Israel’s Nuclear Weapons ‘Deliberate Ambiguity’

have been reading about Israel’s nuclear program since Vanunu’s disclosures in 1986 and Seymour Hersh’s 1991 detailed history The Samson Option. Israel’s ‘Deliberate Ambiguity’ about its nuclear weapons squanders the country’s high level of education and Jewish historical experiences of antisemitism and genocide to develop horrific weapons and inflict scorched earth wars and extra-judicial executions against Palestinians who live within historic Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. Israel and its allies use legal casuistry to shape ambiguity about Israel’s immorality and criminality, and Israel endangers the entire world should Israel follow through with threats to deploy nuclear weapons – “all options are on the table”, a threat currently manifested by fomenting an attack on Iran. Spineless collusion in Israel’s official ‘Deliberate Ambiguity’: In 2009,Helen Thomas, Washington Post doyenne and member of the White House Press Core, asked Obama at his first news conference if he knew of any country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons, and he replied that he didn’t want to “speculate.”

In 1996, the International Court of Justice declared that “the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law.” The threat to use nuclear weapons is thinly veiled by Obama, Trump, Putin, and Netanyahu, as in “all options are on the table”.

Israel gained access to nuclear weapons production in 1957 through French socialist governments. Ben-Gurion was passionately committed to nuclear weaponization and he had total control over his party “like that of a Mafia don” [1] Current estimates (Janes, SIPRI) are that Israel possesses between 100 and 300 nuclear warheads, deployable by land, air, or sea. Israel’s Jericho I, II and III long-range surface-to-surface missiles are nuclear capable and have a range up to 7,800km (4,800 miles). Israel’s nuclear warheads can also be deployed by American-supplied F-16 jets. Germany subsidized the sale of Dolphin-class submarines to Israel, partly as Holocaust reparation(!). The submarines are capable of carrying nuclear warheads

Israel refused to be pressured by John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, thereby blocking inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – the agency that found Iraq and Iran in compliance with international regulations. The U.S. and France fully cooperated with Israel’s nuclear program: Senator Stuart Symington, a ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Peres “Don’t be a bunch of fools. Don’t stop making atomic bombs. And don’t listen to the administration. Do whatever you think best”. [2]

By 1968 Israel had completed its Dimona reprocessing plant and was in full-scale production. Its uranium ore had been purchased from the Argentina dictatorship and apartheid South Africa, and Israel proposed to help South Africa develop a bomb.

The transparent inefficacy and incongruity of the UN: in 2014, the US and Canada were among five countries to oppose a UN Arab resolution criticizing Israel for refusing to join the NPT. As a non-signatory, Israel is not subject to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but Iran, a signatory of the NPT, a country without nuclear weapons, is subject to inspections and sanctions. Seymour Hersh wrote of “the repeated inability of the best and the brightest of the Joint Special Operations Command to find definitive evidence of a nuclear-weapons production program in Iran….. with lots of belligerent talk but no definitive evidence of a nuclear-weapons program.”  And perhaps most damning, the U.K. Guardian: “Leaked spy cables show Binyamin Netanyahu’s dramatic declaration to world leaders in 2012 that Iran was about a year away from making a nuclear bomb was contradicted by his own secret service, according to a top-secret Mossad document.”  Robert Fisk in The Independent 2012: “The Israeli President warns us now that Iran is on the cusp of producing a nuclear weapon. Heaven preserve us. Yet we reporters do not mention that Shimon Peres, as Israeli Prime Minister, said exactly the same thing in 1996. That was 16 years ago. And we do not recall that the current Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, said in 1992 that Iran would have a nuclear bomb by 1999. That would be 13 years.”

Israel as a non-signatory to the NPT is allowed to participate in NPT review conferences, and in 2015 successfully blocked a move to take all nuclear weapons off high-alert status at a time of nuclear threat in Russia/Ukraine. As the only Middle East country to possess nuclear weapons, Israel does not participate in UN meetings of Middle East states to establish a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East.

An article by Martin Sherman in the U.S. Reform Judaism magazine is shocking in its unambiguous justification for using nuclear weapons. The article, “Strategic Bedfellows”, is about the weapons transactions between Israel and India “In 2003, Yuval Steinitz, then head of the Israeli Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, assessed the strategic alliance with India as “a very high priority, second only to relations with the United States.” He negotiated a strategic nuclear cooperation agreement with Indian Home Minister L. K. Advani, predecessor to Modi and also a member of the BJP and RSS, in which the two countries permitted themselves to launch a second-strike if attacked by nuclear, chemical, or biological warfare. This means nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear strike.

This ambiguity is a bizarre enactment of facile duplicity and hypocrisy at the highest national and international levels.


[1] Seymour M. Hersh, The Samson Option: Israel, America and the Bomb, Faber and Faber, New York (1991), p. 33.

[2] Hersh, p 119.


Judith Deutsch is a psychoanalyst in Toronto. She is former president of Science for Peace. She can be reached at

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