| "Should war break out in the Middle East again,… or should any Arab nation fire missiles against Israel, as the Iraqis did, a nuclear escalation, once unthinkable except as a last resort, would now be a strong probability." Seymour Hersh(1)
"Arabs may have the oil, but we have the matches." Ariel Sharon(2)
With between 200 and 500 thermonuclear weapons and a sophisticated delivery system, Israel has quietly supplanted Britain as the World's 5th Largest nuclear power, and may currently rival France and China in the size and sophistication of its nuclear arsenal. Although dwarfed by the nuclear arsenals of the U.S. and Russia, each possessing over 10,000 nuclear weapons, Israel nonetheless is a major nuclear power, and should be publically recognized as such.. Since the Gulf War in 1991, while much attention has been lavished on the threat posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the major culprit in the region, Israel, has been largely ignored. Possessing chemical and biological weapons, an extremely sophisticated nuclear arsenal, and an aggressive strategy for their actual use, Israel provides the major regional impetus for the development of weapons of mass destruction and represents an acute threat to peace and stability in the Middle East. The Israeli nuclear program represents a serious impediment to nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation and, with India and Pakistan, is a potential nuclear flashpoint.(prospects of meaningful non-proliferation are a delusion so long as the nuclear weapons states insist on maintaining their arsenals,) Citizens concerned about sanctions against Iraq, peace with justice in the Middle East, and nuclear disarmament have an obligation to speak out forcefully against the Israeli nuclear program.
Birth of the Israeli Bomb
The Israeli nuclear program began in the late 1940s under the direction of Ernst David Bergmann, "the father of the Israeli bomb," who in 1952 established the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission. It was France, however, which provided the bulk of early nuclear assistance to Israel culminating in construction of Dimona, a heavy water moderated, natural uranium reactor and plutonium reprocessing factory situated near Bersheeba in the Negev Desert. Israel had been an active participant in the French Nuclear weapons program from its inception, providing critical technical expertise, and the Israeli nuclear program can be seen as an extension of this earlier collaboration. Dimona went on line in 1964 and plutonium reprocessing began shortly thereafter. Despite various Israeli claims that Dimona was "a manganese plant, or a textile factory," the extreme security measures employed told a far different story. In 1967, Israel shot down one of their own Mirage fighters that approached too close to Dimona and in 1973 shot down a Lybian civilian airliner which strayed off course, killing 104.(3) There is substantial credible speculation that Israel may have exploded at least one, and perhaps several, nuclear devices in the mid 1960s in the Negev near the Israeli-Egyptian border, and that it participated actively in French nuclear tests in Algeria.(4) By the time of the "Yom Kippur War" in 1973, Israel possessed an arsenal of perhaps several dozen deliverable atomic bombs and went on full nuclear alert.(5)
Possessing advanced nuclear technology and "world class" nuclear scientists, Israel was confronted early with a major problem- how to obtain the necessary uranium. Israel's own uranium source was the phosphate deposits in the Negev, totally inadequate to meet the need of a rapidly expanding program. The short term answer was to mount commando raids in France and Britain to successfully hijack uranium shipments and, in1968, to collaborate with West Germany in diverting 200 tons of yellowcake (uranium oxide).(6) These clandestine acquisitions of uranium for Dimona were subsequently covered up by the various countries involved. There was also an allegation that a U.S. corporation called Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC) diverted hundreds of pounds of enriched uranium to Israel from the mid-50s to the mid-60s.
Despite an FBI and CIA investigation, and Congressional hearings, no one was ever prosecuted, although most other investigators believed the diversion had occurred(7)(8). In the late 1960s, Israel solved the uranium problem by developing close ties with South Africa in a quid pro quo arrangement whereby Israel supplied the technology and expertise for the "Apartheid Bomb," while South Africa provided the uranium.
South Africa and the United States
In 1977, the Soviet Union warned the U.S. that satellite photos indicated South Africa was planning a nuclear test in the Kalahari Desert but the Apartheid regime backed down under pressure. On September 22, 1979, a U.S. satellite detected an atmospheric test of a small thermonuclear bomb in the Indian Ocean off South Africa but, because of Israel's apparent involvement, the report was quickly "whitewashed" by a carefully selected scientific panel kept in the dark about important details. Later it was learned through Israeli sources that there were actually three carefully guarded tests of miniaturized Israeli nuclear artillery shells. The Israeli/South African collaboration did not end with the bomb testing, but continued until the fall of Apartheid, especially with the developing and testing of medium range missiles and advanced artillery. In addition to uranium and test facilities, South Africa provided Israel with large amounts of investment capital, while Israel provided a major trade outlet to enable the Apartheid state avoid international economic sanctions.(9)
Although the French and South Africans were primarily responsible for the Israeli nuclear program, the U.S. shares and deserves a large part of the blame. Mark Gaffney wrote (the Israeli nuclear program) "was possible only because (emphasis in original) of calculated deception on the part of Israel, and willing complicity on the part of the U.S.."(10)
From the very beginning, the U.S. was heavily involved in the Israeli nuclear program, providing nuclear related technology such as a small research reactor in 1955 under the "Atoms for Peace Program." Israeli scientists were largely trained at U.S. universities and were generally welcomed at the nuclear weapons labs. In the early 1960s, the controls for the Dimona reactor were obtained clandestinely from a company called Tracer Lab, the main supplier of U.S. military reactor control panels, purchased through a Belgian subsidiary, apparently with the acquiescence of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the CIA.(11) In 1971, the Nixon administration approved the sale of hundreds of krytons(a type of high speed switch necessary to the development of sophisticated nuclear bombs) to Israel.(12) And, in 1979, Carter provided ultra high resolution photos from a KH-11 spy satellite, used 2 years later to bomb the Iraqi Osirak Reactor.(13) Throughout the Nixon and Carter administrations, and accelerating dramatically under Reagan, U.S. advanced technology transfers to Israel have continued unabated to the present.
The Vanunu Revelations
Following the 1973 war, Israel intensified its nuclear program while continuing its policy of deliberate "nuclear opaqueness." Until the mid-1980s, most intelligence estimates of the Israeli nuclear arsenal were on the order of two dozen but the explosive revelations of Mordechai Vanunu, a nuclear technician working in the Dimona plutonium reprocessing plant, changed everything overnight. A leftist supporter of Palestine, Vanunu believed that it was his duty to humanity to expose Israel's nuclear program to the world. He smuggled dozens of photos and valuable scientific data out of Israel and in 1986 his story was published in the London Sunday Times. Rigorous scientific scrutiny of the Vanunu revelations led to the disclosure that Israel possessed as many as 200 highly sophisticated, miniaturized thermonuclear bombs. His information indicated that the Dimona reactor's capacity had been expanded several fold and that Israel was producing enough plutonium to make ten to twelve bombs per year. A senior U.S. intelligence analyst said of the Vanunu data,"The scope of this is much more extensive than we thought. This is an enormous operation."(14)
Just prior to publication of his information Vanunu was lured to Rome by a Mossad "Mata Hari," was beaten, drugged and kidnapped to Israel and, following a campaign of disinformation and vilification in the Israeli press, convicted of "treason" by a secret security court and sentenced to 18 years in prison. He served over 11 years in solitary confinement in a 6 by 9 foot cell. After a year of modified release into the general population(he was not permitted contact with Arabs), Vanunu recently has been returned to solitary and faces more than 3 years further imprisonment. Predictably, The Vanunu revelations were largely ignored by the world press, especially in the United States, and Israel continues to enjoy a relatively free ride regarding its nuclear status. (15)
Israel's Arsenal of Mass Destruction
Today, estimates of the Israeli nuclear arsenal range from a minimum of 200 to a maximum of about 500. Whatever the number, there is little doubt that Israeli nukes are among the world's most sophisticated, largely designed for "war fighting" in the Middle East. A staple of the Israeli nuclear arsenal are "neutron bombs," miniaturized thermonuclear bombs designed to maximize deadly gamma radiation while minimizing blast effects and long term radiation- in essence designed to kill people while leaving property intact.(16) Weapons include ballistic missiles and bombers capable of reaching Moscow, cruise missiles, land mines(In the 1980s Israel planted nuclear land mines along the Golan Heights(17)), and artillery shells with a range of 45 miles(18). In June, 2000 an Israeli submarine launched a cruise missile which hit a target 950 miles away, making Israel only the third nation after the U.S. and Russia with that capability. Israel will deploy 3 of these virtually impregnable submarines, each carrying 4 cruise missiles.(19)
The bombs themselves range in size from "city busters" larger than the Hiroshima Bomb to tactical mini nukes. The Israeli arsenal of weapons of mass destruction clearly dwarfs the actual or potential arsenals of all other Middle Eastern states combined, and is vastly greater than any conceivable need for "deterrence."
Israel also possesses a comprehensive arsenal of chemical and biological weapons. According to the Sunday Times, Israel has produced both chemical and biological weapons with a sophisticated delivery system, quoting a senior Israeli intelligence official, "There is hardly a single known or unknown form of chemical or biological weapon . . .which is not manufactured at the Nes Tziyona Biological Institute.")(20) The same report described F-16 fighter jets specially designed for chemical and biological payloads, with crews trained to load the weapons on a moments notice. In 1998, the Sunday Times reported that Israel, using research obtained from South Africa, was developing an "ethno bomb; "In developing their "ethno-bomb", Israeli scientists are trying to exploit medical advances by identifying distinctive a gene carried by some Arabs, then create a genetically modified bacterium or virus… The scientists are trying to engineer deadly micro-organisms that attack only those bearing the distinctive genes." Dedi Zucker, a leftist Member of Knesset, the Israeli parliament, denounced the research saying, "Morally, based on our history, and our tradition and our experience, such a weapon is monstrous and should be denied."(21)
Israeli Nuclear Strategy
In popular imagination, the Israeli bomb is a "weapon of last resort," to be used only at the last minute to avoid annihilation, and many well intentioned but misled supporters of Israel still believe that to be the case. Whatever truth this formulation may have had in the minds of the early Israeli nuclear strategists, today the Israeli nuclear arsenal is inextricably linked to and integrated with overall Israeli military and political strategy. As Seymour Hersh says in classic understatement ; "The Samson Option is no longer the only nuclear option available to Israel."(22) Israel has made countless veiled nuclear threats against the Arab nations and against the Soviet Union(and by extension Russia since the end of the Cold War) One chilling example comes from Ariel Sharon, the current Israeli Prime Minister "Arabs may have the oil, but we have the matches."(23) (In 1983 Sharon proposed to India that it join with Israel to attack Pakistani nuclear facilities; in the late 70s he proposed sending Israeli paratroopers to Tehran to prop up the Shah; and in 1982 he called for expanding Israel's security influence to stretch from "Mauritania to Afghanistan.") In another example, Israeli nuclear expert Oded Brosh said in 1992, "…we need not be ashamed that the nuclear option is a major instrumentality of our defense as a deterrent against those who attack us."(24) According to Israel Shahak, "The wish for peace, so often assumed as the Israeli aim, is not in my view a principle of Israeli policy, while the wish to extend Israeli domination and influence is." and "Israel is preparing for a war, nuclear if need be, for the sake of averting domestic change not to its liking, if it occurs in some or any Middle Eastern states…. Israel clearly prepares itself to seek overtly a hegemony over the entire Middle East…, without hesitating to use for the purpose all means available, including nuclear ones."(25)
Israel uses its nuclear arsenal not just in the context of deterrence" or of direct war fighting, but in other more subtle but no less important ways. For example, the possession of weapons of mass destruction can be a powerful lever to maintain the status quo, or to influence events to Israel's perceived advantage, such as to protect the so called moderate Arab states from internal insurrection, or to intervene in inter-Arab warfare.(26) In Israeli strategic jargon this concept is called "nonconventional compellence" and is exemplified by a quote from Shimon Peres; "acquiring a superior weapons system(read nuclear) would mean the possibility of using it for compellent purposes- that is forcing the other side to accept Israeli political demands, which presumably include a demand that the traditional status quo be accepted and a peace treaty signed."(27) From a slightly different perspective, Robert Tuckerr asked in a Commentary magazine article in defense of Israeli nukes, "What would prevent Israel… from pursuing a hawkish policy employing a nuclear deterrent to freeze the status quo?"(28) Possessing an overwhelming nuclear superiority allows Israel to act with impunity even in the face world wide opposition. A case in point might be the invasion of Lebanon and destruction of Beirut in 1982, led by Ariel Sharon, which resulted in 20,000 deaths, most civilian. Despite the annihilation of a neighboring Arab state, not to mention the utter destruction of the Syrian Air Force, Israel was able to carry out the war for months at least partially due to its nuclear threat.
Another major use of the Israeli bomb is to compel the U.S. to act in Israel's favor, even when it runs counter to its own strategic interests. As early as 1956 Francis Perrin, head of the French A-bomb project wrote "We thought the Israeli Bomb was aimed at the Americans, not to launch it at the Americans, but to say, 'If you don't want to help us in a critical situation we will require you to help us; otherwise we will use our nuclear bombs.'"(29) During the 1973 war, Israel used nuclear blackmail to force Kissinger and Nixon to airlift massive amounts of military hardware to Israel. The Israeli Ambassador, Simha Dinitz, is quoted as saying, at the time, "If a massive airlift to Israel does not start immediately, then I will know that the U.S. is reneging on its promises and…we will have to draw very serious conclusions…"(30) Just one example of this strategy was spelled out in 1987 by Amos Rubin, economic adviser to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who said "If left to its own Israel will have no choice but to fall back on a riskier defense which will endanger itself and the world at large… To enable Israel to abstain from dependence on nuclear arms calls for $2 to 3 billion per year in U.S. aid."(31) Since then Israel's nuclear arsenal has expanded exponentially, both quantitatively and qualitatively, while the U.S. money spigots remain wide open.
Regional and International Implications
Largely unknown to the world, the Middle East nearly exploded in all out war on February 22, 2001. According to the London Sunday Times and DEBKAfile, Israel went on high missile alert after receiving news from the U.S. of movement by 6 Iraqi armored divisions stationed along the Syrian border, and of launch preparations of surface to surface missiles. DEBKAfile, an Israeli based "counter-terrorism" information service, claims that the Iraqi missiles were deliberately taken to the highest alert level in order to test the U.S. and Israeli response. Despite an immediate attack by 42 U.S. and British war planes, the Iraqis suffered little apparent damage.(32) The Israelis have warned Iraq that they are prepared to use neutron bombs in a preemptive attack against Iraqi missiles.
The Israeli nuclear arsenal has profound implications for the future of peace in the Middle East, and indeed, for the entire planet. It is clear from Israel Shahak that Israel has no interest in peace except that which is dictated on its own terms, and has absolutely no intention of negotiating in good faith to curtail its nuclear program or discuss seriously a nuclear-free Middle East,"Israel's insistence on the independent use of its nuclear weapons can be seen as the foundation on which Israeli grand strategy rests."(34) According to Seymour Hersh, "the size and sophistication of Israel's nuclear arsenal allows men such as Ariel Sharon to dream of redrawing the map of the Middle East aided by the implicit threat of nuclear force."(35) General Amnon Shahak-Lipkin, former Israeli Chief of Staff is quoted "It is never possible to talk to Iraq about no matter what; It is never possible to talk to Iran about no matter what. Certainly about nuclearization. With Syria we cannot really talk either."(36) Ze'ev Shiff, an Israeli military expert writing in Haaretz said, "Whoever believes that Israel will ever sign the UN Convention prohibiting the proliferation of nuclear weapons… is day dreaming,"(37) and Munya Mardoch, Director of the Israeli Institute for the Development of Weaponry, said in 1994, "The moral and political meaning of nuclear weapons is that states which renounce their use are acquiescing to the status of Vassal states. All those states which feel satisfied with possessing conventional weapons alone are fated to become vassal states."(38)
As Israeli society becomes more and more polarized, the influence of the radical right becomes stronger. According to Shahak, "The prospect of Gush Emunim, or some secular right-wing Israeli fanatics, or some some of the delerious Israeli Army generals, seizing control of Israeli nuclear weapons…cannot be precluded. …while israeli jewish society undergoes a steady polarization, the Israeli security system increasingly relies on the recruitment of cohorts from the ranks of the extreme right."(39) The Arab states, long aware of Israel's nuclear program, bitterly resent its coercive intent, and perceive its existence as the paramount threat to peace in the region, requiring their own weapons of mass destruction. During a future Middle Eastern war (a distinct possibility given the ascension of Ariel Sharon, an unindicted war criminal with a bloody record stretching from the massacre of Palestinian civilians at Quibya in 1953, to the massacre of Palestinian civilians at Sabra and Shatila in 1982 and beyond) the possible Israeli use of nuclear weapons should not be discounted. According to Shahak, "In Israeli terminology, the launching of missiles on to Israeli territory is regarded as 'nonconventional' regardless of whether they are equipped with explosives or poison gas."(40) (Which requires a "nonconventional" response, a perhaps unique exception being the Iraqi SCUD attacks during the Gulf War.)
Meanwhile, the existence of an arsenal of mass destruction in such an unstable region in turn has serious implications for future arms control and disarmament negotiations, and even the threat of nuclear war. Seymour Hersh warns, "Should war break out in the Middle East again,… or should any Arab nation fire missiles against Israel, as the Iraqis did, a nuclear escalation, once unthinkable except as a last resort, would now be a strong probability."(41) and Ezar Weissman, Israel's current President said "The nuclear issue is gaining momentum(and the) next war will not be conventional."(42) Russia and before it the Soviet Union has long been a major(if not the major) target of Israeli nukes. It is widely reported that the principal purpose of Jonathan Pollard's spying for Israel was to furnish satellite images of Soviet targets and other super sensitive data relating to U.S. nuclear targeting strategy. (43) (Since launching its own satellite in 1988, Israel no longer needs U.S. spy secrets.) Israeli nukes aimed at the Russian heartland seriously complicate disarmament and arms control negotiations and, at the very least, the unilateral possession of nuclear weapons by Israel is enormously destabilizing, and dramatically lowers the threshold for their actual use, if not for all out nuclear war. In the words of Mark Gaffney, "… if the familar pattern(Israel refining its weapons of mass destruction with U.S. complicity) is not reversed soon- for whatever reason- the deepening Middle East conflict could trigger a world conflagration." (44)
Many Middle East Peace activists have been reluctant to discuss, let alone challenge, the Israeli monopoly on nuclear weapons in the region, often leading to incomplete and uninformed analyses and flawed action strategies. Placing the issue of Israeli weapons of mass destruction directly and honestly on the table and action agenda would have several salutary effects. First, it would expose a primary destabilizing dynamic driving the Middle East arms race and compelling the region's states to each seek their own "deterrent." Second, it would expose the grotesque double standard which sees the U.S. and Europe on the one hand condemning Iraq, Iran and Syria for developing weapons of mass destruction, while simultaneously protecting and enabling the principal culprit. Third, exposing Israel's nuclear strategy would focus international public attention, resulting in increased pressure to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction and negotiate a just peace in good faith. Finally, a nuclear free Israel would make a Nuclear Free Middle East and a comprehensive regional peace agreement much more likely. Unless and until the world community confronts Israel over its covert nuclear program it is unlikely that there will be any meaningful resolution of the Israeli/Arab conflict, a fact that Israel may be counting on as the Sharon era dawns.
1. Seymour Hersh, The Samson Option: Israel's Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy, New York,1991, Random House, p. 319 (A brilliant and prophetic work with much original research)2
2. Mark Gaffney, Dimona, The Third Temple:The Story Behind the Vanunu Revelation, Brattleboro, VT, 1989, Amana Books, p. 165 (Excellent progressive analysis of the Israeli nuclear program)
3. U.S. Army Lt. Col. Warner D. Farr, The Third Temple Holy of Holies; Israel's Nuclear Weapons, USAF Counterproliferation Center, Air War College Sept 1999 <www.fas.org/nuke/guide/israel/nuke/farr,htm (Perhaps the best single condensed history of the Israeli nuclear program)
4. Hersch, op.cit., p. 131
5. Gaffney, op.cit., p. 63
6. Gaffney, op. cit. pp 68 – 69
7. Hersh, op.cit., pp. 242-257
8. Gaffney, op.cit., 1989, pps. 65-66 (An alternative discussion of the NUMEC affair)
9. Barbara Rogers & Zdenek Cervenka, The Nuclear Axis: The Secret Collaboration Between West Germany and South Africa, New York, 1978, Times Books, p. 325-328 (the definitive history of the Apartheid Bomb)
10. Gaffney, op. cit., 1989, p. 34
11. Peter Hounam, Woman From Mossad: The Torment of Mordechai Vanunu, London, 1999, Vision Paperbacks, pp. 155-168 (The most complete and up to date account of the Vanunu story, it includes fascenating speculation that Israel may have a second hidden Dimona type reactor)
12. Hersh, op. cit., 1989, p. 213
13. ibid, p.198-200
14. ibid, pp. 3-17
15. Hounman, op. cit. 1999, pp 189-203
16. Hersh, 1989. pp.199-200
17. ibid, p. 312
18. John Pike and Federation of American Scientists, Israel Special Weapons Guide Website, 2001, Web Address http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/israel/index.html
Israel's weapons exports skyrocket, making it friends and money
PETER ENAV, Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Defense News has ranked Israel as No. 3 based on 2002 contracts, and an Israeli expert told The Associated Press the country was now considered to be in the top five. Growing sales to Turkey and India, two major new markets for Israel, have driven the surge.
Middle East Arms Acquisition Will not Stop
Middle East Monitor, 16 June 1994
In an article headlined "Surface-to-Surface against Mutual Trust," Sharon Sadeh, in Thursday’s Haaretz, says the successful test-launch of Israel’s Arrow on Sunday and an American missile in New Mexico earlier could not have come at a better time — just before the seventh international conference on regional defense against missiles, to be held next week in the United States.
"Ground-to-ground missiles have long since digressed from the narrow role the planners gave them and have become a prime weapon in the implementation of an intimidating foreign policy."
The relocation of the arena of the confrontation between Israel and the Arabcountries to the conference table "did not mitigate the arms race in the Middle East, including the acquisition of surface-to-surface missiles, which according to foreign reports are an integral part of the deterrent concept of countries in the Middle East.
"Security sources doubt if the arms race in the region, including the acquisition of surface-to-surface missiles, will slow down in the future, even if Israel succeeds to sign peace agreements with Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian entity.
"Israel and countries in the region expedited their arms build-up in times of crisis, but in periods of calm as well they were utilized to shore up military might.
"The Egyptian build-up was not reduced to any significant extent even after it signed the peace agreement with Israel in 1979. The extent of purchasing did decrease somewhat, but the Egyptians put the emphasis on quality and varied weapons and are incorporating new warfare doctrines.
"In reaction to the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, Syria formulated a new defense concept that put the emphasis on her military might andwas accompanied by ambitious purchase programs.
"In Libya, on the other hand, the increased weapons arsenals do not derive from a substantive external threat."
Given these trends, a pessimistic evaluation of the situation was formulated in the defense establishment, according to which even if the resul t of the process between Israel and her neighbors is peace agreements in exchange for territorial concessions on Israel’s part, "the military tension with Syria and more distant threatening countries ? Iran, Libya and Iraq — will be maintainedat the present level."
Security sources noted with concern that access to Western markets, which Syria could get in the wake of a peace agreement with Israel, "would allow Syriato carry out a process of modernization of their army, similar to the process the Egyptian army passed through, and tilt the balance of power to Israel’s disadvantage.
"In the more distant threat cycle, they add, a front of ‘rejectionist countries’ may be created, made up of Libya, Iran and Iraq, which are not involved in the peace process.
"Consequently, they state, Israel cannot afford to reduce the extent of her arms appropriations in the future either."
Sadeh notes that Middle East countries equipped themselves with ground-to -ground missiles more than 20 years ago. In 1973 the Soviets supplied Scuds to the Arab armies, and they were used in the 1973 Yom Kippur war.
But the impact of missiles increased in the 80s and 90s because of the extensive use made of them in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and the 1991 Gulf war over Kuwait. Today, nine countries in the Middle East were furnished with 2,000 ground-to-ground missiles of various kinds.
"Security sources believe that by the end of the decade more than half the countries in the region with ground-to-ground missiles in their possession will have a manufacturing capability, at least partially, and will almost not be dependent on outside suppliers."
They would, therefore, be more sensitive to the various international control conventions, such as the MTCR, which restricts trading in missile technology.
"There is another reason for the motivation of Iran, Libya and Iraq to acquire independence in the missile domain — the possible elimination of Jordanand Syria, apart from Egypt, from the anti-Israeli coalition is liable to accelerate their plans to create a common strategic front."
For that reason, the defense establishment doubted if the number of missiles, or even more so the development plans, would be abated in these countries.
"In other words, in the Middle East a permanent kernel of danger and instability will remain, not only against Israel but also vis-a-vis the participants in the peace process.
"In the defense establishment they contend, therefore, that the more the peace process proceeds, the lack of stability will paradoxically increase — this, because even if the unlikely happens and Israel reaches an understanding on weapons control with her neighbors, the achievement will be a drop in the ocean since as a counter reaction the rejectionist countries will expedite theirappropriation of missiles. This would also deter the Western countries from carrying out initiated supervision activities.
"The misgivings felt by many in Israel with regard to the possibility of creating a basis of mutual trust with the Arab countries for reciprocal arms control stems primarily from the experience accumulated with Egypt.
"Although 15 years of peace have gone by, the conditions have not yet been formulated for a mutual agreement between the two countries on arms supervision. In actual fact, a converse process has been created:
Egypt’s missile and launcher programs have only been speeded up.
"Egypt initiated new missile programs, including the development of the Condor missile, which began after the Camp David talks. Israel demonstrated her ability in the rocket sphere with the launch of the ‘Ofek’ series of satellites on a ‘Jericho’ type launcher, according to foreign reports, and publications abroad also reported the launch of a long-range missile on the eve of the Gulf war."
Three wars, many confrontations and almost 50 years of hostility and suspicion between Israel and Syria did not leave any doubt with regard to the slim chances of implementing a weapons control agreement between the countries. Without it, security sources assumed, the two countries would refuse to reduce the size of their forces, even if peace prevailed between them. Israel would refuse because of the missile threat from the faraway countries. Syria would insist on maintaining the status quo, making it possible to retain her standing as a regional military power both against Israel and the threatening countries to the east.
In this fluid situation, security sources said, the accelerated development of anti ground-to-ground missile defense methods and means is essential.
Operational missile interception systems could play a key role and were likely to lead in the end to stability in the Middle East.
"These means would reduce the effectiveness of missiles launched against civilian populations in countries involved in the peace process and safeguard the agreements reached.
"In this way, it would also be possible to safeguard the freedom of action of an external observer force supervising the implementation of the peace agreement, if it is sent to the area."
The continuity of the process can, in the view of security sources, be achieved by opening a "broad defense umbrella" comprised of an interception and mobile defense systems against short-range missiles.
"Security sources believe, however, that there is no magic solution in thesesystems. Even if full peace exists with Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, Israel will be forced to maintain her military and technological superiority and a high level of alert to meet any sudden changes of conditions in the arena."
United States, Israel vie to sell early warning planes to South Korea
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent
Ha’aretz, 1 December 2005
The United States and Israel have been exchanging frosty words as the countries compete to sell South Korea an early warning aircraft (EWA).
A Korean defense ministry delegation, headed by the deputy defense minister in charge of acquisitions, is presently in Israel to discuss the deal, which would be worth more than $1 billion.
The South Korean air force is expected to make its decision in about two weeks. Although both Israel and South Korea describe the visit as routine, one of the main issues the mission will discuss is the purchase of the EWA.
The American administration is steamrolling Korea to give the project to American companies. The American pressure derives, among other things, from the attractive Israeli offer, which is $300 million to $400 million cheaper.
The proposal made by Israel Aircraft Industries and Elta Systems, based on the American-made Gulfstream Aerospace aircraft, is to supply four planes for $1.2 billion. The American proposal is estimated at $1.5 billion to $2 billion and is based on Boeing’s Artificial Intelligence Voice Address System (AIVAS) aircraft
Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, met Israeli Soldiers who were training in urban warfare techniques while visiting the Israeli Defense Force’s National Center for Ground Training in the Negev Desert during the week before Thanksgiving.
Master Sgt. Bob Haskell
National Guard begins exchange with Israeli forces
By Master Sgt. Bob Haskell
November 29, 2005
TEL AVIV, Israel (Army News Service, Nov. 29, 2005) National Guard leaders visited Israel last week to forge a new relationship with that country’s Home Front Command to help keep both countries safe.
Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, led a 25-member delegation to Israel that included two state adjutants general.
The six-day visit ended Nov. 22 when Blum and Maj. Gen. Yitzshak (Jerry) Gershon, Israel’s Home Front commander, signed two letters proposing to exchange ideas, to train in each other’s country and to expand their expertise about responding to natural disasters and terrorist attacks.
Gershon: National Guard viewed as family
“We see the American people, and particularly the National Guard, as our family”, said Gershon who leads the branch of the Israeli Defense Force that has been committed to homeland defense since 39 Iraqi SCUD missiles hit Israel during the 1991 Gulf War. The Home Front Command is Israel’s equivalent to the National Guard. Both are comprised of reserve troops.
“Let’s do business to protect our Soldiers, to protect our people and to strengthen our relationship,” added Gershon. “I would propose that we pursue expanded training opportunities for National Guard personnel visiting Israel and for Home Front Command personnel visiting the United States,” he stated in his letter to Blum.
It is the Ministry of Defense’s policy to be completely open with the Americans, he said. Deputy Minister of Defense Saul Horev signaled his support by attending a meeting with the Israelis and Americans at the Home Front Command’s headquarters on Nov. 20.
The National Guard would participate in the program under the auspices of the U.S. European Command, Blum explained.
“I think this is a natural marriage. This is appropriate,” he said. “We are two nations in a world that is a very, very dangerous place. We are two democracies with a common purpose and common values. There are some things that we can offer to you back in the states, and there are some magnificent opportunities for us over here.”
Safeguarding from terrorists is paramount
Keeping their people safe from terrorist attacks is paramount among the civilian and military leaders of both countries. The United States has waged its Global War Against Terrorism for four years, following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Israel has been conducting that grim business in the name of self defense for 57 years, since it was declared an independent nation in 1948.
Indeed, members of the Israeli Defense Force fought off a raid by Hezbollah guerillas against Israeli outposts along the northern border with Lebanon on Nov. 21, the night before Blum and Gershon signed their proposals for mutual cooperation on the Tuesday morning before Thanksgiving in Tel Aviv.
Terrorist attacks against the Israeli people have increased in recent years as outright warfare against neighboring Arab countries has declined, Gershon pointed out. That, he indicated, is why it is important for American and Israeli military people to put their heads together.
Israel, National Guard building relationship
Israel is the second Middle East country with which the National Guard is building a relationship. The Colorado National Guard and the Kingdom of Jordan, Israel’s eastern neighbor, established a State Partnership alliance in April 2004 to exchange military, civil and cultural ideas.
In Israel, the National Guard put its best foot forward when Lt. Col. Patrick Tennis, the Guard Bureau’s deputy director of Domestic Operations, explained how the National Guard responded to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma which devastated the Gulf Coast in August and September.
Tennis also explained how the Guard’s civil support teams and its chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, high-yield explosive enhanced response force packages (CERFPs) are trained and ready to support civilian authorities in the event of natural disasters and terrorist attacks.
The visit was an outgrowth of two previous meetings between Blum and Israel’s Home Front leaders. Blum visited Israel for a couple of days in September 2004. Gershon, who has had the Home Front command for 10 months, visited Blum in Washington last July.
The generals have discussed ways to explore such matters as emergency response to mass terror events and natural disasters, consequence management, and urban search and rescue.
The Guard delegation in November included the adjutants general from Oregon, Maj. Gen. Raymond Rees, and from Washington, Maj. Gen. Tim Lowenberg, and Brig. Gen. Steve Saunders, director of Doctrine, Training and Force Development for the Guard Bureau. The group also included representatives from nine of the Guard’s regional CERFPs.
They visited some of the world’s most holy shrines in Old Jerusalem and they viewed some of Israel’s most modern military facilities to learn about that country’s culture.
The Israelis explained their sophisticated system for detecting and responding to an attack or incident anywhere in the country and how an extensive network of sensors makes it possible for people at the national command center and for troops on the ground to share the same information.
The Americans were also escorted to the headquarters for Israel’s 200-member National Search and Rescue Unit, whose reserve personnel are sent on missions around the world, and to the National Search and Rescue and Civil Defense School where the young Soldiers are trained.
Military service mandatory for all Israelis
Military service is mandatory for all Israeli men and women when they turn 18, it was explained. Men serve for three years; women for two.
The Americans saw some of those troops sharpening their urban warfare skills at the Israeli Army’s vast National Center for Ground Training, located west of the Gaza Strip and north of Egypt in the Negev Desert.
Yes, the National Guard leaders maintained that they lead solid Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen. Lt. Col. Bruce Holloman, commander of the CERFP in Colorado, told of how the 950 members of Task Force St. Bernard, which he commanded for three weeks after Katrina, were determined and proud to help their fellow Americans in Louisiana.
But the Guard leaders also acknowledged that they can learn some valuable lessons from the Israelis.
Capt. Michael Day, commander of a CERFP in California, said after watching two demonstrations at the search and rescue school: “They are a globally deployable force on the things that we want to be able to do in our own states and in neighboring states. I’d like to come back. I’d love to bring my search and rescue folks here.”
The American general Blum and the Israeli general Gershon are making every effort to make that possible.
(Editor’s note: Master Sgt. Bob Haskell writes for the National Guard Bureau.)
Israel’s Strategic Aims and Nuclear Weapons (?)
[Excerpt from Prof. Israel Shahak’s book: Open Secrets, Israeli Nuclear and Foreign Policies]
General Saguy fully shares the notion of a threat to Israel’s very survival: `Syria has always been and still is a threat to the security and very survival of the State of Israel’, the reason being that `Syria continues to arm itself.’ This statement is documented by a long list of Syrian weaponry purchases without mentioning Israeli ones. Saguy does admit that Syria is afraid of Israel and that its armament is motivated by the wish `to confront the Israeli strategic [i.e. nuclear] weaponry, which the Arabs believe Israel possesses’. He also admits that Syria is afraid of a massive Israeli invasion of its territory: :According to the Taif Agreement [between Syria and Lebanon] Syria is allowed to keep the bulk of its armed forces in the [Lebanese] Baalbek area. The Syrians believe that such a deployment can be an answer to an Israeli attempt to outflank Damascus [from the north] in the event of a war.’ Let me comment on this. As is known, the area between Damascus and the Golan Heights is heavily fortified but no fortifications seem to exist north of Damascus or along the Syrian-Lebanese borders. Since outflanking a fortified defence line has been the Israeli Army’s favourite method of attacking, Syrian fears appear to me well-grounded.
What Saguy says he is afraid of, is `a Syrian-Iranian alliance’. The exchange on this subject with his interviewer deserves to be quoted in extenso: `Question: Can an alliance of Syria with Iran serve as a substitute for an alliance between Syria and Iraq in the formation of the eastern front against Israel? Answer: There is a collaboration between Syria and Iran in plenty of things. It is going to be closer. Perhaps even in strategic weaponry, and the non-conventional ventures. Question: Is Iran helping Syria to obtain nuclear weapons? Answer: At this stage not yet. But when Iran itself becomes nuclearized, I cannot see how it can avoid cooperating [in this matter] with Syria. Such a prospect should worry us, even though it is still distant … In ten years’ time Iran will certainly become a decisive factor in the entire region, and as such an ever-present threat to its peace. This can hardly be prevented, unless somebody intervenes directly. It is quite probable that outside factors such as the US, alone or together with other states, would intervene to halt the progress of Iranian rearmarment. But a historical paradox is also possible: Iraq may rearm itself, with the effect of checking the growth of Iranian armed power.’
A long-standing Israeli custom commands the generals in active service to stop short of saying too much in interviews, but it lets semi-official experts or retired generals reveal the Israeli strategic intentions to the nation’s elite in a more informative manner. The explanation of the crucial and most sensitive Israeli strategic aims, concerning the role of nuclear weapons in overall Israeli strategy was left to Oded Brosh. Brosh begins by saying that some Israelis are now raising the question whether `Israeli nuclear power’ helps or obstructs a transferral of the regional conflict to diplomatic channels. This he deplores, since the very phrasing of this question in such terms `introduces a bias in favour of the recent opponents of Israel’s nuclear option, while casting a negative light on the supporters of this option’. He is particularly virulent against some unnamed advocates of an `appeasement’ in the form of only ‘a limited use of Israeli nuclear power, referred to as "the last-minute option"’. Those obscure remarks may refer to the bare beginning of a belated but at least serious discussion of the health hazards contingent on the existence of nuclear installations. Brosh’s article was indeed, `balanced’ in Haaretz by another article, printed right next to it which for the first time in Israel’s history reported how people had organized themselves in protest against health hazards stemming from the existence of a civilian nuclear installation in their neighbourhood. But without any attribution, Brosh also refers to claims, still unattributable, to the effect that `Dimona might yet become another Chernobyl’. He concedes that `the responsible authorities indeed need to test again and again’ their precautionary measures, forgetting that ‘the authorities responsible for Chemobyl also claimed that they had been recurrently testing their precautions. He leaves unanswered the question of who in Israel can be authorized to test the testing undertaken by unnamed `authorities’.
Brosh must be presumed to aim his polemic at critics more prominent than those concerning themselves with health hazards, because he mentions some unnamed Israelis who are said by him to argue `that in view of what the foreign media report from time to time about the growth of Israel’s nuclear assets, their further growth should be halted. Sometimes it is even being argued that somebody authorized or unauthorized might activate one or several Israeli nuclear warheads through either error or accident. Moreover, some argue that Israel’s unremittent nuclear development only propels Arab countries, Iran and other Muslim states to equip themselves with all sorts of non-conventional, but primarily nuclear, weapons.’ None of these apprehensions have ever appeared not only in the censored Hebrew press but, to the best of my knowledge, in the mainstream international press as well. All of them are nevertheless in my view quite justified. Not only is the prospect of Dimona one day becoming another Chernobyl something to be seriously discussed. The prospect of Gush Emunim (‘The Block of the Faithful’), or some secular right-wing Israeli fanatics, or some of the delirious Israeli Army generals, seizing control of Israeli nuclear weapons and using them in accordance with their `knowledge’ of politics or by the authority of `divine command’ cannot be precluded either. In my view the likelihood of the occurrence of some such calamity is growing. We should not forget that while Israeli Jewish society undergoes a steady political polarization, the Israeli Security System increasingly relies on the recruitment of cohorts from the ranks of the extreme tight.
Brosh hurries to admit to his readers that `not everybody who hates Dimona – whether in Israeli or abroad – hates Israel. On the contrary, a great many foreigners who perceive the Dimona reactor as an evil have an affection for Israel.’ Yet the Israelis who `hate Dimona’ are apparently not quite the same. Brosh is worried by their critique, especially since they are said by him to propose `that the Dimona reactor be closed’ in order to be thereafter `accessible to international controls capable of proving to our neighbours that we no longer produce any fissionable substances’. Such a proof could be offered `to our neighbours’ either in a gesture of good will or within the framework of a regional settlement. But while admitting the desirability of more frequent and thorough checks to preclude Chernobyl-like accidents, Brosh disqualifies `all other apprehensions of the enemies of Dimona as flunking the test of technical and political realities in our region’. We need to keep in mind that Israeli censorship has thus far prevented the publication of what `the enemies of Dimona’ have to say. We know about their existence and their arguments only what their open enemy, Brosh, wanted and was permitted by that censorship to tell us.
Let me ignore Brosh’s brief, superficial and in my view inaccurate presentation of the mentioned `technical realities’. Let me just mention that he highly commends `what goes under the name of the neutron bomb, developed by the Americans in the 1970s’. Let me concentrate on what, apparently reiterating the lessons learned from his mentors, he has to say about `the political realities in our region’, in so far as they have a bearing upon Israeli nuclear power. Regarding the uses of Israeli nuclear weapons during a war, Brosh sees two major options. The first, `the last-minute option’ is defined as `a scenario which in fact presumes that Israel will refrain from making any nuclear threats unless it is defeated by conventional weapons, or can realistically expect such a defeat as imminent, or is threatened by use of non-conventional weapons’. In this way `the Arab leaders can be denied a victory’ by the threat of `the destruction of Arab civilization’. In my view, this can be interpreted as meaning that Israel has contingency plans for cases of extreme emergency which envisage a devastation by nuclear weapons of a considerable number of Arab urban centres and such crucial installations as the Aswan Dam (whose destruction was envisaged in Israel before 1973). This awful possibility needs to be faced, however horrifying may be the thought about its direct effects on the Arab world and indirect effects upon the entire world in terms of massive human casualties and the long-term effects of radioactivity. 1’he likely existence of such plans needs to be considered jointly with a passage about `somebody authorized or unauthorized [who] might activate one or several Israeli nuclear warheads through error or accident’. A juxtaposition of the two passages adds to both clarity and horror. By 1992, Israel already abounds in Jewish religious zealots whose influence within the Security System is growing steadily. Gush Emunim or the followers of any extremist Hassidic rabbi are quite capable in my view of activating such scenarios even in peacetime for the sake of thus advancing their Messianic prophecies which by definition imply that God will protect the Jews from any injury and inflict devastation on Gentiles alone.
But Brosh does not favour `the last-minute option’. Being by no means a religious fanatic he does clearly realize that this option implies not just `the destruction of the Arab civilization’, but also `our own national suicide’. He also has strategic objections against this option which can be conjectured to draw on the experience of the October 1973 War. He anticipates that the Arab leaders might attack Israel, not for the sake of defeating it but for other reasons. In case the attack turns militarily successful, `the last-minute option’ might prompt the Israeli leaders, even the relatively sane among them, to a nuclear response. When dealing with the long-concealed events of October 1973 War, I documented that the Israeli Army High Command of that time, possibly including Moshe Dayan, favoured Israeli nuclear response against Syria, but were halted in doing so by Golda Meir, backed by Kissinger. Much as I abhor what Brosh says I have to admit that he is not the most extremist among Israeli expens anticipating the use of nuclear weapons.
Brosh’s own proposals, which can be assumed express the views of the Israeli Security System, rest on the assumption that `it is preferable to competently elaborate a system of options which would include the instrumentalities of handling the problems arising from a potential massive missile or armoured attack against us, if it one day materializes, and which would prepare means to deter such an attack, or to foil it, if the deterrence fails’. He adds that pertinent Israeli `decisions should better not be dictated by outside factors’, a transparent allusion to the US. This option should not be resorted to in his opinion, `as long as the threat to us comes from no more than a single, even if major, Arab state such as Syria’ and if it involves onlyo the use of conventional weapons. He immediately stipulates, however, that `even in such a case, it would be preferable to leave the enemy befogged about our intentions’. Let me clarify, however, that in Israeli terminology, the launching of missiles on to Israeli territory is regarded as ‘non conventional’, regardless of whether they are equipped with explosives or poison gas.
Still arguing against his unidentified opponents, Brosh contends that ‘their is absolutely no connection between unremitting Israeli nuclear development and Arab, Iranian or Pakistani pursuits’, in spite of the fact that Israeli nuclear weapons are, or at least may be, aimed at those countries. But Brosh goes even deeper in his arguments: ‘Generally, in long-term security planning one cannot ignore the political factors. Israel must take into account, for example, that the Saudi royal family is not going to reign forever or that the Egyptian regime may change.’ Precisely because of such political contingencies Israel must remain free to use or threaten to use its nuclear weapons. Brosh argues that `we need not be ashamed that the nuclear option is a major instrumentality of our defence as a deterrent against those who may attack us. The three big democracies have relied on the same deterrent for decades.’ The very comparison of Israel’s strategic aims with those of the US, Britain and France is an irrefutable proof of Israel’s ambition to achieve the status of a superpower. But Israel can become a superpower only if it succeeds in establishing a hegemony over the entire Middle East. Meanwhile, there is one crucial difference between Israel and `the three big democracies’. The French, for example, pay themselves for developing their own nuclear power. The development of Israeli nuclear power is, by contrast, being financed by the US. Money for this purpose can be obtained only ,f Congress toes the line of the organized segment of the American Jewish community and of its various allies. And in the process, the American public must be effectively deceived about Israel’s real strategic aims.
The Israeli grand strategy’ has diverse strands. The task of blending them together into a single overarching concept was undertaken by General (Reserves) Shlomo Gazit in an article remarkable for its lucidity and forthrightness (Yedior Ahronnr, 27 .April). Gazit is a former Military Intelligence commander who often explains in the media the strategic aims of the Israeli Security System, or else provides apologias for what the public tends to regard as its blunders or failures. His article has two avowed aims. The first, common also to several other prestigious Israeli press commentators writing at about the same time, is to convince the public that what `we used to hear for many years, almost since the birth of the State, about Israel as a strategic asset for the US and of the free world’, remains no less valid after the demise of the USSR and the termination of the Cold War than it had been before. Let me ignore a greater part of tis historical presentation of how and why Israel could become so wonderful a strategic asset in the past, except for a single point which contains something new. The point is this: `Israel proposed to the .American armed forces that in the event of a war [with the USSR] it might provide the Americans with a variety of services, namely harbour, resupply, storage, medical treatment and hospitalization services.’
However Gazit admits that the value of Israel’s actually rendered services oC the Cold War period `did dwindle, perhaps even completely, as [the US] no longer needs to be prepared for war with the Soviet bloc’. This became apparent `over a year ago, when the largest military force since World War II assembled during the Gulf War in our own region, in the very heart of the Middle East. Israel was ignored when this war was fought. Moreover, hope was expressed and concrete steps taken for the single aim of precluding Israel’s involvement in that war.’ Gazit even admits why it was so: `due to what from the Israeli point of view is a very sad but salient fact, namely that (with the possible exception of Egypt which had signed a peace treaty with us), no other Arab state can be a party to any military or security-aimed alliance, if Israel is also a party to it.’ This was why, explains Gazit, `the Israeli Army was not actively involved in the war against Iraq’. This was why the armed forces of the anti-Iraqi coalition were not stationed on Israeli territory, as a result of ‘the Arab veto’. Expecting his readers to consequently ask, `What has still remained of Israel’s traditional role as a strategic asset, then?’, Gazit proceeds to lay bare the more decisive and lasting aspects of that role.
This is the second purpose of Gazit’s article, even more important than the first. He believes, correctly in my view, that Israel still remains a strategic asset as it was in the past. His lucid explanation deserves to be quoted extensively: `Israel’s main task has not changed at all, and it remains of crucial importance. The geographical location of Israel at the centre of the Arab-Muslim Middle East predestines Israel to be a devoted guardian of stability in all the countries surrounding it. Its [role] is to protect the existing regimes: to prevent or halt the processes of radicalization and to block the expansion of fundamentalist religious zealotry. Israel has its "red lines", which have a powerful deterrent effect by virtue of causing uncertainty beyond its borders, precisely because they are not clearly marked nor explicitly defined. The purpose of these red lines is to determine which strategic developments or other changes occurring beyond Israel’s borders can be defined as threats which Israel itself will regard as intolerable to the point of being compelled to use all its militaryo power for the sake of their prevention or eradication.’ In other words, the red lines are Israeli dictatorial ultimata imposed by it on all the other Middle Eastern states.
Gazit distinguishes ‘three kinds of developments’ among the processes of radicalization `which qualify as intolerable’ [to Israel]. The first category is constituted by acts of anti-Israeli terrorism originating from the territory of another state. Gazit is forthright enough to say that Israel retaliates against a given state not only in its own defence, but more in the best interest of an .4rab government concerned: ‘.An Arab government allowing a terrorist organization to run free, creates a monster which sooner or later will turn against it. If it does not take steps to halt any development hostile to itself and to re-establish its total control, it will eventually cease to rule its own country.’
The second category of the red line is applied in case of ‘any entry of a foreign Arab military force on to the territory of a state which borders on Israel, i.e. practically Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.’ (Although Egypt borders on Israel, it is not mentioned.) As in the previous case, Gazit is anxious to show that Israel has in such cases ;n benevolent concern for the stability of a given Arab regime: `An entry of a foreign Arab military force poses also a threat to the stability of the regime of the country thus affected, and sometimes also to the latter’s sovereignty. There can be no doubt, therefore, that the Israeli red line which deters and prevents entries of foreign Arab military forces to countries neighbouring with Israel is also a stabilizing factor which really protects the existing states and regimes in the entire Middle East.’
The third category of the `red line’ is in Gazit’s view, and in mine as well, the most important. It is intended to preclude the developments which he defines as `threats of a revolt, whether military or popular, which may end up by bringing fanatical and extremist elements to power in states concerned. The existence of such threats has no connection with the Arab-Israeli conflict. They exist because the regimes [of the region] find it difficult to offer solutions to their socio-economic ills. But any development of the described kind is apt to subvert the existing relations between Israel and this or that from among its neighbours. The prime examples of such a red line are concerns for the preservation of Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt and of the de facto peaceful cooperation between Israel and Jordan. In both cases it is Israel’s red lines which communicate to its neighbours that Israel will not tolerate anything that might encourage the extremist forces to go all the way, following in the footsteps of either the Iranians to the east or the Algerians to the west.’ Gazit backs this statement by mentioning the Israeli intervention in defence of the Jordanian regime during the `Black September’ uprising of 1970. He discussed more extensively the developments in Lebanon in the wake of the outbreak of the Civil War in 1975: `When the Syrians were invited by some Maronites to intervene to stop the fighting and trounce the Muslims, they were at first deterred [by Israel] from advancing. When in the end the Syrian forces did advance, they clearly avoided anything which Israel could interpret as aberrant and thereby violating its red line.’ It is well known (at least in Israel), that Syrian advancement had culminated in the 1976 siege of Tel El-Zaatar and the massacre of the Palestinians there. The massacre was perpetrated by Falangists supported by the Syrian army, with Israel fully approving. Senior Israeli Army officers were then spotted as observers in the Falangist camp, located in the vicinity of where the Syrian troops were stationed.
According to Gazit, however, this form of `Israeli influence’ may well extend beyond the Arab countries neighbouring with Israel: `Indirectly, it also radiates on to all the other states of our region. In almost all of them, some kind of radicalization is going on, except that the radical forces are deterred from pushing all the way through out of fear that their maximalism might prompt Israel to respond. Although no one would say so openly, I am positive that the regime of President Mubarak benefits from such an Israeli deterrence. If power [in Egypt] is ever seized by Islamic extremists, they will at once have to decide whether to recognize the peace treaty with Israel as binding or not. It will be a most difficult decision for them. If they do recognize the treaty, they will compromise their own ideology. And if they don’t recognize it, they will at once have a war for which they cannot possibly be ready.’
In Gazit’s view, by virtue of protecting all or most Middle Eastern regimes, Israel performs a vital service for `the industrially advanced states, all of which are keenly concerned with guaranteeing the stability in the Middle East’. He speculates that without Israel, the regimes of the region would have collapsed long ago. He concludes, `In the aftermath of the disappearance of the USSR as a political power with interests of its own in the region a number of Middle Eastern states lost a patron guaranteeing their political, military and economic viability. A vacuum was thus created, adding to the region’s instability. Under such conditions the Israeli role as a strategic asset guaranteeing a modicum of stability in the entire Middle East did not dwindle o: disappear but was elevated to the first order of magnitude. Without Israel, the West would have to perform this role by itself, when none of the existing superpowers really could perform it, because of various domestic and international constraints. For Israel, by contrast, the need to intervene is a matter of survival.’
Let me recall in this context several facts of crucial importance. First, that speaking in the context of possible uses of Israeli nuclear power, Brosh revealed that Israel has contingency plans to be applied if `the Egyptian regime may change’ or because `the Saudi royal family will not reign forever’. By comparing Gazit with Brosh, we can grasp better the nature of Israeli strategic aims. Israel is preparing for a war, nuclear if need be, for the sake of averting domestic change not to its liking, if it occurs in some or any Middle Eastern states. At some time after the fall of the Shah it was disclosed that in the last days of his regime the Israeli Army planned to dispatch its elite units to Tehran in order to relieve the hard-pressed Iranian generals, except that Begin, in a display of relative moderation refused to okay the venture.
However, as Gazit rightly points out, the USSR collapsed. As long as it existed it was a strategic factor of prime importance, because threat of Soviet intervention was to some extent deterring Israel from a direct and undisguised pursuit of hegemony over the entire Middle East. Now, as Gazir rightly observes, `a vacuum was created’ which neither the US nor any other `industrially advanced state’ can fill up, at least in Gazit’s sense of the term. No faraway power will in the foreseeable future be able to invade a Middle Eastern. state, while using or threatening to use its nuclear arms in the process, only because it would dislike a domestic radicalization occurring within the internationally recognized borders of that state. Let us recall that even when Iraq persisted in its annexation of Kuwait, Bush could obtain only a slim majority in the US Congress in favour of opening the Gulf War. Can Congress be envisioned to approve an invasion of a Middle Eastern state in a mere response to a popular revolution there? The answer cannot but be either categorically negative, or at least anticipative of nearly unsurmoun2able obstacles that the US or any other Western power would in such a case have to cope with. There can be no doubt that in Israel, where even the Knesset doesn’t need to be consulted before an armed aggression, no analogous obstacles exist. The Israeli government has the legal right to initiate a war, and it can be certain of an initial approval for it by a huge majority of the Jewish public, regardless of circumstances under which that war breaks out. In the past, whenever the Knesset was notified of an aggressive war already in progress, it would approve it enthusiastically, by a huge majority.
Knesset ratifications of the already ongoing wars actually occurred in 1967 and in 1982. But the best example of it, allowing us to probe deeper into the pattern of the Knesset’s behaviour, is its ratification of the Suez War in 1956. After Ben-Gurion told the Knesset, on the third day of the war, that the war’s purpose was `to re-establish the kingdom of David and Solomon’ by annexing Sinai, our ancestral property `which is not a part of Egypt’, as well as to liberate the Egyptians and the whole world from the tyranny of Nasser, the entire Knesset, with the exception of the four Communist MKs, got up and stood to attention to sing the Israeli national anthem. Only threats from Khrushchev and from Eisenhower eventually convinced Ben-Gurion to reverse himself on this score. Yet Ben-Gurion was a realist and he ruled over the Army with an iron fist. Under the new conditions of `a vacuum [which] was created’ by the demise of the USSR, and by the increasing vulnerability of the US, Israel clearly prepares itself to seek overtly a hegemony over the entire Middle East which it has always sought covertly, without hesitating to use for the purpose all means available, including nuclear ones. Contrary to what Gazit, Shuval or other Israeli spokesmen say, however, this venture is not being undertaken for the sake of benefiting the West. The West is comprised primarily of Gentiles, and Israel is a Jewish state whose sole purpose is to benefit Jews alone. Israel’s search for hegemony stems from its own time-honoured ambitions which now dictate its strategic aims.
THE THIRD TEMPLE’S HOLY OF HOLIES:
ISRAEL’S NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Warner D. Farr, LTC, U.S. Army
The Counterproliferation Papers
Future Warfare Series No. 2
USAF Counterproliferation Center
Air War College
Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama
The Counterproliferation Papers Series was established by the USAF Counterproliferation Center to provide information and analysis to U.S. national security policy-makers and USAF officers to assist them in countering the threat posed by adversaries equipped with weapons of mass destruction. Copies of papers in this series are available from the USAF Counterproliferation Center, 325 Chennault Circle, Maxwell AFB AL 36112-6427. The fax number is (334) 953-7538; phone (334) 953-7538.
Counterproliferation Paper No. 2
USAF Counterproliferation Center
Air War College
Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama 36112-6427
The internet address for the USAF Counterproliferation Center is:
The Author ii
I. Introduction 1
II. 1948-1962: With French Cooperation 3
III. 1963-1973: Seeing the Project Through to Completion 9
IV. 1974-1999: Bringing the Bomb Up the Basement Stairs 15
Appendix: Estimates of the Israeli Nuclear Arsenal 23
The views expressed in this publication are those solely of the author and are not a statement of official policy or position of the U.S. Government, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, or the USAF Counterproliferation Center.
Colonel Warner D. “Rocky? Farr, Medical Corps, Master Flight Surgeon, U.S. Army, graduated from the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama before becoming the Command Surgeon, U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He also serves as the Surgeon for the U.S. Army Special Forces Command, U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command, and the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. With thirty-three years of military service, he holds an Associate of Arts from the State University of New York, Bachelor of Science from Northeast Louisiana University, Doctor of Medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Masters of Public Health from the University of Texas, and has completed medical residencies in aerospace medicine, and anatomic and clinical pathology. He is the only army officer to be board certified in these three specialties. Solo qualified in the TH-55A Army helicopter, he received flight training in the T-37 and T-38 aircraft as part of his USAF School of Aerospace Medicine residency.
Colonel Farr was a Master Sergeant Special Forces medic prior to receiving a direct commission to second lieutenant. He is now the senior Special Forces medical officer in the U.S. Army with prior assignments in the 5th, 7th, and 10th Special Forces Groups (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, in Vietnam, the United States, and Germany. He has advised the 12th and 20th Special Forces Groups (Airborne) in the reserves and national guard, served as Division Surgeon, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), and as the Deputy Commander of the U.S. Army Aeromedical Center, Fort Rucker, Alabama.
I would like to acknowledge the assistance, guidance and encouragement from my Air War College (AWC) faculty research advisor, Dr. Andrew Terrill, instructor of the Air War College Arab-Israeli Wars course. Thanks are also due to the great aid of the Air University librarians. The author is also indebted to Captain J. R. Saunders, USN and Colonel Robert Sutton, USAF. Who also offered helpful suggestions.
This paper is a history of the Israeli nuclear weapons program drawn from a review of unclassified sources. Israel began its search for nuclear weapons at the inception of the state in 1948. As payment for Israeli participation in the Suez Crisis of 1956, France provided nuclear expertise and constructed a reactor complex for Israel at Dimona capable of large-scale plutonium production and reprocessing. The United States discovered the facility by 1958 and it was a subject of continual discussions between American presidents and Israeli prime ministers. Israel used delay and deception to at first keep the United States at bay, and later used the nuclear option as a bargaining chip for a consistent American conventional arms supply. After French disengagement in the early 1960s, Israel progressed on its own, including through several covert operations, to project completion. Before the 1967 Six-Day War, they felt their nuclear facility threatened and reportedly assembled several nuclear devices. By the 1973 Yom Kippur War Israel had a number of sophisticated nuclear bombs, deployed them, and considered using them. The Arabs may have limited their war aims because of their knowledge of the Israeli nuclear weapons. Israel has most probably conducted several nuclear bomb tests. They have continued to modernize and vertically proliferate and are now one of the world’s larger nuclear powers. Using “bomb in the basement? nuclear opacity, Israel has been able to use its arsenal as a deterrent to the Arab world while not technically violating American nonproliferation requirements.
The Third Temple’s Holy of Holies:
Israel’s Nuclear Weapons
Warner D. Farr
This is the end of the Third Temple.
– Attributed to Moshe Dayan
during the Yom Kippur War1
As Zionists in Palestine watched World War II from their distant sideshow, what lessons were learned? The soldiers of the Empire of Japan vowed on their emperor’s sacred throne to fight to the death and not face the inevitability of an American victory. Many Jews wondered if the Arabs would try to push them into the Mediterranean Sea. After the devastating American nuclear attack on Japan, the soldier leaders of the empire reevaluated their fight to the death position. Did the bomb give the Japanese permission to surrender and live? It obviously played a military role, a political role, and a peacemaking role. How close was the mindset of the Samurai culture to the Islamic culture? Did David Ben-Gurion take note and wonder if the same would work for Israel?2 Could Israel find the ultimate deterrent that would convince her opponents that they could never, ever succeed? Was Israel’s ability to cause a modern holocaust the best way to guarantee never having another one?
The use of unconventional weapons in the Middle East is not new. The British had used chemical artillery shells against the Turks at the second battle of Gaza in 1917. They continued chemical shelling against the Shiites in Iraq in 1920 and used aerial chemicals in the 1920s and 1930s in Iraq.3
Israel’s involvement with nuclear technology starts at the founding of the state in 1948. Many talented Jewish scientists immigrated to Palestine during the thirties and forties, in particular, Ernst David Bergmann. He would become the director of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission and the founder of Israel’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Bergmann, a close friend and advisor of Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, counseled that nuclear energy could compensate for Israel’s poor natural resources and small pool of military manpower. He pointed out that there was just one nuclear energy, not two, suggesting nuclear weapons were part of the plan.4 As early as 1948, Israeli scientists actively explored the Negev Desert for uranium deposits on orders from the Israeli Ministry of Defense. By 1950, they found low-grade deposits near Beersheba and Sidon and worked on a low power method of heavy water production.5
The newly created Weizmann Institute of Science actively supported nuclear research by 1949, with Dr. Bergmann heading the chemistry division. Promising students went overseas to study nuclear engineering and physics at Israeli government expense. Israel secretly founded its own Atomic Energy Commission in 1952 and placed it under the control of the Defense Ministry.6 The foundations of a nuclear program were beginning to develop.
II. 1948-1962: With French Cooperation
It has always been our intention to develop a nuclear potential.
– Ephraim Katzir7
In 1949, Francis Perrin, a member of the French Atomic Energy Commission, nuclear physicist, and friend of Dr. Bergmann visited the Weizmann Institute. He invited Israeli scientists to the new French nuclear research facility at Saclay. A joint research effort was subsequently set up between the two nations. Perrin publicly stated in 1986 that French scientists working in America on the Manhattan Project and in Canada during World War II were told they could use their knowledge in France provided they kept it a secret.8 Perrin reportedly provided nuclear data to Israel on the same basis.9 One Israeli scientist worked at the U.S. Los Alamos National Laboratory and may have directly brought expertise home.10
After the Second World War, France’s nuclear research capability was quite limited. France had been a leading research center in nuclear physics before World War II, but had fallen far behind the U.S., the U.S.S.R., the United Kingdom, and even Canada. Israel and France were at a similar level of expertise after the war, and Israeli scientists could make significant contributions to the French effort. Progress in nuclear science and technology in France and Israel remained closely linked throughout the early fifties. Israeli scientists probably helped construct the G-1 plutonium production reactor and UP-1 reprocessing plant at Marcoule.11 France profited from two Israeli patents on heavy water production and low-grade uranium enrichment.12 In the 1950s and into the early 1960s, France and Israel had close relations in many areas. France was Israel’s principal arms supplier, and as instability spread through French colonies in North Africa, Israel provided valuable intelligence obtained from contacts with sephardic Jews in those countries.
The two nations collaborated, with the United Kingdom, in planning and staging the Suez Canal-Sinai operation against Egypt in October 1956. The Suez Crisis became the real genesis of Israel’s nuclear weapons production program. With the Czech-Egyptian arms agreement in 1955, Israel became worried. When absorbed, the Soviet-bloc equipment would triple Egyptian military strength. After Egypt’s President Nasser closed the Straits of Tiran in 1953, Israeli Prime Minister Ben-Gurion ordered the development of chemical munitions and other unconventional munitions, including nuclear.13 Six weeks before the Suez Canal operation, Israel felt the time was right to approach France for assistance in building a nuclear reactor. Canada had set a precedent a year earlier when it had agreed to build a 40-megawatt CIRUS reactor in India. Shimon Peres, the Director-General of the Defense Ministry and aide to Prime Minister (and Defense Minister) David Ben-Gurion, and Bergmann met with members of the CEA (France’s Atomic Energy Commission). During September 1956, they reached an initial understanding to provide a research reactor. The two countries concluded final agreements at a secret meeting outside Paris where they also finalized details of the Suez Canal operation.14
For the United Kingdom and France, the Suez operation, launched on October 29, 1956, was a total disaster. Israel’s part was a military success, allowing it to occupy the entire Sinai Peninsula by 4 November, but the French and British canal invasion on 6 November was a political failure. Their attempt to advance south along the Suez Canal stopped due to a cease-fire under fierce Soviet and U.S. pressure. Both nations pulled out, leaving Israel to face the pressure from the two superpowers alone. Soviet Premier Bulganin and President Khrushchev issued an implicit threat of nuclear attack if Israel did not withdraw from the Sinai.
On 7 November 1956, a secret meeting was held between Israeli foreign minister Golda Meir, Shimon Peres, and French foreign and defense ministers Christian Pineau and Maurice Bourges-Manoury. The French, embarrassed by their failure to support their ally in the operation, found the Israelis deeply concerned about a Soviet threat. In this meeting, they substantially modified the initial understanding beyond a research reactor. Peres secured an agreement from France to assist Israel in developing a nuclear deterrent. After further months of negotiation, agreement was reached for an 18-megawatt (thermal) research reactor of the EL-3 type, along with plutonium separation technology. France and Israel signed the agreement in October 1957.15 Later the reactor was officially upgraded to 24 megawatts, but the actual specifications issued to engineers provided for core cooling ducts sufficient for up to three times this power level, along with a plutonium plant of similar capacity. Data from insider reports revealed in 1986 would estimate the power level at 125-150 megawatts.16 The reactor, not connected to turbines for power production, needed this increase in size only to increase its plutonium production. How this upgrade came about remains unknown, but Bourges-Maunoury, replacing Mollet as French prime minister, may have contributed to it.17 Shimon Peres, the guiding hand in the Israeli nuclear program, had a close relationship with Bourges-Maunoury and probably helped him politically.18
Why was France so eager to help Israel? DeMollet and then de Gaulle had a place for Israel within their strategic vision. A nuclear Israel could be a counterforce against Egypt in France’s fight in Algeria. Egypt was openly aiding the rebel forces there. France also wanted to obtain the bomb itself. The United States had embargoed certain nuclear enabling computer technology from France. Israel could get the technology from America and pass it through to France. The U.S. furnished Israel heavy water, under the Atoms for Peace program, for the small research reactor at Soreq. France could use this heavy water. Since France was some years away from nuclear testing and success, Israeli science was an insurance policy in case of technical problems in France’s own program.19 The Israeli intelligence community’s knowledge of past French (especially Vichy) anti-Semitic transgressions and the continued presence of former Nazi collaborators in French intelligence provided the Israelis with some blackmail opportunities.20 The cooperation was so close that Israel worked with France on the preproduction design of early Mirage jet aircraft, designed to be capable of delivering nuclear bombs.21
French experts secretly built the Israeli reactor underground at Dimona, in the Negev desert of southern Israel near Beersheba. Hundreds of French engineers and technicians filled Beersheba, the biggest town in the Negev. Many of the same contractors who built Marcoule were involved. SON (a French firm) built the plutonium separation plants in both France and Israel. The ground was broken for the EL-102 reactor (as it was known to France) in early 1958.
Israel used many subterfuges to conceal activity at Dimona. It called the plant a manganese plant, and rarely, a textile plant. The United States by the end of 1958 had taken pictures of the project from U-2 spy planes, and identified the site as a probable reactor complex. The concentration of Frenchmen was also impossible to hide from ground observers. In 1960, before the reactor was operating, France, now under the leadership of de Gaulle, reconsidered and decided to suspend the project. After several months of negotiation, they reached an agreement in November that allowed the reactor to proceed if Israel promised not to make nuclear weapons and to announce the project to the world. Work on the plutonium reprocessing plant halted. On 2 December 1960, before Israel could make announcements, the U.S. State Department issued a statement that Israel had a secret nuclear installation. By 16 December, this became public knowledge with its appearance in the New York Times. On 21 December, Ben-Gurion announced that Israel was building a 24-megawatt reactor “for peaceful purposes.”22
Over the next year, relations between the U.S. and Israel became strained over the Dimona reactor. The U.S. accepted Israel’s assertions at face value publicly, but exerted pressure privately. Although Israel allowed a cursory inspection by well known American physicists Eugene Wigner and I. I. Rabi, Prime Minister Ben-Gurion consistently refused to allow regular international inspections. The final resolution between the U.S. and Israel was a commitment from Israel to use the facility for peaceful purposes, and to admit an U.S. inspection team twice a year. These inspections began in 1962 and continued until 1969. Inspectors saw only the above ground part of the buildings, not the many levels underground and the visit frequency was never more than once a year. The above ground areas had simulated control rooms, and access to the underground areas was kept hidden while the inspectors were present. Elevators leading to the secret underground plutonium reprocessing plant were actually bricked over.23 Much of the information on these inspections and the political maneuvering around it has just been declassified.24
One interpretation of Ben-Gurion’s “peaceful purposes? pledge given to America is that he interpreted it to mean that nuclear weapon development was not excluded if used strictly for defensive, and not offensive purposes. Israel’s security position in the late fifties and early sixties was far more precarious than now. After three wars, with a robust domestic arms industry and a reliable defense supply line from the U.S., Israel felt much more secure. During the fifties and early sixties a number of attempts by Israel to obtain security guarantees from the U.S. to place Israel under the U.S. nuclear umbrella like NATO or Japan, were unsuccessful. If the U.S. had conducted a forward-looking policy to restrain Israel’s proliferation, along with a sure defense agreement, we could have prevented the development of Israel’s nuclear arsenal.
One common discussion in the literature concerns testing of Israeli nuclear devices. In the early phases, the amount of collaboration between the French and Israeli nuclear weapons design programs made testing unnecessary. In addition, although their main efforts were with plutonium, the Israelis may have amassed enough uranium for gun-assembled type bombs which, like the Hiroshima bomb, require no testing. One expert postulated, based on unnamed sources, that the French nuclear test in 1960 made two nuclear powers not one’such was the depth of collaboration.25 There were several Israeli observers at the French nuclear tests and the Israelis had “unrestricted access to French nuclear test explosion data.”26 Israel also supplied essential technology and hardware.27 The French reportedly shipped reprocessed plutonium back to Israel as part of their repayment for Israeli scientific help.
However, this constant, decade long, French cooperation and support was soon to end and Israel would have to go it alone.
III. 1963-1973: Seeing the Project to Completion
To act in such a way that the Jews who died in the gas chambers would be the last Jews to die without defending themselves.
– Golda Meir28
Israel would soon need its own, independent, capabilities to complete its nuclear program. Only five countries had facilities for uranium enrichment: the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, and China. The Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation, or NUMEC, in Apollo, Pennsylvania was a small fuel rod fabrication plant. In 1965, the U.S. government accused Dr. Zalman Shapiro, the corporation president, of “losing? 200 pounds of highly enriched uranium. Although investigated by the Atomic Energy Commission, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other government agencies and inquiring reporters, no answers were available in what was termed the Apollo Affair.29 Many remain convinced that the Israelis received 200 pounds of enriched uranium sometime before 1965.30 One source links Rafi Eitan, an Israeli Mossad agent and later the handler of spy Jonathan Pollard, with NUMEC.31 In the 1990s when the NUMEC plant was disassembled, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission found over 100 kilograms of plutonium in the structural components of the contaminated plant, casting doubt on 200 pounds going to Israel.32
The joint venture with France gave Israel several ingredients for nuclear weapons construction: a production reactor, a factory to extract plutonium from the spent fuel, and the design. In 1962, the Dimona reactor went critical; the French resumed work on the underground plutonium reprocessing plant, and completed it in 1964 or 1965. The acquisition of this reactor and related technologies was clearly intended for military purposes from the outset (not “dual-use?), as the reactor has no other function. The security at Dimona (officially the Negev Nuclear Research Center) was particularly stringent. For straying into Dimona’s airspace, the Israelis shot down one of their own Mirage fighters during the Six-Day War. The Israelis also shot down a Libyan airliner with 104 passengers, in 1973, which had strayed over the Sinai.33 There is little doubt that some time in the late sixties Israel became the sixth nation to manufacture nuclear weapons. Other things they needed were extra uranium and extra heavy water to run the reactor at a higher rate. Norway, France, and the United States provided the heavy water and “Operation Plumbat? provided the uranium.
After the 1967 war, France stopped supplies of uranium to Israel. These supplies were from former French colonies of Gabon, Niger, and the Central Africa Republic.34 Israel had small amounts of uranium from Negev phosphate mines and had bought some from Argentina and South Africa, but not in the large quantities supplied by the French. Through a complicated undercover operation, the Israelis obtained uranium oxide, known as yellow cake, held in a stockpile in Antwerp. Using a West German front company and a high seas transfer from one ship to another in the Mediterranean, they obtained 200 tons of yellow cake. The smugglers labeled the 560 sealed oil drums “Plumbat,” which means lead, hence “Operation Plumbat.”35 The West German government may have been involved directly but remained undercover to avoid antagonizing the Soviets or Arabs.36 Israeli intelligence information on the Nazi past of some West German officials may have provided the motivation.37
Norway sold 20 tons of heavy water to Israel in 1959 for use in an experimental power reactor. Norway insisted on the right to inspect the heavy water for 32 years, but did so only once, in April 1961, while it was still in storage barrels at Dimona. Israel simply promised that the heavy water was for peaceful purposes. In addition, quantities much more than what would be required for the peaceful purpose reactors were imported. Norway either colluded or at the least was very slow to ask to inspect as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) rules required.38 Norway and Israel concluded an agreement in 1990 for Israel to sell back 10.5 tons of the heavy water to Norway. Recent calculations reveal that Israel has used two tons and will retain eight tons more.39
Author Seymour Hersh, writing in the Samson Option says Prime Minister Levi Eshkol delayed starting weapons production even after Dimona was finished.40 The reactor operated and the plutonium collected, but remained unseparated. The first extraction of plutonium probably occurred in late 1965. By 1966, enough plutonium was on hand to develop a weapon in time for the Six-Day War in 1967. Some type of non-nuclear test, perhaps a zero yield or implosion test, occurred on November 2, 1966. After this time, considerable collaboration between Israel and South Africa developed and continued through the 1970s and 1980s. South Africa became Israel’s primary supplier of uranium for Dimona. A Center for Nonproliferation Studies report lists four separate Israel-South Africa “clandestine nuclear deals.” Three concerned yellowcake and one was tritium.41 Other sources of yellowcake may have included Portugal.42
Egypt attempted unsuccessfully to obtain nuclear weapons from the Soviet Union both before and after the Six-Day War. President Nasser received from the Soviet Union a questionable nuclear guarantee instead and declared that Egypt would develop its own nuclear program.43 His rhetoric of 1965 and 1966 about preventive war and Israeli nuclear weapons coupled with overflights of the Dimona rector contributed to the tensions that led to war. The Egyptian Air Force claims to have first overflown Dimona and recognized the existence of a nuclear reactor in 1965.44 Of the 50 American HAWK antiaircraft missiles in Israeli hands, half ringed Dimona by 1965.45 Israel considered the Egyptian overflights of May 16, 1967 as possible pre-strike reconnaissance. One source lists such Egyptian overflights, along with United Nations peacekeeper withdrawal and Egyptian troop movements into the Sinai, as one of the three “tripwires” which would drive Israel to war.46 There was an Egyptian military plan to attack Dimona at the start of any war but Nasser vetoed it.47 He believed Israel would have the bomb in 1968.48 Israel assembled two nuclear bombs and ten days later went to war.49 Nasser’s plan, if he had one, may have been to gain and consolidate territorial gains before Israel had a nuclear option.50 He was two weeks too late.
The Israelis aggressively pursued an aircraft delivery system from the United States. President Johnson was less emphatic about nonproliferation than President Kennedy-or perhaps had more pressing concerns, such as Vietnam. He had a long history of both Jewish friends and pressing political contributors coupled with some first hand experience of the Holocaust, having toured concentration camps at the end of World War II.51 Israel pressed him hard for aircraft (A-4E Skyhawks initially and F-4E Phantoms later) and obtained agreement in 1966 under the condition that the aircraft would not be used to deliver nuclear weapons. The State Department attempted to link the aircraft purchases to continued inspection visits. President Johnson overruled the State Department concerning Dimona inspections.52 Although denied at the time, America delivered the F-4Es, on September 5, 1969, with nuclear capable hardware intact.53
The Samson Option states that Moshe Dayan gave the go-ahead for starting weapon production in early 1968, putting the plutonium separation plant into full operation. Israel began producing three to five bombs a year. The book Critical Mass asserts that Israel had two bombs in 1967, and that Prime Minister Eshkol ordered them armed in Israel’s first nuclear alert during the Six-Day War.54 Avner Cohen in his recent book, Israel and the Bomb, agrees that Israel had a deliverable nuclear capability in the 1967 war. He quotes Munya Mardor, leader of Rafael, the Armament Development Authority, and other unnamed sources, that Israel “cobbled together? two deliverable devices.55
Having the bomb meant articulating, even if secretly, a use doctrine. In addition to the “Samson Option” of last resort, other triggers for nuclear use may have included successful Arab penetration of populated areas, destruction of the Israeli Air Force, massive air strikes or chemical/biological strikes on Israeli cities, and Arab use of nuclear weapons.56
In 1971, Israel began purchasing krytrons, ultra high-speed electronic switching tubes that are “dual-use," having both industrial and nuclear weapons applications as detonators. In the 1980s, the United States charged an American, Richard Smith (or Smyth), with smuggling 810 krytrons to Israel.57 He vanished before trial and reportedly lives outside Tel Aviv. The Israelis apologized for the action saying that the krytrons were for medical research.58 Israel returned 469 of the krytrons but the rest, they declared, had been destroyed in testing conventional weapons. Some believe they went to South Africa.59 Smyth has also been reported to have been involved in a 1972 smuggling operation to obtain solid rocket fuel binder compounds for the Jericho II missile and guidance component hardware.60 Observers point to the Jericho missile itself as proof of a nuclear capability as it is not suited to the delivery of conventional munitions.61
On the afternoon of 6 October 1973, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel in a coordinated surprise attack, beginning the Yom Kippur War. Caught with only regular forces on duty, augmented by reservists with a low readiness level, Israeli front lines crumbled. By early afternoon on 7 October, no effective forces were in the southern Golan Heights and Syrian forces had reached the edge of the plateau, overlooking the Jordan River. This crisis brought Israel to its second nuclear alert.
Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, obviously not at his best at a press briefing, was, according to Time magazine, rattled enough to later tell the prime minister that “this is the end of the third temple,” referring to an impending collapse of the state of Israel. “Temple? was also the code word for nuclear weapons. Prime Minister Golda Meir and her “kitchen cabinet? made the decision on the night of 8 October. The Israelis assembled 13 twenty-kiloton atomic bombs. The number and in fact the entire story was later leaked by the Israelis as a great psychological warfare tool. Although most probably plutonium devices, one source reports they were enriched uranium bombs. The Jericho missiles at Hirbat Zachariah and the nuclear strike F-4s at Tel Nof were armed and prepared for action against Syrian and Egyptian targets. They also targeted Damascus with nuclear capable long-range artillery although it is not certain they had nuclear artillery shells.62
U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was notified of the alert several hours later on the morning of 9 October. The U.S. decided to open an aerial resupply pipeline to Israel, and Israeli aircraft began picking up supplies that day. Although stockpile depletion remained a concern, the military situation stabilized on October 8th and 9th as Israeli reserves poured into the battle and averted disaster. Well before significant American resupply had reached Israeli forces, the Israelis counterattacked and turned the tide on both fronts.
On 11 October, a counterattack on the Golan broke the back of Syria’s offensive, and on 15 and 16 October, Israel launched a surprise crossing of the Suez Canal into Africa. Soon the Israelis encircled the Egyptian Third Army and it was faced with annihilation on the east bank of the Suez Canal, with no protective forces remaining between the Israeli Army and Cairo. The first U.S. flights arrived on 14 October.63 Israeli commandos flew to Fort Benning, Georgia to train with the new American TOW anti-tank missiles and return with a C-130 Hercules aircraft full of them in time for the decisive Golan battle. American commanders in Germany depleted their stocks of missiles, at that time only shared with the British and West Germans, and sent them forward to Israel.64
Thus started the subtle, opaque use of the Israeli bomb to ensure that the United States kept its pledge to maintain Israel’s conventional weapons edge over its foes.65 There is significant anecdotal evidence that Henry Kissinger told President of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, that the reason for the U.S. airlift was that the Israelis were close to “going nuclear.”66
A similar Soviet pipeline to the Arabs, equally robust, may or may not have included a ship with nuclear weapons on it, detected from nuclear trace emissions and shadowed by the Americans from the Dardanelles. The Israelis believe that the Soviets discovered Israeli nuclear preparations from COSMOS satellite photographs and decided to equalize the odds.67 The Soviet ship arrived in Alexandria on either 18 or 23 October (sources disagree), and remained, without unloading, until November 1973. The ship may have represented a Soviet guarantee to the Arab combatants to neutralize the Israeli nuclear option.68 While some others dismiss the story completely, the best-written review article concludes that the answer is “obscure.” Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev threatened, on 24 October, to airlift Soviet airborne troops to reinforce the Egyptians cut off on the eastern side of the Suez Canal and put seven Soviet airborne divisions on alert.69 Recent evidence indicates that the Soviets sent nuclear missile submarines also.70 Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine claimed that the two Soviet SCUD brigades deployed in Egypt each had a nuclear warhead. American satellite photos seemed to confirm this. The U.S. passed to Israel images of trucks, of the type used to transport nuclear warheads, parked near the launchers.71 President Nixon’s response was to bring the U.S. to worldwide nuclear alert the next day, whereupon Israel went to nuclear alert a third time.72 This sudden crisis quickly faded as Prime Minister Meir agreed to a cease-fire, relieving the pressure on the Egyptian Third Army.
Shimon Peres had argued for a pre-war nuclear demonstration to deter the Arabs. Arab strategies and war aims in 1967 may have been restricted because of a fear of the Israeli “bomb in the basement,” the undeclared nuclear option. The Egyptians planned to capture an eastern strip next to the Suez Canal and then hold. The Syrians did not aggressively commit more forces to battle or attempt to drive through the 1948 Jordan River border to the Israeli center. Both countries seemed not to violate Israel proper and avoided triggering one of the unstated Israeli reasons to employ nuclear weapons.73 Others discount any Arab planning based on nuclear capabilities.74 Peres also credits Dimona with bringing Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem to make peace.75 This position was seemingly confirmed by Sadat in a private conversation with Israeli Defense Minister Ezer Weizman.76
At the end of the Yom Kippur War (a nation shaking experience), Israel has her nuclear arsenal fully functional and tested by a deployment. The arsenal, still opaque and unspoken, was no longer a secret, especially to the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union.
IV. 1974-1999: Bringing the Bomb up the Basement Stairs
– Reportedly welded on the
first Israeli nuclear bomb77
Shortly after the 1973 war, Israel allegedly fielded considerable nuclear artillery consisting of American 175 mm and 203 mm self-propelled artillery pieces, capable of firing nuclear shells. If true, this shows that Dimona had rapidly solved the problems of designing smaller weapons since the crude 1967 devices. If true, these low yield, tactical nuclear artillery rounds could reach at least 25 miles. The Israeli Defense Force did have three battalions of the 175mm artillery (36 tubes), reportedly with 108 nuclear shells and more for the 203mm tubes. Some sources describe a program to extend the range to 45 miles. They may have offered the South Africans these low yield, miniaturized, shells described as, “the best stuff we got.”78 By 1976, according to one unclassified source, the Central Intelligence Agency believed that the Israelis were using plutonium from Dimona and had 10 to 20 nuclear weapons available.79
In 1972, two Israeli scientists, Isaiah Nebenzahl and Menacehm Levin, developed a cheaper, faster uranium enrichment process. It used a laser beam for isotope separation. It could reportedly enrich seven grams of Uranium 235 sixty percent in one day.80 Sources later reported that Israel was using both centrifuges and lasers to enrich uranium.81
Questions remained regarding full-scale nuclear weapons tests. Primitive gun assembled type devices need no testing. Researchers can test non-nuclear components of other types separately and use extensive computer simulations. Israel received data from the 1960 French tests, and one source concludes that Israel accessed information from U.S. tests conducted in the 1950s and early 1960s. This may have included both boosted and thermonuclear weapons data.82 Underground testing in a hollowed out cavern is difficult to detect. A West Germany Army Magazine, Wehrtechnik, in June 1976, claimed that Western reports documented a 1963 underground test in the Negev. Other reports show a test at Al-Naqab, Negev in October 1966.83
A bright flash in the south Indian Ocean, observed by an American satellite on 22 September 1979, is widely believed to be a South Africa-Israel joint nuclear test. It was, according to some, the third test of a neutron bomb. The first two were hidden in clouds to fool the satellite and the third was an accident?the weather cleared.84 Experts differ on these possible tests. Several writers report that the scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory believed it to have been a nuclear explosion while a presidential panel decided otherwise.85 President Carter was just entering the Iran hostage nightmare and may have easily decided not to alter 30 years of looking the other way.86 The explosion was almost certainly an Israeli bomb, tested at the invitation of the South Africans. It was more advanced than the “gun type? bombs developed by the South Africans.87 One report claims it was a test of a nuclear artillery shell.88 A 1997 Israeli newspaper quoted South African deputy foreign minister, Aziz Pahad, as confirming it was an Israeli test with South African logistical support.89
Controversy over possible nuclear testing continues to this day. In June 1998, a Member of the Knesset accused the government of an underground test near Eilat on May 28, 1998. Egyptian “nuclear experts? had made similar charges. The Israeli government hotly denied the claims.90
Not only were the Israelis interested in American nuclear weapons development data, they were interested in targeting data from U.S. intelligence. Israel discovered that they were on the Soviet target list. American-born Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard obtained satellite-imaging data of the Soviet Union, allowing Israel to target accurately Soviet cities. This showed Israel’s intention to use its nuclear arsenal as a deterrent political lever, or retaliatory capability against the Soviet Union itself. Israel also used American satellite imagery to plan the 7 June 1981 attack on the Tammuz-1 reactor at Osiraq, Iraq. This daring attack, carried out by eight F-16s accompanied by six F-15s punched a hole in the concrete reactor dome before the reactor began operation (and just days before an Israeli election). It delivered 15 delay-fused 2000 pound bombs deep into the reactor structure (the 16th bomb hit a nearby hall). The blasts shredded the reactor and blew out the dome foundations, causing it to collapse on the rubble. This was the world’s first attack on a nuclear reactor.91
Since 19 September 1988, Israel has worked on its own satellite recon- naissance system to decrease reliance on U.S. sources. On that day, they launched the Offeq-1 satellite on the Shavit booster, a system closely related to the Jericho-II missile. They launched the satellite to the west away from the Arabs and against the earth’s rotation, requiring even more thrust. The Jericho-II missile is capable of sending a one ton nuclear payload 5,000 kilometers. Offeq-2 went up on 3 April 1990. The launch of the Offeq-3 failed on its first attempt on 15 September 1994, but was successful 5 April 1995.92
Mordechai Vanunu provided the best look at the Israeli nuclear arsenal in 1985 complete with photographs.93 A technician from Dimona who lost his job, Vanunu secretly took photographs, immigrated to Australia and published some of his material in the London Sunday Times. He was subsequently kidnapped by Israeli agents, tried and imprisoned. His data shows a sophisticated nuclear program, over 200 bombs, with boosted devices, neutron bombs, F-16 deliverable warheads, and Jericho warheads.94 The boosted weapons shown in the Vanunu photographs show a sophistication that inferred the requirement for testing.95 He revealed for the first time the underground plutonium separation facility where Israel was producing 40 kilograms annually, several times more than previous estimates. Photographs showed sophisticated designs which scientific experts say enabled the Israelis to build bombs with as little as 4 kilograms of plutonium. These facts have increased the estimates of total Israeli nuclear stockpiles (see Appendix A).96 In the words of one American, ?[the Israelis] can do anything we or the Soviets can do.”97 Vanunu not only made the technical details of the Israeli program and stockpile public but in his wake, Israeli began veiled official acknowledgement of the potent Israeli nuclear deterrent. They began bringing the bomb up the basement stairs if not out of the basement.
Israel went on full-scale nuclear alert again on the first day of Desert Storm, 18 January 1991. Seven SCUD missiles were fired against the cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa by Iraq (only two actually hit Tel Aviv and one hit Haifa). This alert lasted for the duration of the war, 43 days. Over the course of the war, Iraq launched around 40 missiles in 17 separate attacks at Israel. There was little loss of life: two killed directly, 11 indirectly, with many structures damaged and life disrupted.98 Several supposedly landed near Dimona, one of them a close miss.99 Threats of retaliation by the Shamir government if the Iraqis used chemical warheads were interpreted to mean that Israel intended to launch a nuclear strike if gas attacks occurred. One Israeli commentator recommended that Israel should signal Iraq that “any Iraqi action against Israeli civilian populations, with or without gas, may leave Iraq without Baghdad.”100 Shortly before the end of the war the Israelis tested a “nuclear capable? missile which prompted the United States into intensifying its SCUD hunting in western Iraq to prevent any Israeli response.101 The Israeli Air Force set up dummy SCUD sites in the Negev for pilots to practice on – they found it no easy task.102 American government concessions to Israel for not attacking (in addition to Israeli Patriot missile batteries) were:
- Allowing Israel to designate 100 targets inside Iraq for the coalition to destroy,
- Satellite downlink to increase warning time on the SCUD attacks (present and future),
- “Technical parity with Saudi jet fighters in perpetuity.”103
All of this validated the nuclear arsenal in the minds of the Israelis. In particular the confirmed capability of Arab states without a border with Israel, the so-called “second tier? states, to reach out and touch Israel with ballistic missiles confirmed Israel’s need for a robust first strike capability.104 Current military contacts between Israel and India, another nuclear power, bring up questions of nuclear cooperation.105 Pakistani sources have already voiced concerns over a possible joint Israeli-Indian attack on Pakistan’s nuclear facilities.106 A recent Parameters article speculated on Israel’s willingness to furnish nuclear capabilities or assistance to certain states, such as Turkey.107 A retired Israeli Defense Force Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Amnon Shahak, has declared, “all methods are acceptable in withholding nuclear capabilities from an Arab state.”108
As the Israeli bomb comes out of the basement, open discussion, even in Israel, is occurring on why the Israelis feel they need an arsenal not used in at least two if not three wars. Avner Cohen states: “It [Israel] must be in a position to threaten another Hiroshima to prevent another holocaust.”109 In July 1998 Shimon Peres was quoted in the Jordan Times as saying, “We have built a nuclear option, not in order to have a Hiroshima, but to have an Oslo,”110 referring to the peace process.
One list of current reasons for an Israeli nuclear capability is:
- To deter a large conventional attack,
- To deter all levels of unconventional (chemical, biological, nuclear) attacks,
- To preempt enemy nuclear attacks,
- To support conventional preemption against enemy nuclear assets,
- To support conventional preemption against enemy non-nuclear (conventional, chemical, biological) assets,
- For nuclear warfighting,
- The “Samson Option? (last resort destruction).111
The most alarming of these is the nuclear warfighting. The Israelis have developed, by several accounts, low yield neutron bombs able to destroy troops with minimal damage to property.112 In 1990, during the Second Gulf War, an Israeli reserve major general recommended to America that it “use non-contaminating tactical nuclear weapons? against Iraq.113 Some have speculated that the Israelis will update their nuclear arsenal to “micronukes” and “tinynukes” which would be very useful to attack point targets and other tactical or barrier (mining) uses.114 These would be very useful for hardened deeply buried command and control facilities and for airfield destruction without exposing Israeli pilots to combat.115 Authors have made the point that Israeli professional military schools do not teach nuclear tactics and would not use them in the close quarters of Israel. Many Israeli officers have attended American military schools where they learned tactical use in crowded Europe.116
However, Jane’s Intelligence Review has recently reported an Israeli review of nuclear strategy with a shift from tactical nuclear warheads to long range missiles.117 Israel always has favored the long reach, whether to Argentina for Adolph Eichmann, to Iraq to strike a reactor, Entebbe for hostages, Tunisia to hit the PLO, or by targeting the Soviet Union’s cities. An esteemed Israeli military author has speculated that Israel is pursuing an R&D program to provide MIRVs (multiple independent reentry vehicles) on their missiles.118
The government of Israel recently ordered three German Dolphin Class 800 submarine, to be delivered in late 1999. Israel will then have a second strike capability with nuclear cruise missiles, and this capability could well change the nuclear arms race in the Middle East.119 Israeli rhetoric on the new submarines labels them “national deterrent? assets. Projected capabilities include a submarine-launched nuclear missile with a 350-kilometer range.120 Israel has been working on sea launch capability for missiles since the 1960s.121 The first basing options for the new second-strike force of nuclear missile capable submarines include Oman, an Arab nation with unofficial Israeli relations, located strategically near Iran.122 A report indicates that the Israel Defense Ministry has formally gone to the government with a request to authorize a retaliatory nuclear strike if Israel was hit with first strike nuclear weapons. This report comes in the wake of a recent Iran Shihab-3 missile test and indications to Israel that Iran is two to three years from a nuclear warhead.123 Israeli statements stress that Iran’s nuclear potential would be problem to all and would require “American leadership, with serious participation of the G-7 . . . .”124
A recent study highlighted Israel’s extreme vulnerability to a first strike and an accompanying vulnerability even to a false alarm.125 Syria’s entire defense against Israel seems to rest on chemical weapons and warheads.126 One scenario involves Syria making a quick incursion into the Golan and then threatening chemical strikes, perhaps with a new, more lethal (protective-mask-penetrable) Russian nerve gas if Israel resists.127 Their use would drive Israel to nuclear use. Israeli development of an anti- missile defense, the Arrow, a fully fielded (30-50128) Jericho II ballistic missile, and the soon-to-arrive strategic submarine force, seems to have produced a coming change in defense force structure. The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, quotes the Israeli Chief of Staff discussing the establishment of a “strategic command to . . . prepare an adequate response to the long term threats. . . ?129
The 1994 accord with Jordan, allowing limited Israeli military presence in Jordanian skies, could make the flying distance to several potential adversaries considerably shorter.130 Israel is concerned about Iran’s desire to obtain nuclear weapons and become a regional leader, coupled with large numbers of Shiite Moslems in southern Lebanon. The Israeli Air Force commanding general issued a statement saying Israel would “consider an attack? if any country gets “close to achieving a nuclear capability.”131 The Israelis are obviously considering actions capable of stopping such programs and are buying aircraft such as the F-15I with sufficient operational range. At the first delivery of these 4,000 kilometer range fighters, the Israeli comment was, “the aircraft would help counter a growing nuclear threat.”132 They consider such regional nation nuclear programs to be a sufficient cause for war. Their record of accomplishment is clear: having hit the early Iraqi nuclear effort, they feel vindicated by Desert Storm. They also feel that only the American and Israeli nuclear weapons kept Iraq’s Saddam Hussein from using chemical or biological weapons against Israel.133
Israel, like Iran, has desires of regional power. The 1956 alliance with France and Britain might have been a first attempt at regional hegemony. Current debate in the Israeli press considers offering Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and perhaps Syria (after a peace agreement) an Israeli nuclear umbrella of protection.134 A nuclear Iran or Iraq might use its nuclear weapons to protect some states in the region, threaten others, and attempt to control oil prices.135
Another speculative area concerns Israeli nuclear security and possible misuse. What is the chain of decision and control of Israel’s weapons? How susceptible are they to misuse or theft? With no open, frank, public debate on nuclear issues, there has accordingly been no debate or information on existing safeguards. This has led to accusations of “monolithic views and sinister intentions.”1360 Would a right wing military government decide to employ nuclear weapons recklessly? Ariel Sharon, an outspoken proponent of “Greater Israel? was quoted as saying, “Arabs may have the oil, but we have the matches.”137 Could the Gush Emunim, a right wing religious organization, or others, hijack a nuclear device to “liberate? the Temple Mount for the building of the third temple? Chances are small but could increase as radicals decry the peace process.138 A 1997 article reviewing the Israeli Defense Force repeatedly stressed the possibilities of, and the need to guard against, a religious, right wing military coup, especially as the proportion of religious in the military increases.139
Israel is a nation with a state religion, but its top leaders are not religious Jews. The intricacies of Jewish religious politics and rabbinical law do affect their politics and decision processes. In Jewish law, there are two types of war, one obligatory and mandatory (milkhemet mitzvah) and the one authorized but optional (milkhemet reshut).140 The labeling of Prime Minister Begin’s “Peace for Galilee? operation as a milchemet brera (?war of choice?) was one of the factors causing it to lose support.141 Interpretation of Jewish law concerning nuclear weapons does not permit their use for mutual assured destruction. However, it does allow possession and threatening their use, even if actual use is not justifiable under the law. Interpretations of the law allow tactical use on the battlefield, but only after warning the enemy and attempting to make peace. How much these intricacies affect Israeli nuclear strategy decisions is unknown.142
The secret nature of the Israeli nuclear program has hidden the increasing problems of the aging Dimona reactor and adverse worker health effects. Information is only now public as former workers sue the government. This issue is now linked to continued tritium production for the boosted anti-tank and anti-missile nuclear warheads that Israeli continues to need. Israel is attempting to obtain a new, more efficient, tritium production technology developed in India.143
One other purpose of Israeli nuclear weapons, not often stated, but obvious, is their “use” that the United States. America does not want Israel’s nuclear profile raised.144 They have been used in the past to ensure America does not desert Israel under increased Arab, or oil embargo, pressure and have forced the United States to support Israeli diplomatically against the Soviet Union. Israel used their existence to guarantee a continuing supply of American conventional weapons, a policy likely to continue.145
Regardless of the true types and numbers (see Appendix A) of Israeli nuclear weapons, they have developed a sophisticated system, by myriad methods, and are a nuclear power to be reckoned with. Their nuclear ambiguity has served their purposes well but Israel is entering a different phase of visibility even as their nuclear capability is entering a new phase. This new visibility may not be in America’s interest.146 Many are predicting the Israeli nuclear arsenal will become less useful “out of the basement” and possibly spur a regional arms race. If so, Israel has a 5-10 year lead time at present before mutual assured destruction, Middle East style, will set in. Would regional mutual second strike capability, easier to acquire than superpower mutual second strike capability, result in regional stability? Some think so.147 Current Israeli President Ezer Weizman has stated “the nuclear issue is gaining momentum [and the] next war will not be conventional.148
Estimates of the Israeli Nuclear Arsenal
1. Hersh, Seymour M., The Samson Option. Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy (New York: Random House, 1991), 223.
2. Aronson, Slomo and Brosh, Oded, The Politics and Strategy of Nuclear Weapons in the Middle East, the Opacity Theory, and Reality, 1960-1991-An Israeli Perspective (Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 1992), 20.
3. Karsh, Efraim, Between War and Peace: Dilemmas of Israeli Security (London, England: Frank Cass, 1996), 82.
4. Cohen, Avner, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), 16.
5. Cordesman, Anthony, Perilous Prospects: The Peace Process and the Arab-Israeli Military Balance (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1996), 118.
6. Pry, Peter, Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal (Boulder, Colorado: Westview, 1984), 5-6.
7. Quoted in Weissman, Steve and Krosney, Herbert. The Islamic Bomb: The Nuclear Threat to Israel and the Middle East. (New York, New York: Times Books, 1981), 105.
8. “Former Official Says France Helped Build Israel’s Dimona Complex.” Nucleonics Week October 16, 1986, 6.
9. Milhollin, Gary, “Heavy Water Cheaters.” Foreign Policy (1987-88): 101-102.
10. Cordesman, 1991, 127.
11. Federation of American Scientists, “Israel’s Nuclear Weapons Program.” 10 December 1997, n.p. On-line. Internet, 27 October 1998. Available from http://www.fas.org/nuke/hew/Israel/Isrhist.html.
12. Nashif, Taysir N., Nuclear Weapons in Israel (New Delhi: S. B. Nangia Books, 1996), 3.
13. Cohen, Israel and the Bomb, 48-49.
14. Bennett, Jeremy, The Suez Crisis. BBC Video. n.d. Videocassette and Raviv, Dan and Melman, Yossi. Every Spy a Prince. The Complete History of Israel’s Intelligence Community. (Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990), 63-69.
15. Weissman and Krosney, 112.
16. “Revealed: The Secrets of Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal? (London) Sunday Times No. 8,461, 5 October 1986, 1, 4-5.
17. Cohen, Israel and the Bomb, 57-59.
18. Peres, Shimon, Battling for Peace. A Memoir (New York, New York: Random House, 1995), 122.
19. Pry, 10.
20. Loftus, John and Aarons, Mark, The Secret War Against the Jews. How Western Espionage Betrayed the Jewish People (New York, New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1994), 287-303.
21. Green, Stephen, Taking Sides. America’s Secret Relations with a Militant Israel (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1984), 152.
22. Cohen, Avner, “Most Favored Nation.” The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 51, no. 1 (January-February 1995): 44-53.
23. Hersh, The Samson Option, 196.
24. See Cohen, Avner, “Israel’s Nuclear History: The Untold Kennedy-Eshkol Dimona Correspondence.” Journal of Israeli History, 1995 16, no. 2, 159-194 and Cohen, Avner, Comp. “Recently Declassified 1963 Correspondence between President Kennedy and Prime Ministers Ben-Gurion and Eshkol.” Journal of Israeli History, 1995 16, no. 2, 195-207. Much of the documentation has been posted to http:\www.seas.gwu.edu/nsarchive/israel.
25. Weissman and Krosney, op. cit.,114-117
26. Cohen, op. cit., Israel and the Bomb, 82-83.
27. Spector, Leonard S., The Undeclared Bomb (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Ballinger Publishers, 1988), 387 (n.22).
28. Quoted in Stevens, Elizabeth. “Israel’s Nuclear Weapons”A Case Study.” 14 pages. On line. Internet, 23 October 1998. Available from
29. Green, Taking Sides, 148-179 and Raviv, Dan and Melman, Yossi, 1990, 197-198.
30. Weissman and Krosney, 119-124.
31. Black, Ian and Morris, Benny, Israel’s Secret Wars. A history of Israel’s Intelligence Services (New York, New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991), 418-419.
32. Hersh, 257.
33. Green, Stephen, Living by the Sword: America and Israel in the Middle East, 1968-1987 (London: Faber, 1988), 63-80.
34. Cordesman, 1991, 120.
35. Weissman and Krosney, 124-128 and Raviv, Dan and Melman, Yossi, 1990, 198-199.
36. Spector, The Undeclared Bomb, 395(n. 57).98-199
37. Raviv, Dan and Melman, Yossi, 1990, 58.
38. Milhollin, 100-119.
39. Stanghelle, Harold, “Israel to sell back 10.5 tons.” Arbeiderbladet, Oslo, Norway, 28 June 1990 in: Center for Nonproliferation Studies, “Nuclear Developments,” 28 June 1990, 34-35; on-line, Internet 22 November 1998, available from http://cns.miis.edu.
40. Hersh, op. cit., 139.
41. Center for Nonproliferation Studies. “Israeli Friends,” ISIS Report, May 1994, 4; on-line, Internet 22 November 1998, available from http://cns.miis.edu.
42. Abecasis, Rachel, “Uranium reportedly offered to China, Israel.” Radio Renascenca, Lisbon, 9 December 1992 quoted in Center for Nonproliferation, “Proliferation Issues,” 23 December, 1992, 25; on-line, Internet 22 November 1998, available from http://cns.miis.edu.
43. Cohen, Israel and the Bomb, op. cit., 231-232 and 256-257.
44. Nordeen, Lon O., Nicolle, David, Phoenix over the Nile (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institute Press, 1996), 192-193.
45. O’Balance, Edgar, The Third Arab-Israeli War (London: Faber and Faber, 1972), 54.
46. Brecher, Michael, Decision in Crisis. Israel, 1967 and 1973 (Berkley, California: University of California Press, 1980), 104, 230-231.
47. Cohen, Avner. “Cairo, Dimona, and the June 1967 War.” Middle East Journal 50, no. 2 (Spring 1996), 190-210.
48. Creveld, Martin van. The Sword and the Olive. A Critical History of the Israeli Defense Force (New York, New York: Public Affairs, 1998), 174.
49. Burrows, William E. and Windrem, Robert, Critical Mass. The Dangerous Race for Superweapons in a Fragmenting World (New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994), 282-283.
50. Aronson, Shlomo, Israel’s Nuclear Options, ACIS Working Paper No. 7. Los Angeles, California: University of California Center for Arms Control and International Security, 1977, 3, and Sorenson, David S., “Middle East Regional Studies-AY99,” Air War College: Maxwell Air Force Base, AL, 542.
51. Hersh, op. cit., 126-128.
52. Cohen, Israel and the Bomb, op. cit., 210-213.
53. Spector, Leonard S., “Foreign-Supplied Combat Aircraft: Will They Drop the Third World Bomb”? Journal of International Affairs 40, no. 1(1986): 145 (n. 5) and Green, Living by the Sword, op. cit., 18-19.
54. Burrows and Windrem, op. cit., 280.
55. Cohen, op. cit., Israel and the Bomb, 237.
56. Ibid., 273-274.
57. Milhollin, op. cit., 103-104.
58. Raviv, Dan and Melman, Yossi, Friend in Deed: Inside the U.S.-Israel Alliance (New York New York: Hyperion, 1994), 299.
59. Burrows and Windrem, op. cit., 464-465 and Raviv, Dan and Melman, Yossi, op. cit., 1990, 304-305.
60. Spector, The Undeclared Bomb, op. cit., 179.
61. Dowty, Alan. “Israel and Nuclear Weapons.” Midstream 22, no. 7 (November 1976), 8-9.
62. Hersh, op. cit., 217, 222-226, and Weissman and Krosney, op. cit., 107.
63. Green, op. cit., Living by the Sword, 90-99.
64. Loftus and Aarons, op. cit., 316-317.
65 Smith, Gerard C. and Cobban, Helena. “A Blind Eye To Nuclear Proliferation.” Foreign Affairs 68, no. 3(1989), 53-70.
66. Hersh, op. cit., 230-231.
67. O’Balance, Edgar, No Victor, No Vanquished. The Yom Kippur War (San Rafael, California: Presido Press, 1978), 175.
68. Ibid., 234-235 and Aronson, S, op. cit., 15-18.
69. Spector, The Undeclared Bomb, op. cit., 396 (n. 62); Garthoff, Raymond L., D
Report No. 117
Israel Shahak, 24 February 1993
Israel versus Iran
Since the spring of 1992, public opinion in Israel is beingprepared for the prospect of a war with Iran, to be fought untilIran’s total military and political defeat. In one version of this,Israel would attack Iran alone, in another it would "persuade" theWest to do the job. The indoctrination campaign to this effect isgaining in intensity. It is accompanied by what could be calledsemi-official horror scenarios purporting to detail what Iran coulddo to Israel, the West and the entire world when it acquires nuclearweapons as it is expected to in a few years hence.
The manipulation of public opinion to this effect may well beconsidered too phantasmagoric to merit any detailed description.Still, the readers of this report should take careful notice of thismanipulation, especially since to all appearances the IsraeliSecurity System does envisage the prospect seriously. Minute-detail-filled anticipations of Iran becoming a major target of Israelipolicies reached a peak of intensity in February 1992. In thisreport I am going to confine myself to a sample of recentpublications (in view of the monotony of their contents a samplewill suffice), emphasizing how they envisage the possibility of"persuading" the West that Iran must be defeated. All Hebrew papershad shared in advocacy of this madness, with the exception ofHaaretz which has not dared to challenge it either. The Zionist"left" papers, Davar and Al Hamishmar have particularlydistinguished themselves in bellicosity on the subject of Iran; moreso than the rightwing Maariv. Below, I will cover mostly the recentwritings of Al Hamishmar and Maariv on Iran, only occasionallymentioning what I found in other papers.
A major article of the current chief political correspondent of AlHamishmar, Yo’av Kaspi, bears the title that already encapsulatesall its contents: "Iran needs to be treated just as Iraq had been"(February 19, 1993). The article contains an interview with DanielLeshem, introduced as "a retired senior officer in the [Israeli]Military Intelligence, and currently a member of the Center forStrategic Research at the Tel Aviv University". Leshem is known asinvolved in forming Israeli strategies. Leshem’s account of howIran’s nuclearization is too dubious to merit coverage on thesepages; and so are his lamentations that "the world" has beenignoring the warnings of the Israeli experts who alone know thetruth about what the Muslim states are like. His proposals toreverse the progress of Iranian nuclearization, however, are by allmeans worth of being quoted or at least reported. Leshem begins byopining that the Allied air raids of Iraq achieved very little todestroy its military and especially nuclear capabilities, but owingto the Allied victory on the ground, the U.N. observers couldsucceed in finishing the job. Harping on this "analogy", Leshemconcludes: "The State of Israel alone can do very little to halt theIranians. We could raid Iran from the air, but we cannotrealistically expect that our aerial operations could destroy alltheir capabilities. At best, some Iranian nuclear installationscould in this way be destroyed. But we couldn’t possibly thus reachthem all, nor even their major centers of nuclear development,especially since that development has proceeded along threedifferent lines in a fairly decentralized manner, with installationsand factories scattered widely across the country. It is evenreasonable to suppose that we will never know the locations of alltheir installations, just as we didn’t know it in Iraq’s case".Leshem believes that Israel should make Iran fear Israeli nuclearweapons, but without hoping that it might deter the Iranians fromdeveloping their own.
Hence Leshem’s proposal "to create the situation which wouldappear similar to that with Iraq before the Gulf crisis". Hebelieves this could "stop the Ayatollas, if this is what the worldreally wants". How to do it? "Iran claims its sovereignty over threestrategically located islands in the Persian Gulf. Domination overthose islands is capable of assuring domination not only over allthe already active oilfields of the area, but also over all thenatural gas sources not yet exploited. We should hope that,emulating Iraq, Iran would contest the Gulf Emirates and SaudiArabia over these islands and, repeating Saddam Hussein’s mistake inKuwait, start a war. This may lead to an imposition of controls overthe Iranian nuclear developments the way it did in Iraq. Thisprospect is in my view quite likely, because the Iranians lackpatience. But if they nevertheless refrain from opening a war, weshould take advantage, for example, of their involvement in theIslamic terror which already hurts the entire world. Right now,Israel has incontestable intelligence, he implies, that the Iraniansare about to resume the kidnappings. We should take advantage of itby persistently explaining to the world at large that by virtue ofits involvement in terrorism, no other state is as dangerous as isIran. For example, I [Lesham] cannot comprehend why Libya has beenhit by grievous sanctions, to the point that all sales of militaryequipment are barred to it, only because of its rather minorinvolvement in terrorism; while Iran, with its record of guidingterrorism against the entire world, remains scot free of such oreven stricter sanctions".
In a true-blue Israeli style, Leshem attributes this lamentablestate of affairs to Israel’s neglect of its public relations (calledin Hebrew "Hasbara", i.e "Explanation"). He nevertheless hopes thatIsrael will soon be able "to explain to the world at large" howurgent is the need to provoke Iran to a war.
Provoking Iran, whether into responding by a war or by measuresstopping short of a war, is also elaborated by the editor and formermilitary correspondent of Maariv, Ya’akov Erez ("Iran is anexistential threat", February 12). It is useful to note that Maarivis currently owned by Ofer Nimrodi, the son of Ya’akov Nimrodi whobefore the fall of the Shah had been an Israeli military attache inTehran, who had maintained the most amicable relations with the Shahand some of his high-ranking officials; and who later becameinvolved in the Irangate up to his ears.
Contrary to Leshem, Erez claims that, not only the future Iraniannuclear power, but also its conventional army whose present size hedescribes as "having no limits", poses "an existential threat" toIsrael. In the absence of sanctions prohibiting the sales of"defensive weapons" to Iran, several states, much to Erez’s chagrin,continue to supply Iran with arms, thus aggravating "the existentialthreat" to Israel. He therefore proposes that Israel "persuades theU.S." to enforce an embargo on exmports of weaponry and otherindustrial goods to Iran from any state. For example, "if reallypersuaded, the U.S. Navy could hopefully blockade even North Korea",and thus prevent the latter’s sales of lethal weapons to Iran. Erezthinks this could be done "without particular difficulties". He alsoadvocates "persuading" the U.S. to use all its clout to makeEuropean countries comply with Israeli wishes in this matter. Amongcountries listed by Erez as needing such "persuasions", we find notonly the NATO members such as Britain, France or Germany but alsoSwitzerland.
The whole scheme will according to Erez rest on three assumptions.The first is that "Iranian messengers are reaching every spot in theworld in order to foment what they call `a silent revolution’", withthe effect of "encouraging terror everywhere", or else "invitingpotential terrorists to their centers and actually training themthere". In contrast with this bombast, the list of acts of terrorattributed by Erez (without proof) to Iranians is rather meager: inthe last year no more than three instances. They are: thedestruction of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires (which took placeseveral days after the liquidation of Sheikh Mussawi with his entirefamily; a circumstance which Erez doesn’t mention), the failedattempt to kill the head of the Jewish community in Istanbul (whichthe Turkish authorities attribute to the local Mafia), and theassassination of a security officer in the Israeli Embassy inAnkara.
Even if Iran were involved in all three acts, this hardlycorroborates Erez’s "existential threat" thesis. But let me make anenlightened guess as to the course of Israeli "hasbara". The numberof terrorist incidents, not necessarily involving the loss of Jewishlives, but "attributable" to Iran, can be expected to considerablyincrease the next year so as to make "the persuasion" downrightirresistible. The second assumption is that the Iranian threat tooil resources "is really far greater than that which was caused bythe invasion of Kuwait". Why? "Because all Arab Gulf states, andthereby the sources of Western oil supplies, would thus be exposedmuch more directly than they were at that time. It would no longerbe a case of invading a single state and seizing its oilfields, buta direct threat to all immense spaces of the Arab peninsula and tothe freedom of sailing in the Gulf". The third assumption is that awar against Iran can be fought with perfect ease, with all genuineArab progressives standing to reap immense advantages from it. "Amilitary attack devised to nip the Iranian threat in the bud musthave firm foundations in an alliance with the genuinely progressiveArab states, such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates". Turkeywill also be rescued from "a threat to its very survival posed by amillion of Iranians within its borders whom Iran can easily incite".But a war against Iran is bound to rescue other Arab states aswell. Egypt, for example, will only rejoice when freed "fromIran-engineered incitement".
The Palestinians are also not forgotten in this context. Theiropposition to "the peace process" has no rationale apart from theIranian influence on them, says Erez, parroting the official line ofthe "experts in Arab mentality" adopted since the mass expulsion.The defeat of Iran will calm them down. As some still remember,Rabin attributed the outbreak of the Intifada to Iranian and Libyanincitement as its sole cause, thus setting an official Israeli linefor a considerable amount of time. Israeli "experts in Arabmentality" never tire of attributing all signs of unrest to"incitement", preferably manufactured abroad.
In the same issue of Maariv, Telem Admon reports that "a seniorIsraeli", i.e. a senior Mossad agent, "about two weeks ago had along conversation with the son of the late Shah, prince Riza Sha’aPahlevi", presumably in order to appraise the man’s possibleusefulness for Israeli "Hasbara". In the "senior’s" opinion,"Clinton’s America is too absorbed in its domestic affairs", as aresult of which "the prince’s chances of reigning in Iran aredeplorably slim. The prince’s face showed signs of distress after heheard a frank assessment to this effect from the mouth of anIsraeli". Yet "the senior’s" appraisal of the prince was distinctlynegative, in spite of "the princely routine to hand to all visitorscopies of articles by Ehud Ya’ari", (an Israeli TV commentatorsuspected of being a front for the Israeli Intelligence.) Why? Inthe first place because "he shows up how nervous he is. His kneesjerked during the first half an hour of the conversation". Worsestill, his chums "were dressed like hippies", while "he keptfrequenting the Manhattan’s haunts in their company and addressingthem as if they were his equals".
The "senior" deplores it greatly that the prince emancipatedhimself from the beneficial influence of his mother, "who had done asimply wonderful job travelling from capital to capital in order toimpress everybody concerned by her hope to enthrone her son in Iranwhile she is still alive". Her valiant efforts look to me as ifconnected, to some extent at least, to the no less valiant effortsof the Israeli "Hasbara", after it has already written off her son.The new Israeli attitude toward the "progressive" Arab regimes isalso mentioned by Haaretz New York correspondent Shlomo Shamir(February 19) who deals with them in a Palestinian context. Shamirdescribes at length the role of the Moroccan Ambassador to the U.N.,who in February was the President of the Security Council. Acting onpersonal instructions of king Hassan II, he was instrumental "inconvincing the Security Council members from the Third World statesto accept the agreement between Israel and the U.S. concerning theexpellees". In the opinion of the Israeli Foreign Affairs ministry,informs Shamir, Morocco’s help "is attributable to the fear someprogressive Arab states have of Islamic fundamentalism asrepresented by Iran". Due to that factor, those states can beexpected to support Israel on many political issues. According tothe well-informed Pinhas Inbari (Al Hamishmar, February 12) it wasSaudi Arabia which stood behind the Moroccan initiative. In Shamir’sopinion, "the PLO either grasped the real state of affairs in theU.N. belatedly or not yet". Israel places its hopes in those"progressive" Arab states, expecting them to continue doing whatthey have been doing.
Describing Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates as "progressive"must be seen as a specialty of those Hebrew press commentators whosehabit is to nostalgically stare at the government for inspiration.(Kuwait is not so described because its atrocious persecutions ofthe Palestinians are eminently exploitable by the Israelipropaganda.)
Even the most expert of the Israeli "experts" could not yet comeout with an explantion of what exactly their "progress" consistedof. This is why the label keeps being used without any explanation.Nevertheless, presumably to reinforce their impression of"progress", Israeli censorship has in recent months rigidlysuppressed all news which might cast a doubt upon their"progressiveness". This is nothing new. In the past, censorshiprepeatedly silenced the news likewise: from Mengistu’s Ethiopia,Numeiri’s Sudan, Ceausescu’s Romania and from other regimes withsimilar virtues. It is true that in conformity with Leshem’saccount, Iran had indeed claimed the three islands. But itsubsequently agreed to seriously negotiate their status. This factwas already duly suppressed by Israeli military censorship.But what might happen if both Israel and Iran have nuclearweapons? This question is being answered by the Hebrew press atlength, often in manner intended to titillate the readers byanticipated horrors. Let me give a small sample, choosing also anarticle relating to the Palestinians. Two "analytical" articles ofAl Hamishmar and Maariv summed up above, were accompanied by muchlonger pieces stuffed with the "scenarios" competing one with theother in inventing the possible horrors. In Al Hamishmar, Kaspiinterviewed the notorious hawk, professor Shlomo Aharonson, whobegins his perorations by excoriating the Israeli left as a majorobstacle to Israel’s ability to resist Iranian evildoing. Withoutbothering about the left’s current lack of political clout, saysAharonson: "The left is full of prejudices and fears. It refuses tobe rational on the nuclear issue. The left doesn’t like nuclearweapons, fullstop. The opposition of the Israeli left to nuclearweapons is reminiscent of the opposition to the invention of thewheel". Profound insights, aren’t they?
After spelling them out, Aharonson proceeds to his "scenarios".Here is just one of them: "If we tomorrow establish a Palestinianstate, we will really grant a sovereignty to an entity second tonone in hostility toward us. This entity can be expected to reach anuclear alliance with Iran right away. Suppose the Palestinians openhostilities against us and the Iranians deter us from retaliatingagainst the Palestinians by threatening to retaliate in turn againstus by nuclear means. What could we do then?" There is a lot more inthe same vein, before Aharonson concludes: "We should see to it thatno Palestinian state ever comes into being, even if the Iraniansthreaten us with nuclear weapons. And we should also see to it thatIran lives in permanent fear of Israeli nuclear weapons". Thisappears in the Mapam party organ which "explains" abroad that itsumbrella list, the Meretz, is committed to the establishment of aPalestinian state, "following a period of autonomy". And such"explanations" for the consumptions of foreigners are still widelybelieved!
Erez’ article is also printed next to a much lengthier article,stuffed with horror scenarios even more ghastly then Aharonson’s. Itis written by Avner Avrahami and it bears the title "1999: the yearof the Iranian nuclear bomb". It will suffice to quote its openingsentences alone: "What are you planning to do in 1999? To finallyterminate the payments on your mortgage? To celebrate a Barmitzvafor your son, who is now 7? To use some money you are now saving inorder to tour the U.S. from coast to coast which has been the dreamof your lifetime? To retire from work and then to build foryourself a dream of a house, surrounded by a large garden, perhapsin Israel or perhaps in some of the settlements in the Territories”Whatever you want to do in 1999, will be done under an ever hoveringthreat: that an Iranian nuclear bomb may fall on you… According tothe best expertly estimates, 1999 is the latest date for Iran toacquire a nuclear bomb. But it can happen even sooner…"
Let me reiterate that the Israelis are now being bombardedceaselessly with such messages. And official announcements to thesame effect are also not lacking. For example, general Ze’ev Livneh,the commander of the recently set up "Rear General Command" of theIsraeli army said (Haaretz, February 15) that "it is not only Iranwhich already endangers every site in Israel" because, even if to alesser extent, "Syria, Libya and Algeria do too". In order toprotect Israel from this danger, general Livneh calls upon "theEuropean Community to enforce jointly with Israel an embargo on anyweaponry suplies to both Iran and the Arab states. The EuropeanCommunity should also learn that military interventions can havesalutary effects, as proven recently in Iraq’s case".
Timid reminders of the Hebrew press that Israel continues to havethe monopoly of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, were definitelyunwelcomed by Israeli authorities. In Hadashot of January 29 andFebruary 5, Ran Edelist, careful to rely only on quotes from theU.S. press, raised the problem of the nuclear waste disposal fromthe rather obsolete Dimona reactor and of other possible risks ofthat reactor to Israeli lives and limbs. He was "answered" bynumerous interviews with named and unnamed experts, all of whomfiercely denied that any such risks existed. The experts didn’tneglect to reassure their readers on this occasion that the Israelireactor was the best and the safest in the entire world. Butspeaking in the name of "the Intelligence Community" Immanuel Rosen(Maariv, February 12) went even further. He disclosed that the said"community" had felt offended "by overly self-confident publicationsof an Israeli researcher dealing with nuclear subjects. Thisresearcher has recently been found by the Inteligence Community topose `a security risk’, to the point of observing that in somestates such a researcher `would have been made to disappear’". RanEdelist did react in a brief note (Hadashot, February 14), confininghimself to quoting these revealing ideas of "the InteligenceCommunity", and drawing attention to threats voiced there. But apartfrom Edelist, the press of "the only democracy in the Middle East"either didn’t dare comment, or was not allowed to.
Yet the press is allowed, and even encouraged, to discuss oneissue related to Israeli nuclear policies. It is allowed to say howclever Peres was in pretending to agree to negotiate nucleardisarmament treaties, and then raising unacceptable conditions forentering any such negotiations. An example of this is Akiva Eldar’s(Haaretz, February 19), coverage of Rabin’s excoriation of Egypt onTV a few days earlier. Rabin scolded Egypt for suggesting that aMiddle East regional nuclear disarmament agreement would bedesirable. Eldar comments that "Rabin’s attack was aimed at Peres noless than at Egypt". And he goes on: "The Prime Minister is known toloathe anything that relates to Egypt. Aiming at Butrous Ghali, hesaid [in a public speech]: `What can you expect of him? Isn’t he anEgyptian?’ But Rabin is particulrly averse to Egyptian insistencethat the Middle East should be completely denuclearized. Peres, bycontrast, favors using Egypt as an intermediary in variousdiplomatic pursuits, while recognizing that Cairo’s reminders on thesubject of Dimona obstruct his real mission, which is to mediatebetween Egypt and the grand man in Jerusalem". Therefore, after"Egypt recently invited Israel to a symposium that `would deal withboth conventional and non-conventional armed confrontations’, ahigh-level discussion was held in the Foreign ministry on how topretend to accept the invitation and then `decline it elegantly’.The solution was to communicate to Egypt the Israeli agreement inprinciple to attend the symposium, but on three conditions: that itbe chaired by the U.S. and Russia; that its agenda be unanimouslydetermined by the chairmen and all the participants; and, mostinterestingly, that no weapon reductions be discussed unless thepresence of other Arab states (not just of Syria and Lebanon, butalso – hard to believe – of Libya and Iraq) be in advance assured.In this way, any conceivable discussion of nuclear affairs waseffectively precluded". I find it superfluous to comment on Eldar’sstory.
But I do want to make some commments of my own on the incitementof Israelis against Iran. I am well-aware that a lot of expertopinions and predictions quoted in this report will sound to foreignreaders like fantasy running amok. Yet I perceive those opinions andpredictions, no matter how mendacious and deceitful they obviouslyare, as being politically significant. Let me explain my reasons. Inthe first place, I didn’t quote the opinions of raving extremists. Iwas careful to select only the writings of the respected andinfluential Israeli experts or commentators on strategic affairs whocan be presumed to be well-acquainted with the thinking of theIsraeli Security System. Since militarily Israel is the strongeststate in the Middle East and has monopoly of nuclear weapons in theregion, strategical doctrines of its Security System deserve to bedisseminated worldwide, especially when they are forcefully pressedupon the Israeli public. Whether one likes it or not, Israel is agreat power, not only in military but also in political terms, byvirtue of its increasing influence upon U.S. policies as describedin report 116. The opinions of the Israeli Security System may meansomething different from what they say. But this doesn’t detractfrom their importance.
But there is more to it. Fantasy and madness in the doctrines ofthe Israeli Security System are nothing new. At least since theearly 1950s those qualities could already be noticed. Let us justrecall that in 1956 Ben Gurion wanted to annex Sinai to Israel onthe ground that "it was not Egypt". The same doctrine was professedin 1967-73 with elaborations, such as the proposal of severalgenerals to conquer Alexandria in order to hold the city hostageuntil Egypt would sign peace on terms dictated by Israel.The 1982 invasion of Lebanon relied on fantastic assumptions, andso did the 1983 "peace treaty" signed with a "lawful Lebanesegovernment".
All Israeli policies in the Territories are not just totallyimmoral, but also rely on assumptions steadily held and advocatedwithout regard for their fanciful contents. It will suffice torecall how Rabin together with the entire Israeli Security Systemperceived the outbreak of the Intifada as a fabrication of westernTV and press. They concluded that if the Arabs are deniedopportunities to fake riots in order to be photographed, the unrestin the Territories could be suppressed with ease.
Relevant to this is the fact that Israeli policies bear the easilyrecognizable imprint of Orientalist "expertise" abounding inmilitarist and racist ideological prejudices. This "expertise" isreadily available in English, since its harbingers were not so muchthe Israelis as the foreign Jewish Orientalists like Bernard Lewisor the late Elie Kedourie who had visited Israel regularly for thesake of hobnobbing on the best of terms with the Israeli SecuritySystem. Yet all too often this "expertise" is being ignored. It wasKedourie who performed a particularly seminal role in fathering itsassumptions and who consequently had in Israel a lot of influence.In Kedourie’s view, the peoples of the Middle East, with the"self-evident" exception of Israel, would be best off if ruled byforeign imperial powers with a natural capacity to rule: certainlyfor a long time yet. Kedourie also believed that the entire MiddleEast could be ruled by foreign powers with perfect ease, becausetheir domination would hardly be opposed except by grouplets ofintellectuals bent on rousing the rabble. Kedourie lived in Britain,and his primary concern was British politics. In his opinion theBritish refused to continue to rule the Middle East, with calamitouseffects, only because of intellectual corruption of their ownexperts, especially those from the Chatham House, misguided enoughto dismiss the superior expertise of minority nationals,particularly Jewish, from the Arab world, who alone had known "theArab nature" at first hand. For example, in his first book, Kedouriesays that already in 1932 (!) the British government was misguidedenough to grant Iraq independence (it was faked, but never mind)against the express advice of the Jewish community in Baghdad. Onmany occasions during his recurrent visits to Israel since the 1960suntil his death (one of which I myself attended), Kedourie wouldassure his Israeli audiences that Iraq could "really" be still ruledby the British with ease, under whatever disguises it would beconvenient to adopt, provided only the grouplets of rabble rouserswould be dealt with by a modicum of salutary toughness, and theopportunities for education would be restricted so as not to producesuperfluous intellectuals, prone to learn the Western notions ofnational independence.
True, Kedourie also opposed the idea of exclusive Jewish right tothe Land of Israel as incompatible with his imperialistic outlook,but he favored the retention of Israeli permanent rule over thePalestinians. The rather incongruous blend of Kedourie’s ideas withthe Land of Israel messianism is already an innovation, of theIsraeli Security System vintage.
Israeli policies toward Egypt have been consistently guided byKedourie’s doctrine. Recall the Lavon Affair, whose purpose was toensure that British troops would occupy Egyptian territory forever.Recall the establishment of an informal but pervasive Americanprotectorate over Egypt through the Camp David accords. Until thisday, the real Israeli aim is to control Egypt indirectly by usingone or another Western power for this purpose. Israeli policiestoward all other Middle Eastern nations are similar, except that thestronger Israel feels the more it tries to replace western hegemonyby its own.
The implications of the Kedourie doctrine for Israeli policymakers are obvious. First, Israel always seeks to persuade the Westabout what it "true" interests and "moral duties" in the Middle Eastare. It also tells them that by intervening in the Middle East theywould serve the authentic interests of Middle Eastern nations. Butif the Western powers refuse to listen, it is up to Israel to assume"the white man’s burden" as defined more than 100 years ago.Another implication of the Kedourie’s doctrine, acted upon byIsrael since the early 1950s, is that no strong state is to betolerated in the Middle East. Its power must be destroyed or atleast diminished through a war. Iranian theocracy may have itsutility for the Israeli hasbara, but Nasser’s Egypt was attackedwhile being emphatically secular. In both cases the real reason forIsraeli offer to start a war was the strength of the stateconcerned. Quite apart from the risks such state may pose to Israelihegemonic ambitions, the Orientalist "expertise" requires that thenatives of the region always remain weak, especially when ruled notby their traditional notables but by intellectuals, whetherreligious or secular.
Before World War I, such principles were taken for granted in theWest, professed openly and applied globally, from China to Mexico.Israeli Orientalism is no more than their belated replica. Itcontinues to uphold opinions which, say in 1903, were widely takenfor granted as "scientific" truths. All the subsequent "troubles" ofthe West are perceived by the Israeli experts as a well-deservedpunishment for listening to its intellectuals who had been castingdoubt on such self-evident truths. Without such rottenintellectuals, everything would have remained stable. Israeliexperts replicate this logic when they insist that a tiny little bitof escalated repression could (after nearly 26 years of trying!)make the Palestinian masses in the Territories "psychologicallycollapse" and instantly acquiesce to the Israeli diktat.Let us return to the special case of Iran, though. Anyone notconverted to the Orientalistic creed will recognize that Iran is acountry very difficult to conquer because of its size, topography,and especially bcause of the fervent nationalism combined with thereligious zeal of its populace. I happen to loathe the currentIranian regime, but it doesn’t hinder me from immediately noticinghow different it is from Saddam Hussein’s. Popular support forIran’s rulers is much greater than for Iraq’s. After Saddam Husseinhad invaded Iran, his troops were resisted valiantly under extremelydifficult conditions.
All analogies between a possible attack on Iran and the Gulf Warare therefore irresponsibly fanciful. Yet Sharon and the Israeliarmy commanders in 1979 proposed to send a detachment of Israeliparatroopers to Tehran to quash the revolution and restore themonarchy. Until stopped by Begin, they really thought that a fewIsraeli paratroopers could determine the future history of a countryas immense and populous as Iran! According to a consensus ofofficial Israeli experts on Iranian affairs, the fall of the Shahwas due solely to his "softness", in particular to his refraining toorder his army to slaughter thousands of demonstrators wholesale.Later, the Israeli experts on Iranian affairs were no lessunanimous in predicting a speedy defeat of Iran by Saddam Hussein.No evidence indicates that they have changed their assumptions ordiscarded their underlying racism. Their ranks may include somerelatively less opinionated individuals, who have survived thenegative selection process which usually occurs within groupssharing such ideologically-tight imageries. But such individuals canbe assumed to prefer to keep their moderation to themselves, whilehoping that Israel can reap some fringe benefits from any Westernprovocation against Iran, even if it results in a protracted andinconclusive war.
I hope I have made it clear why I tend to treat Israeli officialexperts on Iranian affairs seriously, in spite of their evidentmadness.
Weapons Manufacturing Industry
excerpted from the book
Israeli Foreign Policy
by Jane Hunter
South End Press, 1987
… By the end of the 1970s, the Israeli military industry was supplying 40 percent of Israel’s military needs. But production runs solely for the domestic market resulted in high costs per item. The longer production runs necessary to lower unit costs created an imperative to export.
The government began a concerted marketing campaign, through diplomatic and military contacts, as well as news releases and exhibits at fairs. In later years a sales force of retired military officers eager for commissions fanned out over the globe. While the secrecy of the Israeli government makes it impossible to exactly calculate the volume of Israel’s weapons sales abroad, the general consensus of analysts of the international arms trade indicates that between 1972 and 1980 Israel’s arms exports soared, particularly in the latter part of that span, rising from $50 million to top $1 billion, and, with the possible exception of 1983, have remained over $1 billion annually. A 1986 estimate puts annual sales at "more than $ 1.25 billion. Since 1982 Israel has been ranked among the world’s top ten arms producers.
The importance to the overall economy of the arms manufacturing sector also increased, with weapons exports estimated to have comprised 31 percent of industrial exports in 1975, up from 14 percent in 1967 and more recently 30 to 40 percent of Israel’s industrial output. The arms industry employs "anywhere from 58,000 to as many as 120,000 Israelis," or, taking the lower figure, percent of the industrial labor force, with the biggest unit, Israel Aircraft Industries, the nation’s largest employer, carrying 20,000 on its payroll.
The export imperative, in turn, brought its own set of problems, these centering on the overseas markets available to Israel and on its choice of customers from that list. For varying reasons, Israel was largely shut out of the Eastern Bloc, the Arab world and NATO countries. That left its potential clientele to be found on the peripheries: pariahs such as South Africa and Guatemala, the strong-man regimes of Taiwan, Zaire, and Chile, and the occasional government wary of strings-attached arms purchases from the superpowers. Over the years Israel has sold weapons-and often along with the weapons come Israeli advisers-to Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua (under Somoza), Panama, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Morocco, Nigeria, Rhodesia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zaire, Australia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua-New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Iran, and a number of European countries and several non-governmental actions. Sometimes even the least desirable customers have required some softening up: "Greatly detailed stories abound of the huge bribes Israel has used to suborn defense ministries, with the sole objective of nailing down arms deals."
As time went on an additional problem arose: arms sales became the motor driving Israel’s foreign policy. In times of economic crisis it became the supreme exigency. In September 1986, the Israeli defense minister explained to a press conference what was behind a raft of scandals involving Israeli arms exports and technology thefts (these last, most frequently from the U.S., have been an inevitable hallmark of a small country attempting to sustain a full-scale armaments industry). "…We cut our orders in our military industries…" he said, "and I told them quite frankly: ‘Either you’ll fire people or find export markets."
The export markets open to Israel are frequently among the world’s most unsavory; indeed, to be off limits to the superpowers they often are located inside the very gates of hell. Already under international censure for its oppression of the Palestinians in the territories it occupies, Israel’s dealings with the scum of the world’s tyrants-including the white clique in South Africa, Somoza of Nicaragua, Gen. Pinochet of Chile, Marcos of the Philippines, Duvalier of Haiti, Mobutu of Zaire, the allegedly cannibalistic Bokassa of the Central African Republic-invariably result in its further exclusion from more "respectable" circles. "A person who sleeps with dogs shouldn’t be surprised to find himself covered with fleas," comments the military correspondent for Israel’s major daily newspaper.
Israeli critics, who term the phenomenon "arms diplomacy," warn that the export imperative has motivated a sequence of ad hoc, opportunistic decisions that have precluded the development of a coherent foreign policy, which, in turn, might over the long term mitigate Israel’s isolated position in the world. Yet these critics are far from sanguine about the ability of Israel to set itself on a different course.
They point to the power of the "security establishment lobby," comprised of the upper echelon of Israel’s political leadership (this has remained remarkably constant since the founding of the state), the top levels of the military, and the officials of the parastatal arms industries. As in the U.S., there is a "revolving door" in Israel, with many of the top figures serving successively in two or all three of these sectors. It is these men who find the clients and have insider access to the Ministerial Committee on Weapons Transfers (MCD)-its members are the prime minister and the ministers of defense, foreign affairs, and trade and industry which will make the final decision on every sale. Such decisions are made secretly- the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, excluded. The cabinet, too, is often excluded. Critics of the hegemony of the arms export business say it has relegated the foreign ministry to a subordinate role in Israeli foreign policy making, and they see in its wake grave social and political consequences.
‘ A sector has evolved in Israel, headed by an elite with identical social characteristics and marked by a fairly high degree of cohesiveness, whose decisions and actions have a significant effect not only on the country’s economy and its foreign and | defense policy but also on its social and value systems. No less important, however, is the issue of whether a closed system has been created whose activities and decisions undergo less public supervision and scrutiny than any other area of life in the country. ‘
A Co-equal Type of Proxy
Israeli analysts often argue that Israeli arms sales are dependent on U.S. approval; in a limited sense this is true. The U.S. has blocked-at the behest of Britain-the delivery of A-4 Skyhawks to Argentina, and it has in the past vetoed the export of the Kfir aircraft, leverage it is able to exert because of the Kfir’s U.S. engine. However, the Carter Administration was unable to prevent Israeli nuclear cooperation with South Africa, and the Reagan Administration was unsuccessful in persuading the Israelis to halt their arms sales to Iran in the early 1980s (assuming it wanted to). The Israeli success in persuading the Reagan Administration to incorporate Israeli arms sales to the Islamic Republic into a bizarre and controversial series of contacts with Iranian leaders is probably more typical of the operative U.S.-lsraeli dynamic.
On the other hand, Israel has often obliged this or that sector of the U.S. government, selling arms where it would be embarrassing or illegal for the U.S. to do so: the contras, the Peoples Republic of China in the early 1980s, and the Derg government of Ethiopia are examples. In 1975, Israel followed Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s advice and helped South Africa with its invasion of Angola. Even after the passage the following year of the Clark Amendment forbidding U.S. covert involvement in Angola, Israel apparently considered Kissinger’s nod a continuing mandate.
Given the export imperative under which the Israeli government operates, this 1981 proposal from the chief economic coordinator in the Israeli cabinet, Yacov Meridor, should be taken with great seriousness:
" We are going to say to the Americans, ‘Don’t compete with us in South Africa, don’t compete with us in the Caribbean or in any other country where you can’t operate in the open.’ Let us do it. I even use the expression, ‘ You sell the ammunition and equipment by proxy. Israel will be your proxy,’ and this would be worked out with a certain agreement with the United States where we will have certain markets…which will be left for us. "
Truth – Justice – Peace