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The View from the Other Side–The Worst Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Berkeley–January 21–I have been hearing about this book by Avner Cohen for the last several months. It is an important new book that tells the history of the Israeli nuclear program.

Cohen is an Israeli citizen educated partially in his natal land and in the U.K. (the United Kingdom or Great Britain), who, now, is a senior fellow at the Washington (D.C.) Office of the James Merton Center for Nonproliferation Studies (C.N.S) of the Monterey Institute of International Studies (M.I.I.S.) which, curiously, is only a few counties south of your reporter in the famous Central California Pacific seaside (small) city of the same name as the first word of the Institute.

Dr. Avner has diverging personal interests such as history, political science and generally has a skeptical attitude to the official methodology applied towards his primary study. 

He has written previous books and papers that has demarked his expertise and the subject in general.

Cohen began by claiming that Israel contained the sixth largest atomic arsenal in the world although your author’s research shows it to be closer to the fifth.  Strangely, the Israeli nuclear capability has not been acknowledged to by the Jewish State at all.

In actuality, though, their (nuclear) threshold was crossed by the time of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.  In that year, the (former) Israeli general Moshe Dayan wished to employ those weapons, but the then, Prime Minister Golda Meyer was adverse to her general’s advice.  (This is against journalist reports that the grandmotherly Meyer had ordered the warheads to be screwed onto the non-lethal parts of the weapons in preparation for delivery if the battle field went against their troops; so, popular history can be rewritten, again, here, too.)

Since 1967, Israel’s nuclear weapons were assumed, but it was not permitted to discuss them amongst the popular Jewish domain.  In the Knesset (Parliament), there are from two to three members who have enough information (about their program) to provide some degree of oversight.  (This is not acceptable because it is too small of a committee!) 

This lack of opacity came from the beginning of the nuclear project in the 1960s.  (U.S.) President Kennedy himself had a fear of Israeli nuclearization.  The C.I.A., along with other United States intelligence establishments, made a tremendous blunder over the existence of Tel Aviv’s intention in this matter, for us (the U.S.), this was the first incident of a crucial failure in atomic espionage. 

From its inception, the Israelis followed a unique pattern as a nuclear power.  That is, the façade of denial.

The Israeli bureaucracy in charge of this deadly agenda purchased the broad-based infra-structure for their nuclear nation from France, who at the time had not yet weaponized although they had the technology and knowledge to do–and in fact they did shortly thereafter.  (This again contradicts much of the popular press of the time who accused Italy of providing them with the enriched uranium.)
At this time the Prime Minister (Ben-Gurion) made the decisions directly without much input from his generals.  Further, technology transferred from the (American President) Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” program enunciated in his 1953 speech to the United Nations (U.N.), which was a proposal to declassify much of the States’ nuclear technology, benefited several countries that later became regional military atomic forces like Pakistan and Israel.

In their minds the Israelis built their arsenal merely for security. (Your commentator here would like to point out that Tel Aviv is the only State in the region that has these WMDs [Weapons of Mass Destruction].  This leaves the surrounding Arab terrain essentially defenseless without MAD [Mutually Assured Destruction] which has so far kept the peace amongst the other nuclear nations within the world.  For the fourth time in print, your essayist will state that Iran cannot be blamed for their program as long as Israel is over-armed in comparison to its threat.  If the latter (Jewish) homeland would deactivate many of these horrid weapons and sign the international treaties that govern their use as well as to confess to their possession – [deactivation would allow the Zionist realm to re-arm within a short period if a real hazard would arise, but only keep those weapons on active readiness that are reasonably required to the legitimate peril that their  miniscule territory faces [whatever opinion you may have to their existence].  Then, the Persians would not feel the equivalent severity from the Levant’s menace to their population as today because of the superiority of the size of their conventional armed forces in comparison to the Israelis.  Therefore, Tehran, because of its size would not need nuclear weapons to defend itself from the intimidation from the Fertile Crescent.)

Because of the policy of the policy of secrecy and denial, there was no debate about the purchases of the destructive technology from France.  On the other hand, (Prime Minister) Ben Gurion denied the secret elements of his Government. 

The Israeli Government was under no international constraints during the 1960s as at the present, for Washington was not supplying weaponry to the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces).  Thus, during the first stage of their path towards becoming a nuclear capable rogue land, they were free of external pressures.     

The future (Prime Minister) Peres; then an advisor to Ben Gurion thought Tel Aviv should (publicly) join the “nuclear club,” but the PM (Prime Minister) was against this.

None of this is part of the official history of (Jewish) Jerusalem.  The authorized public policy was that the IDF should be a strong conventional force with a strategy of pre-emption.

Ben Gurion did allow a small amount of debate on civic “investments,” but most of the money for the nuclear scheme came from outside of Government – a good deal of it from abroad… particularly the States.   The benefactors thought that they “were helping Israel preserve a place for the Jewish people.”  Israel raising money outside its borders was not part of the internal discussion either. 

This article has reached the length limits for this publication.  In a future piece your writer would like to discuss my interview with Dr. Avner Cohen on the Pakistan-Israeli stand-off.   


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