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The Thermonuclear Men’s Club:  Israel

The Thermonuclear Men’s Club:    France | Great Britain | India | Israel |
Pakistan | Russia | United States | The Up and Coming: Iraq and Iran

Although it is believed to have been a nuclear power since before the 1973 Yom Kippur war, Israel has never publicly acknowledged that it has the bomb. When Mordechai Vannu, a former technician at the Dimona Nuclear Plant, sold details of Israel’s nuclear arsenal to a London newspaper in 1986, the Mossad kidnapped him in Rome; he was later sentenced to 18 years in prison for espionage. Israel’s zeal in protecting its nuclear secrets is matched by its determination that no other power in the region should possess the bomb. In 1981 Israel attacked Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor, outraging the world but putting a serious dent in Iraq’s quest for the A-bomb.

If there has been a big loser in the “War on Terrorism,” it has been Israel. Before September 11, Israel enjoyed virtual carte blanche from the U.S. government. UN resolutions condemning Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians were regularly blocked by the U.S.. Media criticism of Israel was muted at best, as Israel’s supporters were quick to tar their detractors with the “anti-Semite” brush. Europeans sometimes referred jokingly to Israel as “America’s 51st State;” Israel’s Arab neighbors were less amused and more given to comments about Crusaders. All this changed after 9/11, as we scrambled to form coalitions with various Arab and Islamic states. Suddenly America was calling for a Palestinian state, and referring to Sharon’s behavior as “unacceptable.” Israel’s wide support among the American public began deteriorating as well. People began linking our support of Israel with the 9/11 attacks, and began asking “is it worth it?” Once upon a time America abandoning Israel would have been unthinkable: today it’s merely unlikely… and Sharon and Peres are keenly aware of this.

According to the still-jailed Vannu, Israel possessed between 100 and 300 warheads in 1986. These warheads are presumably still operable. The Israelis have sworn repeatedly that they would not be the first to use nuclear weapons in the Middle East; they also made veiled threats to Iraq during the Gulf War that chemical or biological weapons would be met with a thermonuclear response. Scholars have referred to Israeli nukes as the “Samson option.” Blinded and enslaved by the Philistines, Samson knocked down the pillars of their temple and took 3,000 enemies with him.

According to many evangelical Christians, the Apocalypse will begin here, at the valley of Meggido (better known by its Greek name, Armageddon). They might be on to something: this region has been a hotspot for centuries, and it doesn’t look like things are going to cool down any time soon. As U.S./Israel relations cool and Israel moves closer and closer to becoming a “pariah state” like Iraq, it becomes increasingly difficult to predict how it will react. There are rumors of Israeli howitzer shells being armed with “mini-nukes” – smaller warheads designed for tactical use in combat, not just aimed at population centers. Finally, the Israeli Navy has deployed several submarines in an effort to provide a “second strike” capacity – the ability to retaliate against an unexpected massive nuclear attack. At present this capacity is limited, and the U.S. has pressured Israel to limit its development in this regard, but this could change. It might not be the place where the world ends, but it could very well be the place which sees the second deployment of nuclear weapons in combat.

Center for Nonproliferation Studies – Estimated Israeli Weapons of Mass Destruction
http://cns.miis.edu/research/wmdme/israel.htm

Israel’s Possible Nuclear Delivery Systems
http://www.cdi.org/issues/nukef&f/database/isnukes.html


Mike Doughty



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