israel had also built thermonuclear weapons. Israel
In May 2008, former
US President Jimmy Carter stated that " has 150 or more [nuclear weapons]." Israel
South African documents
In 2010, The Guardian released South African government documents that it alleged confirmed the existence of
's nuclear arsenal. According to the newspaper, the documents are minutes taken by the South African side of alleged meetings between senior officials from the two countries in 1975. The Guardian alleged that these documents reveal that Israel Israel had offered to sell nuclear weapons that year. The documents appeared to confirm information disclosed by a former South African naval commander, who said there was an agreement between South Africa Israel and South Africa which involved an offer by Israel to arm eight missiles with atomic bombs. Waldo Stumpf—who led a project to dismantle South Africa's nuclear weapons program—doubted Israel or South Africa would have contemplated a deal seriously, saying that Israel could not have offered to sell nuclear warheads to his country due to the serious international complications that such a deal could have. Shimon Peres, now Israeli President and then defence minister, has officially rejected the newspaper's claim that the alleged negotiations took place. He also asserted that The Guardian's conclusions were "based on the selective interpretation of South African documents and not on concrete facts." Jericho
Avner Cohen, author of
Israel and the Bomb and the forthcoming The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel's Bargain with the Bomb, said "Nothing in the documents suggests there was an actual offer by Israel to sell nuclear weapons to the regime in Pretoria."
The State of Israel has never made public any details of its nuclear capability or arsenal. The following is a history of estimates by many different reputable sources on the size and strength of
's nuclear arsenal. Estimates may vary due to the amount of material Israel has on store versus assembled weapons, and estimates as to how much material the weapons actually use, as well as the overall time in which the reactor was operated. Israel nuclear might is commonly estimated as moving between 200 to 400 warheads, equivalent to almost four thousand Hiroshima-type bombs. Israel
§ 1974– 3 capable artillery battalions each with 12 175 mm tubes and a total of 108 warheads; 10 bombs
§ 1976– 10–20 nuclear weapons
§ 1985– at least 100 nuclear bombs
§ 1991– 50–60 to 200–300
§ 1992– more than 200 bombs
§ 1995– 66–116 bombs (at 5 kg/warhead); 70–80 bombs; "A complete Repertoire" (neutron bombs, nuclear mines, suitcase bombs, submarine-borne)
§ 1996– 60–80 plutonium weapons, maybe more than 100 assembled, ER variants, varitable yields
§ 1997– More than 400 deliverable thermonuclear and nuclear weapons 
§ 2002– Between 75 and 200 weapons
§ 2004– 82
§ 2006– Federation of American Scientists believes that
"could have produced enough plutonium for at least 100 nuclear weapons, but probably not significantly more than 200 weapons". Israel
§ 2008– 150 or more nuclear weapons.
§ 2008– 80 intact warheads, of which 50 are re-entry vehicles for delivery by ballistic missiles and the rest bombs for delivery by aircraft. Total military plutonium stockpile 340–560 kg.
§ 2009– Estimates of weapon numbers differ sharply with plausible estimates varying from 60 to 400.
§ 2010– According to Jane's Defense Weekly Israel has between 100 and 300 nuclear warheads, most of them are probably being kept in unassembled mode but can become fully functional "in a matter of days".
§ 2010– "[M]ore than 100 weapons, mainly two-stage thermonuclear devices, capable of being delivered by missile, fighter-bomber, or submarine"
Israeli military forces possess land, air, and sea based methods for deploying their nuclear weapons, thus forming nuclear triad that is mainly medium to long ranged, the backbone of which is submarine launched cruise missiles and medium and intercontinental ballistic missiles, with Israeli Air Force tactical aircraft fulfilling the role normally played by strategic bombers in the Russian and American strategic deterrent. During 2008 the Jericho III ICBM became operational, giving
extremely long range nuclear strike abilities. Israel
Main article: Jericho missile
"Everybody can do the math and understand that the significance is that we can reach with a rocket engine to every point in the world"
The test came two days after Ehud Olmert, then Israel's Prime Minister, warned that "all options were on the table to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons" and few months after Israel bombed Syrian facility that was suspected as nuclear plant, built with extensive help from North Korea. At the same time, regional defence experts said that by the beginning of 2008 Israel has already launched a programme to extend the range of its existing Jericho II ground attack missiles. The Jericho-II B missile is capable of sending a one ton nuclear payload 5,000 kilometers. The range of Israels' Jericho II B missiles is reportedly capable of being modified to carry nuclear warheads no heavier than 500 kg over 7,800 km, making it an ICBM. It is estimated that Israel has between 50 and 100Jericho II B missiles based at facilities which were built in the 1980s. However, the number of Jericho III missiles that
possesses is unknown. Israel
Main article: Israeli Air Force
The Israeli Air Force possesses the following types of strike fighters:
The Israeli Navy operates modern German-built Dolphin-class submarines. The first three Dolphins were delivered to
in 1999 and replaced the aging Gal class submarines, which had served in the Israeli navy since the late-1970s. Various reports indicate that these submarines are equipped with Popeye Turbo cruise missiles that can deliver nuclear warheads with extremely high accuracy. The proven effectiveness of cruise missiles of its own production may have been behind Israel’s recent acquisition of these submarines which are equipped with torpedo tubes suitable for launching long-range (1500–2400 km) nuclear-capable cruise missiles that would offer Israel a second strike capability. Israel is reported to possess a 200 kg nuclear warhead, containing 6 kg of plutonium, that could be mounted on cruise missiles. The missiles were reportedly test launched in the Indian Ocean near Sri Lanka in June 2000, and are reported to have hit their target at a range of 1500 km.In June 2002, former State Department and Pentagon officials confirmed that the U.S. Navy observed Israeli missile tests in the Indian Ocean in 2000, and that the Dolphin-class vessels have been fitted with nuclear-capable cruise missiles of a new design.It is believed by some to be a version of Rafael Armament Development Authority’s Popeye turbo cruise missile while some believe that the missile may be a version of the Gabriel 4LR that is produced by Israel Aircraft Industries. However, others claim that such a range implies an entirely new type of missile. During the second half of the 1990s, Israel Israel asked the to sell it 50 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles to enhance its deep-strike capabilities. United States Washington rejected 's request in March 1998, since such a sale would have violated the Missile Technology Control Regime guidelines, which prohibit the transfer of missiles with a range exceeding 300 km. Shortly after the rejection, an Israeli official told Defense News, "History has taught us that we cannot wait indefinitely for Israel to satisfy our military requirements. If this weapon system is denied to us, we will have little choice but to activate our own defense industry in pursuit of this needed capability." In July 1998, the Washington Air Intelligence Center warned the U.S. Congress that was developing a cruise missile of new type. Israel
According to Israeli defence sources, in June 2009 Israeli Dolphin-class submarine sailed from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea via Suez Canal during a drill that showed that Israel can access the Indian Ocean, and the Persian Gulf, far more easily than before. IDFsources said the decision to allow navy vessels to sail through the canal was made recently and was a definite "change of policy" within the service. Israeli officials said the sub passed through the canal above water. In the event of a conflict with Iran, and if
Israel decided to involve its Dolphin-class submarines, the quickest route would be to send them through the Suez Canal.
The Israeli fleet was expanded after
signed 1.3 billion euro contract to purchase two additional submarines from ThyssenKrupp'ssubsidiary HDW in 2006. These two U212s are to be delivered to the Israeli sea corps in 2011 and are "Dolphin II" class submarines.The submarines are believed to be capable of launching cruise missiles carrying nuclear warheads, despite statements by the German government in 2006, in confirming the sale of the two vessels, that they were not equipped to carry nuclear weapons. The two new boats are an upgraded version of the old Dolphins, and equipped with an Air-independent propulsion system, that allow them to remain submerged for longer periods of time than the three nuclear arms-capable submarines that have been in Israel's fleet since 1999.In October 2009 it was reported that the Israeli navy sought to buy a sixth Dolphin class submarine. Israel
It has been reported that
has several other nuclear weapons capabilities: Israel
§ Suitcase bomb: Seymour Hersh reports that
developed the ability to miniaturize warheads small enough to fit in a suitcase by the year 1973. Israel
§ Tactical nuclear weapon:
may also have 175 mm and 203 mm self-propelled artillery pieces, capable of firing nuclear shells. There are three battalions of the 175mm artillery (36 tubes), reportedly with 108 nuclear shells and more for the 203mm tubes. If true, these low yield, tactical nuclear artillery rounds could reach at least 25 miles (40 km), while by some sources it is possible that the range was extended to 45 miles (72 km) during the 1990s. Israel
§ EMP strike capabilities: Israel allegedly possesses several 1 megaton bombs, which give it a very large EMP attack abilities. For example, if a megaton class weapon were to be detonated 400 kilometers above Omaha, Nebraska, USA, nearly the entire continental United States would be affected with potentially damaging EMP experience from Boston to Los Angeles and fromChicago to New Orleans. Similarly, a high altitude airburst could cause serious damage to electrical systems in most of
§ Enhanced Radiation Weapon (ERW):
also is reported to have an unknown number of neutron bombs. Israel
Israel has officially acknowledged the existence of Dimona since Ben-Gurion's speech to the Knesset in December 1960, has never officially acknowledged its construction or possession of nuclear weapons. In addition to this policy, on 18 May 1966 Prime Minister Levi Eshkol told the Knesset that "Israel has no atomic weapons and will not be the first to introduce them into our region," a policy first articulated by Shimon Peres to US President John F. Kennedy in April 1963. In the late 1960s, Israeli Ambassador to the US Yitzhak Rabin informed the United States State Department that its understanding of "introducing" such weapons meant that they would be tested and publicly declared, while merely possessing the weapons did not constitute "introducing" them. Avner Cohen defines this initial posture as "nuclear ambiguity," but he defines the stage after it became clear by 1970 that Israel possessed nuclear weapons as a policy of amimut, or "nuclear opacity." Israel
In 1998, former Prime Minister Shimon Peres said that Israel "built a nuclear option, not in order to have a Hiroshima but an Oslo".The "nuclear option" may refer to a nuclear weapon or to the nuclear reactor near Dimona, which Israel claims is used for scientific research. Peres, in his capacity as the Director General of the Ministry of Defense in the early 1950s, was responsible for building
's nuclear capability. Israel
In a December 2006 interview, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated that Iran aspires "to have a nuclear weapon as America, France, Israel and Russia." Olmert's office later said that the quote was taken out of context; in other parts of the interview, Olmert refused to confirm or deny Israel's nuclear weapon status.
As a result, its strategy is based on the premise that it cannot afford to lose a single war, and thus must prevent them by maintaining deterrence, including the option of preemption. If these steps are insufficient, it seeks to prevent escalation and determine a quick and decisive war outside of its borders.
Israel's long-range missiles, nuclear capable aircraft, and possibly its submarines present an effective second strikedeterrence against unconventional and conventional attack, and if 's defences fail and its population centres be threatened, theSamson Option, an all out attack against an adversary, would be employed. Its nuclear arsenal can also be used tactically. Israel
Although nuclear weapons are viewed as the ultimate guarantor of Israeli security, as early as the 1960s the country has avoided building its military around them, instead pursuing absolute conventional superiority so as to forestall a last resort nuclear engagement.
According to historian Avner Cohen,
Israel first articulated an official policy on the use of nuclear weapons in 1966, which revolved around four "red lines" that could lead to a nuclear response:
1. A successful military penetration into populated areas within
's post-1949 (pre-1967) borders. Israel
2. The destruction of the Israeli Air Force.
3. The exposure of Israeli cities to massive and devastating air attacks or to possible chemical or biological attacks.
4. The use of nuclear weapons against Israeli territory.
On 8 October 1973 just after the start of the Yom Kippur War, Golda Meir and her closest aides decided to put eight nuclear armed F-4sat Tel Nof Airbase on 24 hour alert and as many nuclear missile launchers at Sedot Mikha Airbase operational as possible. Seymour Hersh adds that the initial target list that night "included the Egyptian and Syrian military headquarters near Cairo and Damascus."This nuclear alert was meant not only as a means of precaution, but to push the Soviets to restrain the Arab offensive and to convince the
to begin sending supplies. One later report said that a Soviet intelligence officer did warn the Egyptian chief of staff, and colleagues of US National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger said that the threat of a nuclear exchange caused him to urge for a massive Israeli resupply. Hersh points out that before US Israel obtained its own satellite capability, it engaged in espionage against the to obtain nuclear targeting information on Soviet targets. United States
Israeli military and nuclear doctrine increasingly focused on preemptive war against any possible attack with conventional, chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, or even a potential conventional attack on Israel's weapons of mass destruction.
Louis René Beres, who contributed to Project Daniel, urges that Israel continue and improve these policies, in concert with the increasingly preemptive nuclear policies of the United States, as revealed in the Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations.
After Iraq attacked
Israel with Scud missiles during the 1991 Gulf War, went on full-scale nuclear alert and mobile nuclear missile launchers were deployed. In the build up to the United States 2003 invasion of Iraq, there were concerns that Iraq would launch an unconventional weapons attack on Israel. After discussions with President George W. Bush, the then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharonwarned "If our citizens are attacked seriously — by a weapon of mass destruction, chemical, biological or by some mega-terror attack act — and suffer casualties, then Israel will respond." Israeli officials interpreted President Bush's stance as allowing a nuclear Israeli retaliation on Israel Iraq, but only if Iraq struck before the military invasion. US
Maintaining nuclear superiority
Alone or with other nations,
has used diplomatic and military efforts as well as covert action to prevent other Middle Eastern countries from acquiring nuclear weapons. Israel
For example, it is believed that
filed a false laser patent in the late 1970s to mislead Arab nuclear research. Mossad agents triggered explosions in April 1979 at a French production plant near Toulouse, damaging the two reactor cores destined for the Iraqi reactors. Mossad agents may also have been behind the assassinations of an Egyptian nuclear engineer in Israel as well as two Iraqi engineers, all working for the Iraqi nuclear program. Paris
On 7 June 1981,
Israel launched a preemptive air strike against Saddam Hussein's breeder reactor in Osirak, Iraq, in Operation Opera. TheMossad – as well as any number of other intelligence agencies – are also frequently said to have assassinated professor Gerald Bull, an artillery expert, who was allegedly building a massive cannon or "super gun" for Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, which was capable of delivering a tactical nuclear payload.
On 6 September 2007,
Israel launched an air strike dubbed Operation Orchard against a target in the Deir ez-Zor region of Syria. While Israel refused to comment, unnamed US officials said Israel had shared intelligence with them that North Korea was cooperating with on some sort of nuclear facility. Both Syria and Syria North Korea denied the allegation and filed a formal complaint with the United Nations. The International Atomic Energy Agency concluded in May 2011 that the destroyed facility was "very likely" an undeclared nuclear reactor. Syria
Journalist Seymour Hersh speculated that this air strike might have been intended as a trial run for striking alleged Iranian nuclear weapons facilities. On January 7, 2007 The Sunday Times reported that Israel had drawn up plans to destroy three Iranian nuclear facilities with low-yield nuclear bunker-busters that would be launched by aircraft through "tunnels" created by conventional laser-guided bombs. These tactical nuclear weapons would then explode underground to reduce radioactive fallout.
swiftly denied the specific allegation and analysts expressed doubts about its reliability. However, in 2004 its then Defense minister said that it rules out no option. The death of the Iranian physicist Ardeshir Hassanpour, who may have been involved in the nuclear program, has been reported by the intelligence group Stratfor to have been a Mossad assassination. Iran is currently conducting atomic research that Israel fears is aimed at building a nuclear weapon. Israel Israel has pressed for United Nations economic sanctions against Iran, and has repeatedly threatened to launch a military strike on Iran if the does not do so first. United States
The 2010 Stuxnet malware targeting Iran's nuclear program is widely believed to have been sponsored by
. In 2009, a year before Stuxnet was discovered, researcher Scott Borg suggested that Israel Israel might prefer to mount a cyber-attack rather than a military strike on 's nuclear facilities. Iran uses IR-1 centrifuges at Natanz, which are based on the P-1 centrifuge, the design A. Q. Khan stole in 1976 and took to Pakistan. His black market nuclear-proliferation network sold P-1s to, among other customers, Iran Iran and . Experts believe that Libya also somehow acquired P-1s and tested Stuxnet on the centrifuges, installed at the Dimona facility that is part of its own nuclear program. The equipment may be from the Israel United States, which received P-1s from Libya's former nuclear program.
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and United Nations’ Resolutions
In 1996 the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region of the
Middle East. Arab nations and annual conferences of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) repeatedly have called for application of IAEA safeguards and the creation of a nuclear-free Middle East. Arab nations have accused the United States of practicing a double standard in criticizing Iran's nuclear program while ignoring 's possession of nuclear weapons. According to a statement by the Arab League, Arab states will withdraw from the NPT if Israel acknowledges having nuclear weapons but refuses to open its facilities to international inspection and destroy its arsenal. Israel
In a statement to the May 2009 preparatory meeting for the 2010 NPT Review Conference, the
U.S. delegation reiterated the longstanding U.S. support for "universal adherence to the NPT," but uncharacteristically named among the four countries that have not done so. An unnamed Israeli official dismissed the suggestion that it would join the NPT and questioned the effectiveness of the treaty. The Washington Times reported that this statement threatened to derail the 40-year-old secret agreement between the US and Israel to shield Israel's nuclear weapons program from international scrutiny, while Avner Cohen, author of Israel and the Bomb, argued that acknowledging its nuclear program would allow Israel to take part constructively in efforts to control nuclear weapons. Israel
The Final Document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference calls for a conference in 2012 to implement a resolution of the 1995 NPT Review Conference that calls for the establishment of a Middle East Zone free of weapons of mass destruction. The
United States joined the international consensus for Final Document, but criticized the section on the Middle East resolution for singling out Israel as the only state in the region that is not party to the NPT, while at the same time ignoring 's non-compliance with its NPT obligations. Iran