Now You See Them, Now You Don't:
Israel's Nukes

by Peter Weiss


If there were an Oscar for obfuscation, it would have to go to the Israeli Government for its official position on whether or not it owns nuclear weapons. "Israel", so the paradigm goes, "will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East." It all depends, as President Clinton famously said, what you mean by "is". In this case, it all depends on what you mean by "introduce." If you mean "possess", the statement is false, since the fact that Israel has 200 to 300 nuclear weapons is one of the world's worst kept secrets. If you mean "use", it is true, so far, since Israel has never used a nuclear weapon, not even when Iraq sent missiles into its population centers during the Gulf War.

On February 2, a little light was shed into this dark corner of Israeli policy by means of a somewhat unbalanced one hour dialogue in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, between Issam Makhoul, an Arab MK (fifty minutes) and Haim Ramon, replying for the government (ten minutes). Makhoul called for a full debate on Israel's nuclear policy and urged the government to take the initiative in moving toward a Middle East free of all weapons of mass destruction. Minister Ramon replied in a "do not confirm, do not deny" mode and cited security concerns as a reason for avoiding a full debate. It is to be hoped that this debate will now occur outside the walls of the Knesset. For a fuller account of this watershed event, see Merav Datan's article in the January/February issue of Disarmament Diplomacy,

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