Israel’s Nuclear Ambiguity Reconsidered

October 25th, 2010 by Steven Aftergood

The Israeli policy of “nuclear opacity” — by which
that country’s presumptive nuclear weapons program is not formally
acknowledged — is examined in the new book “The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb” by Avner Cohen (Columbia University Press, October 2010).

For a variety of reasons, the author concludes that Israel’s “nuclear
opacity” is obsolete and will have to be replaced, sooner or later,
with a forthright acknowledgment of what everyone already believes to be
the case anyway.

Cohen, an Israeli scholar who was trained as a philosopher, provides a
lucid account of how nuclear opacity has “worked,” i.e. served Israeli
interests, by providing the benefits of deterrence without the negative
political and strategic consequences that could ensue from overt
disclosure.  But its time has passed, he says.

“I argue that the old Israeli bargain with the bomb has outlived its
usefulness, that it has become increasingly incompatible with
contemporary democratic values at home and with the growth of
international norms of transparency, and that it is time for Israel and
others to consider a new bargain.”  Among other things, he says, the
continuing development of nuclear weapons-rel… >>>

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