Israel's Nuclear Power

by Gad Nahshon

Israel, officially, has never confessed about its secret nuclear power. But one can read many books about Israeli nuclear power. In the past, all kinds of information or even pictures of the Nuclear Plant in Dimona, Negev, were published abroad because of the Israeli military censorship.

According to common knowledge, Israel began to build its nuclear plants in 1950 with the help of the socialist French government. At that time, David Ben Gurion sent Shimon Peres to make a dream come true. In the past, Israeli leaders often refused to deny the nuclear facts. And the Israelis used to say or think that Israel will use nuclear bombs only in a situation in which the existence of the country will be at stake. Some defined it as 'Massada Complex', a sort of a national suicide.

But the whole concept of nuclear power has been changed. There are all kinds of sophisticated nuclear weapons or missiles with nuclear heads and so on. Dr. Asher Arien, a distinguished Israeli political scientist, published an article in Strategic Update, a publication of JCSS (1998) in Tel Aviv University or Jaffe Center for Strategic Research, entitled "Israeli Public Opinion and the Nuclear Issue."

Dr. Arien pointed out that Israel never signed the 1968 international agreement against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The Arabs used this fact to criticize Israel in world public opinion. Arien claimed that in 1994, a sample of the Jewish Israeli population shows that 72% would like Israel to join this agreement. But in 1998, the Israeli public expressed a different approach: 92% supported the Israeli nuclear research. Most Israelis also supported the policy of secrecy. This problem made headlines because of the notorious 'Mordecai Vanuno Case.'

Vanuno managed to sell pictures from Dimona to the British press. He is still in the Israeli jail. Some argued at the time that Vanuno served Israel's interest by exposing Israel's nuclear might to its enemies, the Arabs. This was partly a deterrent policy. On the other hand, it could stimulate the Arab's will to build their own arsenal of nuclear weapons. But the most important finding of Dr. Arien's poll is the ever-growing support in the using of a nuclear weapon. In 1986, only 36% said 'yes.' But in 1998, it changed to 80% who said 'yes.'

It is a clear majority for using a nuclear weapon. It is a justified act. Arien explained that the changes roots are in the effect of the 1991 'Desert Storm' and, of course, the Iraqi's scud attack on Israel. It was a traumatic frustrating experience for the Israelis in the age of ballistic missiles which can carry nuclear or bio-chemical heads or bombs. Dr. Arien also found that the political affiliation did not change, in 1998, the attitudes of the Israeli response to his questions. Even the Israeli left support the use of nuclear weapons. By the way, the more educated Israelis were the more 'hawkish' in this issue of nuclear weaponry. Israel always said that she will not be the first one to use nuclear weapons in the Middle East. But an attack with non-conventional weapons will trigger the use of nuclear weapons.

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