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Sun Feb 26, 2012, 01:24 PM

What About Israel's Atomic Weapons? [View all]

By Leonard Fein
Published February 26, 2012, issue of March 02, 2012.

Israel’s best kept secret is not of the “maybe yes, maybe no” variety. In fact it is a “yes” so definitive that it has 162 million Google entries. Honest. That’s what Google’s response is when you type in “Israel’s nuclear policy” — books, articles, essays, arguments, all blithely recognizing that Israel has nuclear arms.

Yet technically, Israel has chosen a policy of “opacity” (amimut in Hebrew), neither affirming nor denying its nuclear capability. This policy dates back to a 1969 secret agreement between Prime Minister Golda Meir and President Richard Nixon, according to which, in order not to disrupt the United States drive to gain nonproliferation commitments from other countries, Israel committed to remain silent about its nuclear program, to avoid tests, and not to threaten other countries with attack. And so it has been ever since, as Israel has gone on to develop an estimated 400 warheads, including surface-to-surface missiles, submarine- launched ballistic missiles and bombs — and, according to some sources, thermonuclear devices and battlefield weapons such as neutron bombs and nuclear artillery shells.

Scholars and to a lesser degree policy-makers have argued the utility of the policy, and there appears to be a growing (yet still modest) disposition to abandon or at least substantially modify it. (See especially Avner Cohen’s The Worst Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain With the Bomb, Columbia University Press, 2012.) Yet old habits die hard, and there is no question that Israel’s security establishment sees the policy of opacity as axiomatic.

Now: Imagine (or, if you insist, fantasize) that Israel offers to join the 189 countries that have signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (all the nuclear powers but Pakistan, India, North Korea and Israel), which means that it is fully prepared to grant the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) unrestricted access to its nuclear facility at Dimona. Bottom line: It is ready to abandon its doctrine of opacity — on one condition.

That condition: That Iran do the same.

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http://forward.com/articles/151984/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=The%2520Forward%2520Today%2520%2528Monday-Friday%2529&utm_campaign=Sunday_Daily_Newsletter%25202012-02-27

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