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Nuclear Weapons Key to Israeli Retention of Captured Territory

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Message Grant F. Smith

A newly declassified 1960 report on Israel’s nukes underscores role in foreign policy "assertiveness."

"Possession of a nuclear weapon capability, or even the prospect of achieving it, would clearly give Israel a greater sense of security, self-confidence, and assertiveness...Israel would be less inclined than ever to make concessions..." are conclusions of a CIA Special National Intelligence Estimate released on June 5, 2009.

The December 1960 intelligence analysis, parts which are still classified, offers timely context as the Obama administration struggles to slow booming settlement activities in lands Israel captured during preemptive attacks in 1967.

Do nuclear weapons enter the calculation as Israel continues to reject pressure from the very country providing billions in yearly foreign aid, preferential treatment of exports and US charitable donations?  Yes, is the clear conclusion. 

For years the CIA resisted public calls to declassify files about the financing, development, deployment and strategy behind Israel's nuclear weapons.  This was in line with the policy of "strategic ambiguity." Both the US and Israel officially refused to confirm or deny the existence of a nuclear arsenal.  Such secrecy has been used to justify military aid to Israel despite explicit bans on proliferators legislated by Senators Symington and Glenn in the 1970s.  Recent public confirmations of Israel's nuclear status by US officials could enable legal challenges and new public scrutiny of taxpayer funds flowing to Israel.

The authors of the 1960s CIA estimate focus on the military deterrent nature of Israel's nuclear capability.  Nevertheless the possibility of subtle nuclear blackmail in return for diplomatic and foreign aid support was implicit.  The declassified CIA report reveals that Israeli "assertiveness" and reluctance to negotiate could be empowered by nuclear weapons.  Longstanding Israeli rejection of UN, US and human rights initiatives partially depend upon the influence of its secret arsenal.  Success also depends on regional nuclear hegemony, explaining Israel's ongoing drive to focus world attention on Iran's civilian nuclear program. 

Ironically, Israel may now be driving regional nuclear proliferation as it successfully demonstrates how such weapons bestow the ability to resist outside pressures and international accountability.  Unlike Iran, Israel has never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Recent estimates conclude Israel has deployed approximately 200 nuclear bombs and warheads.

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Grant F. Smith is director of the Washington, DC-based Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy and author of the book "Foreign Agents: The American Israel Foreign Affairs Committee from the 1963 Fulbright Hearings to the 2005 Espionage (more...)
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