|July 23rd, 2008||#1|
Join Date: Jul 2007
Jews Threaten World with Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Weapons
ISRAELI WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION
Anthony H. Cordesman
Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy
1st Working Draft: June 2, 2008
Israel’s nuclear capabilities and other efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction are some of its most secret and most controversial force developments. Although there have been many unclassified reports on such developments, only a few have been credible and these have consisted largely of reports on its missile forces or nuclear activities that took place several decades ago. Many estimates of Israel's nuclear weapons trace back to rough estimates made a decade ago. No official Israeli data or credible outside reports data have emerged on the details of Israel's strategic doctrine, targeting plans, or systems for planning and executing nuclear strikes, or how these have changed in recent years. However, a great deal of speculation has emerged over how Israel might act in a war or crisis. Figure One summarizes current reporting on Israeli weapons of mass destruction, drawing on U.S. government and IAEA reporting, and additional sources sources like the Nuclear Threat Institute, Global Security, Jane’s, the Federation of American Scientists, Institute for Science and International Security, and the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies It should be stressed again that all of the estimates of this kind provided are highly uncertain and heavily dependent upon unclassified sources and the views of outside experts.
Probable Israeli Capabilities
Israel’s biological weapons programs seem to be largely defensive, but advanced defensive programs provide the technology base for weapons production and Israel has advanced civil biotechnology and pharmaceutical programs with extensive dual capability to produce such weapons. There is no public evidence that the IDF has organized and trained for more than defensive chemical warfare. However, Israel has been detected importing significant amounts of precursors for chemical weapons. It does seem highly likely that Israel can target virtually any Arab state and Iran with long-range missiles and deliver nuclear strikes using such missiles as well as by air using air-to-surface missiles. Israel almost certainly has "boosted" nuclear weapons with yields of 100 kilotons or more and may have thermonuclear weapons. Israel probably has enough nuclear weapons, and a stock of weapons with low enough yields, so that it can use its nuclear strike capabilities against cities, populations, and military area targets and critical civilian facilities. There is no way to determine Israeli plans and targeting, but the fact that Israel’s population is so small and concentrated may well mean that any Israeli retaliatory attack in response to the use of highly lethal weapons of mass destruction against Israel’s population would take the form of massive retaliation against the enemy’s continuity of government, economic recovery capability, and population. It seems highly likely that Israel has long had tactical nuclear weapons. Israel is well aware of U.S., NATO, French, and former Soviet Union (FSU) doctrine and planning for the use and employment of such weapons, and probably has low yield weapons it can use in close proximity to its own territory and forces. In any case, airbursts of high-yield nuclear weapons largely eliminate fallout and allow the use of nuclear weapons under the same conditions.
Israel has acquired and developed intelligence satellites that could provide highly advanced targeting data for missile and air strikes, with some near-real time capability. The current missile and air forces Israel would probably use to deliver nuclear strikes are somewhat vulnerable to air and missile attack. The survivability and effectiveness of such strikes is uncertain, and such threats would currently come from Iran or Arab states, which can use only chemical or conventional bombs and warheads. There are also indications that Israel relies on dispersal in a major crisis, and it certainly has capable enough sensors and battle management systems to maintain launch on warning and/or launch under attack capabilities. There are unconfirmed reports that Israel plans to sea base some of its nuclear weapons on ballistic or cruise missiles deployed on its Dolphin-class submarines as part of a possible second strike capability.
Shifts in Israeli Missile Defenses
Israel has acquired ballistic missile defense capabilities, although the real-world operational capability of such defenses is uncertain. Israel’s testing programs have been minimal, and it has had to place an extraordinary reliance on engineering forecasts of effectiveness in moving to production and deployment. Israel did declare that the improved Block 3 version of its Arrow ballistic missile defense system became active in April 2006, and further improvements in software are expected. It has improved its Green Pine and other radar warning and sensor systems and created a new battle management system, nicknamed the "Cube." It is working on Block 4 versions of both the Arrow and Green Pine to be deployed by 2009 capable of handling significantly greater numbers of missile tracks at the same time and intercepting incoming missiles with a higher closing velocity and at ranges of more than 700 kilometers. It is believed to be developing more advanced counter-countermeasures and the ability to detect decoy warheads.
Israel’s Search for Weapons of Mass Destruction Delivery Systems
Israel has done technical work on a terrain contour matching-type smart warhead. It has examined cruise missile guidance developments using GPS navigation systems. This system may be linked to a submarine launch option.
As part of its first long-range missile force, Israel deployed up to 50 "Jericho I" (YA-1) missiles in shelters on mobile launchers with up to a 400-mile range with a 2,200-pound payload and with possible nuclear warhead storage nearby. These missiles were near copies of the two-stage, solid-fueled, French MD-620 missile. Some reports claim the first 14 were built in France. (Some reports give the range as 500 kilometers.)
NTI reports that, ―It appears that some time in the early 1970s, Israel took over production and testing of the missile and by 1978 had domestically constructed around 50 Jericho-I missiles. Previously France had delivered 14 complete missiles to Israel. There are conflicting reports as to when the Jericho-I entered service. Some sources indicated that the Jericho-I was deployed with nuclear warheads during the 1973 war with Egypt and Syria. Other sources, however, indicate that at the time, the Jericho-I still suffered from problems with guidance and control and was not yet operational. Those problems, however, may have had more to do with insufficient accuracy to deliver a nuclear warhead and the missile may have been deployed during the 1973 war even with the knowledge that its accuracy was unreliable...There seems to be no dispute though that the Jericho-I was designed to deliver nuclear warheads, despite Israel's policy of opacity with regards to its status as a nuclear weapon state.‖ ii
Israel is thought to have conventional, chemical and nuclear warheads for the Jericho I.
The current deployment of the "Jericho I" force is unclear. Some sources say it has been phased out for the Jericho II missile.iii
Israel has since gone far beyond the Jericho I in developing long-range missile systems. It has developed and deployed the "Jericho II" (YA-2).
The Jericho II began development in the mid-1970s and had its first tests in 1986.iv Israel carried out a launch in mid-1986 over the Mediterranean that reached a range of 288 miles (460 kilometers). It seems to have been tested in May 1987. A flight across the Mediterranean reached a range of some 510 miles (820 kilometers), landing south of Crete.v Another test occurred on September 14, 1989.
The Nuclear Threat Initiative reports that, ―Some reports indicate that Israel began production of the two-stage Jericho-II ballistic missile as early as 1977. Other sources place the date several years later. In either case, Israel conducted several test-flights of the Jericho-II in the 1980s and 1990s. The Jericho-II was reported by a source to have entered service in 1989. However, during the first Persian Gulf War, Israel apparently balked at U.S. suggestions to limit any response to Iraqi Scud attacks to ballistic missile strikes in part because the Jericho was not yet fully operational. The Jericho-II is reported to have a range of between 1,500 and 3,500 km, depending on payload weight. It is said to be deployed in underground caves and silos primarily at the Zachariah facility….Much of the information about the Jericho-II has been gleaned from observation of launches of the Shavit space launch vehicle (SLV). The Shavit is a three-stage, solid-propellant launcher designed to carry payloads up to 250 kg into low earth orbit. It was speculated for some time that the first two stages of the Shavit were the Jericho-II. This was confirmed in 2001 when a spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces admitted that the "Shavit is Jericho." Shavit launches are conducted from the Palmachim airbase near Tel Aviv. The first launch was in September 1988 and placed a satellite, the Ofeq-1, into orbit. The most recent launch was in June 2001 and placed the Ofeq-5 spy satellite in orbit.‖ vi
Israel launched a missile across the Mediterranean that landed about 250 miles north of Benghazi, Libya. The missile flew over 800 miles, and U.S. experts felt it had a maximum range of up to 900-940 miles (1,450 kilometers) — which would allow the Jericho II to cover virtually all of the Arab world and even the southern former Soviet Union.vii
The most recent version of the missile seems to be a two-stage, solid-fueled missile with a range of up to 900 miles (1,500 kilometers) with a 2,200 pound payload.
Commercial satellite imaging indicates the Jericho II missile may be 14 meters long and 1.5 meters wide. Its deployment configuration hints that it may have radar area guidance similar to the terminal guidance in the Pershing II and probably has deployed these systems.
Some Jericho IIs may have been brought to readiness for firing during the Gulf War.
Israel began work on an updated version of the Jericho II no later than 1995 in an effort to stretch its range to 2,000 km. At least part of this work may have begun earlier in cooperation with South Africa. There have been unconfirmed reports of a Jericho III missile.
Israel is also seeking technology to improve its accuracy, particularly with gyroscopes for the inertial guidance system and associated systems software.
Israel is actively examining ways to lower the vulnerability of its ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. These include improved hardening, dispersal, and the use of air-launched and sea-based delivery systems.
There are reports that Israel is developing a Jericho III missile, based on a booster it developed with South Africa in the 1980s.
The tests of a longer-range missile seem to have begun in the mid-1980s.viiiA major test of such a booster seems to have taken place on September 14, 1989, and resulted in extensive reporting on such cooperation in the press during October 25 and 26, 1989.
It is possible that that both the booster and any Israeli-South African cooperation may have focused on satellite launches.ix Since 1994, however, there have been numerous reports that Israel was seeking a missile with a range of at least 4,800 kilometers, and which could fully cover Iran and any other probable threat.
Jane’s estimated that the missile has a range of up to 5,000 kilometers and a 1,000-kilogram warhead. This estimate is based largely on a declassified Defense Intelligence Agency estimate of the launch capability of the Shavit booster that Israel tested on September 19, 1988.x
Reports of how Israel deploys its missiles differ. Initial reports indicated that 30-50 Jericho I missiles were deployed on mobile launchers in shelters in the caves southwest of Tel Aviv. A source claimed in 1985 that Israel had 50 missiles deployed on mobile erector launchers in the Golan, on launchers on flat cars that could be wheeled out of sheltered cases in the Negev. (This latter report may confuse mobile missile launchers with the rail transporter used to move missiles from a production facility near Be’er Yaakov to a base at Kefar Zeharya, about 15 kilometers south of Be’er Yaakov.
More recent reports indicate that Jericho II missiles are located in 50 underground bunkers carved into the limestone hills near a base near Kefar Zeharya. The number that are on alert, command and control and targeting arrangements, and the method of giving them nuclear warheads has never been convincingly reported.xi
Jane’s Intelligence Review published satellite photos of what it said was a Jericho II missile base at Zachariah (God remembers with a vengeance) several miles southeast of Tel Aviv in September 1997.xii According to this report, the transport-erector-launcher (TEL) for the Jericho II measures about 16 meters long by 4 meters wide and 3 meters high. The actual missile is about 14 meter long and 1.5 meters wide. The TEL is supported by three support vehicles, including a guidance and power vehicle. The other two vehicles include a communications vehicle and a firing control vehicle. This configuration is somewhat similar to that used in the U.S. Pershing II IRBM system, although there are few physical similarities.
The photos in the article show numerous bunkers near the TEL and launch pad, and the article estimates a force of 50 missiles on the site. It also concludes that the lightly armored TEL would be vulnerable to a first strike, but that the missiles are held in limestone caves behind heavy blast-resistant doors. It estimates that a nuclear-armed M-9 or Scud C could destroy the launch capability of the site. xiii
The same article refers to nuclear weapons bunkers at the Tel Nof airbase, a few kilometers to the northwest. The author concludes that the large number of bunkers indicates that Israel may have substantially more nuclear bombers than is normally estimated – perhaps up to 400 weapons with a total yield of 50 megatons. xiv
76 F-15s, 232 F-16s, 20 F-4Es, and 50 Phantom 2000 fighter-bombers capable of long-range refueling and of carrying nuclear and chemical bombs.
Israel bought some Lance missile launchers and 160 Lance missiles from the United States in the 1970s. The United States removed them from active duty during 1991-1994. The status of the Israeli missiles is unknown.
IISS reports that Israel currently has some 20 Lance launchers in storage.
The Lance has a range of 130 km with a 450-kg payload.
Reports indicate that Israel has developed conventional cluster munitions for use with the Lance rocket.
Reports of a May 2000 test launch seem to indicate that Israel has a cruise missile with a range of 1,500 km capable of being launched from its new Dolphin-class, German-built submarines.xv
It is believed that such a cruise missile, an extended-range, turbofan powered variant of the Popeye cruise missile, called the Popeye Turbo, can carry a nuclear warhead.
There are reports of the development of a long-range, nuclear-armed version of Popeye with GPS guidance and of studies of possible cruise missile designs that could be both surface ship and submarine based.
A variant of the Popeye air-to-surface missile is believed to be capable of delivering a nuclear weapon payload.
The MAR-290 rocket with 30 kilometers range is believed to be deployed.
MAR-350 surface-to-surface missiles with a range of 56 miles and a 735-pound payload capacity are believed to have completed development or to be in early deployment.
Israel was seeking supercomputers for Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) (designing ballistic missile RVs), Hebrew University (may be engaged in hydrogen bomb research), and Israeli Military Industries (maker of Jericho II and the Shavit booster).
Israel’s current review of its military doctrine seems to include a review of its missile basing options and the study of possible hardening and dispersal systems. There are also reports that Israel will solve its survivability problems by deploying some form of nuclear-armed missile on its new submarines.
Israel is reported to have begun chemical weapons research in 1948. Some reports that its chemical and biological weapons efforts were merged in 1952 as part of the creation of the Israel Institute for Biological Research at Nes Tona.
Some reports began a ―crash chemical weapons production effort in 1955.
Reports of a mustard and nerve gas production facility established in 1982 in the restricted area in the Sinai near Dimona seem incorrect. May have additional facilities. May have capacity to produce other gases. Probable stocks of bombs, rockets, and artillery.
Extensive laboratory research into gas warfare and defense.
An El Al 747-200 cargo plane crashed in southern Amsterdam on October 4, 1992, killing 43 people in the apartment complex it hit. This led to extensive examination of the crash, and the plane was found to be carrying 50 gallons of dimethyl methylphosphonate, a chemical used to make sarin nerve gas. The chemical had been purchased from Solkatronic Chemicals in the United States and was being shipped to the Israel Institute for Biological Research. It was part of an order of 480 pounds worth of the chemical. Two of the three other chemicals used in making sarin were shipped on the same flight. Israel at first denied this and then claimed it was being imported only to test gas masks.xvi
Israel did sign the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) on January 13, 1993, but has never ratified it.
In 1998, Israel chose not to expand the facilities at the Israel Institute for Biological Research at Nes Tona because of concerns for the risk to the local population. It may later have constructed a new, remote site.
Israel may have the contingency capability to produce at least two types of chemical weapons and has certainly studied biological weapons as well as chemical ones. According to one interview with an Israeli source of unknown reliability, Israel has mustard gas, persistent and nonpersistent nerve gas, and may have at least one additional agent.
Development of defensive systems includes Shalon Chemical Industries protection gear, Elbit Computer gas detectors, and Bezal R&D aircrew protection system.
Extensive field exercises conducted in chemical defense.
Gas masks were stockpiled and then distributed to the population with other civil defense instructions during the first and second Gulf Wars.
Warhead delivery capability for bombs, rockets, and missiles, but none now believed to be equipped with chemical agents.
An unconfirmed October 4, 1998, report in the Sunday Times of London quotes military sources as stating that Israeli F-16s had been modified to carry out attacks using chemical and biological weapons produced at the Nes Ziona facility.xvii
No firm evidence Israel has stockpiled chemical weapons, or has gone beyond improving its defense and decontamination capabilities.
Extensive research into weapons and defense. Ben Gurion initiates a search for experts as early as April 1948. A center called HEMED BEIT is reported to be established, but any biological weapons activity is never confirmed.
Ready to quickly produce biological weapons, but no reports of active production effort.
According to some reports, Israel revitalized its chemical warfare facilities south of Dimona in the mid-1980s, after Syria deployed chemical weapons and Iraq began to use these weapons in the Iran-Iraq War.
Israel has at least one major research facility with sufficient security and capacity to produce both chemical and biological weapons.xviii There are reports that HEMED BEIT was replaced in 1952 by a biological weapons research facility at the Israel Institute for Biological Research at Nes Tona, about 12 miles south of Tel Aviv, and that this same facility also has worked on the development and testing of nerve gas. This facility has created enough public concern in Israel so that the mayor of Nes Tona has asked that it be moved away from populated areas. The facility is reported to have stockpiled anthrax and to have provided toxins to Israeli intelligence for use in covert operations and assassinations such as the attempt on a Hamas leader in Jordan in 1997.xix
The Israel Institute for Biological Research is located in a 14-acre compound. It has high walls and exceptional security and is believed to have a staff of around 300, including 120 scientists. A former deputy head, Marcus Klingberg, served 16 years in prison for spying for the FSU.
U.S. experts privately state that Israel is one of the nations included in U.S. lists of nations with biological and chemical weapons. They believe that Israel has at least some stocks of weaponized nerve gas, although they may be stored in forms that require binary agents to be loaded into binary weapons.
They believe that Israel has fully developed bombs and warheads capable of effectively disseminating dry, storable biological agents in micropowder form and has agents considerably more advanced than anthrax. Opinion differs over whether such weapons are actively loaded and deployed. Unconfirmed reports by the British Sunday Times claimed that IAF F-16s are equipped for strikes using both these weapons and chemical weapons.xx
No firm evidence Israel has stockpiled biological weapons, or has gone beyond improving its defense and decontamination capabilities.
Uranium exploration began in Negev as early as 1949; Israeli Atomic Energy Commission began to discuss nuclear option in 1952. Cooperation with France in nuclear reactor design and technology began in 1950s. French-Israeli construction of a reactor in Dimona – whose actual capacity was much larger than its announced capacity, began in 1957. US detected the project in 1958, and visited the reactor during the 1960s, but Israel concealed its true output and performance characteristics.
Britain sells 20-tons of heavy water to Israel in 1959-1960. It also sells beryllium and lithium-6. These sales are critical to bringing the kind of reactor Israel needs on line, and potentially useful in easing its problems in producing ―boosted‖ fission and fusion weapons.
Possible nuclear test (implosion proof of principle or ―zero yield‖) in Negev on November 2, 1966.
By 1968, the CIA publicly estimated that Israel had nuclear weapons. It estimated that Israel had 10-20 nuclear weapons.
By 1986, leaks by Mordecai Vanunu, and from other sources, led to estimates that Israel had some 100-200 fission weapons. The possibility existed that it had ―boosted‖ fission weapons with yields in the 60-100 kiloton (KT) range.
October 1973: reports that Prime Minister Golda Meir orders IDF to assemble nuclear weapons for delivery in response to Egyptian and Syrian attacks, and that .Jericho missiles at Hirbat Zachariah and nuclear strike F-4s at Tel Nof are armed.
Reports of joint nuclear test with South Africa in 1979, but never confirmed. Israel does seem to have cooperated with South Africa in missile design and booster testing.
The director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) indicated in May 1989 that Israel may be seeking to construct a thermonuclear weapon.
June 2000: reports begin to surface that Israel will arm submarines with nuclear-armed cruise or ballistic missiles. Such reports have continued ever since. Reports that Israel had modified the Harpoon cruise missile to have nuclear warheads have been regularly repeated since 2003. Germany sells Israel advanced Dolphin-class submarines in 2005.
Israel has two significant reactor projects: the 5 megawatt highly enriched uranium light-water IRR I reactor at Nahal Soreq; and the 75-200 megawatt heavy-water IRR-2 natural uranium reactor used for the production of fissile Plutonium material at Dimona. Only the IRR-1 is under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.
Dimona has conducted experiments in pilot scale laser and centrifuge enrichment, purifies uranium dioxide (UO2), converts uranium hexafluoride (UF6,), and fabricates fuel for weapons purpose.
Uranium phosphate mining in the Negev, near Beersheba, and yellowcake is produced at two plants in the Haifa area and one in southern Israel.
Pilot-scale heavy water plant operating at Rehovot.
Estimates of numbers and types of weapons differ sharply.
No agreement exists over the plutonium output from the reactor at Dimona. Which is reported at power outputs from 75-200 megawatts. Satellite photos indicate that output is more likely to be below 140 megawatts.
Stockpile of at least 60-80 plutonium weapons.
May have well over 100 nuclear weapons assemblies, with some weapons with yields over 100 kilotons.
U.S. experts believe Israel has highly advanced implosion weapons. Known to have produced Lithium-6, allowing production of both tritium and lithium deuteride at Dimona. Facility no longer believed to be operating.
Some weapons may be ER variants or have variable yields.
Stockpile of up to 300-400 weapons is possible. Lower limit could be 70-100.
There exists a possibility that Israel may have developed thermonuclear warheads.
Major weapons facilities include production of weapons-grade plutonium at Dimona, nuclear weapons design facility at Nahal Soreq (south of Tel Aviv), missile test facility at Palmachim, nuclear armed missile storage facility at Kefar Zekharya, nuclear weapons assembly facility at Yodefat, and tactical nuclear weapons storage facility at Eilabun in eastern Galilee.
Patriot missiles with future PAC-3 upgrade to reflect lessons of the Gulf War.
Arrow 2 two-stage anti-ballistic missile system. with slant intercept ranges at altitudes of 8-10 and 50 kilometers, speeds of up to Mach 9, plus possible development of the Rafal AB-10 close-in defense missile with ranges of 10-20 kilometers and speeds of up to Mach 4.5. Taas rocket motor, Rafael warhead, and Tadiran BM/C4I system and ―Music‖ phased array radar.
Israel plans to deploy three batteries of the Arrow to cover Israel, each with four launchers, to protect up to 85 percent of its population. The first battery was deployed in early 2000, with an official announcement declaring the system operational on March 12, 2000.
The Arrow program has three phases:
Phase I: Validate Defense Concept and Demonstrate Pre-prototype Missile.
Fixed price contract: $158 million.
The United States pays 80 percent, Israel pays 20 percent.
Completed in December 1982.
Phase II: Demonstrate lethality; develop and demonstrate tactical interceptor and launcher.
Fixed price contract: $330 million.
The United States pays 72 percent, Israel pays 28 percent.
Began in July 1991.
Phase III: Develop and integrate tactical system, conduct weapon system tests, and develop and implement interoperability.
Program cost estimated at $616 million.
The United States pays 48 percent, Israel pays 52 percent.
Began in March 1996.
System integration in progress.
The Arrow will be deployed in batteries as a wide area defense system with intercepts normally at reentry or exoatmospheric altitudes. Capable of multitarget tracking and multiple intercepts.
Israel has designed the Nautilus laser system for rocket defense in a joint project with the United States. It has developed into the Theater High Energy Laser. The project has recently been expanded to include interception of not only short-range rockets and artillery, but also medium-range Scuds and longer-range missiles such as Iran’s Shahab series.
Israel is examining the possibility of boost-phase defenses. The Rafael Moab UAV forms part of the Israeli Boost-Phase Intercept System. This is intended to engage ballistic missiles soon after launch, using weapons fired from a UAV. Moab would launch an improved Rafael Python 4 air-to-air missile. Range is stated as 80-100 km depending on the altitude of release.
Advanced Intelligence Systems
Israeli space program to date:
Satellite Launch Date Status Function
Ofeq 1 9/19/1988 Decayed 1/14/1989 Experimental
Ofeq 2 4/3/1990 Decayed 7/9/1990 Communications experiments.
Ofeq 3 4/5/1995 Decayed 10/24/2000 Reconnaissance/experimental?
Ofeq 4 (Eros A) 1/22/1998 Launch failed during second-stage burn Reconnaissance/commercial imaging?
Eros A1 12/5/2000 In orbit Reconnaissance/commercial imaging?
Ofeq 5 5/28/2002 In orbit Reconnaissance
Ofeq-7 6/11/2007 In orbit Reconnaissance
TecSAR 01/21/2008 In orbit/Awaiting final certification Reconnaissance/radar imaging
|November 21st, 2008||#2|
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IAEA puts Israeli Nukes on Agenda
It's about freaking time.....
|November 21st, 2008||#3|
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|November 21st, 2008||#4|
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|April 3rd, 2010||#5|
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THE THIRD TEMPLE'S HOLY OF HOLIES:
ISRAEL'S NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Warner D. Farr, LTC, U.S. Army
The Counterproliferation Papers
Future Warfare Series No. 2
USAF Counterproliferation Center
Air War College
Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama
The Counterproliferation Papers Series was established by the USAF Counterproliferation Center to provide information and analysis to U.S. national security policy-makers and USAF officers to assist them in countering the threat posed by adversaries equipped with weapons of mass destruction. Copies of papers in this series are available from the USAF Counterproliferation Center, 325 Chennault Circle, Maxwell AFB AL 36112-6427. The fax number is (334) 953-7538; phone (334) 953-7538.
Counterproliferation Paper No. 2
USAF Counterproliferation Center
Air War College
Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama 36112-6427
The internet address for the USAF Counterproliferation Center is:
The views expressed in this publication are those solely of the author and are not a statement of official policy or position of the U.S. Government, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, or the USAF Counterproliferation Center.
Colonel Warner D. “Rocky” Farr, Medical Corps, Master Flight Surgeon, U.S. Army, graduated from the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama before becoming the Command Surgeon, U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He also serves as the Surgeon for the U.S. Army Special Forces Command, U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command, and the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. With thirty-three years of military service, he holds an Associate of Arts from the State University of New York, Bachelor of Science from Northeast Louisiana University, Doctor of Medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Masters of Public Health from the University of Texas, and has completed medical residencies in aerospace medicine, and anatomic and clinical pathology. He is the only army officer to be board certified in these three specialties. Solo qualified in the TH-55A Army helicopter, he received flight training in the T-37 and T-38 aircraft as part of his USAF School of Aerospace Medicine residency.
Colonel Farr was a Master Sergeant Special Forces medic prior to receiving a direct commission to second lieutenant. He is now the senior Special Forces medical officer in the U.S. Army with prior assignments in the 5th, 7th, and 10th Special Forces Groups (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, in Vietnam, the United States, and Germany. He has advised the 12th and 20th Special Forces Groups (Airborne) in the reserves and national guard, served as Division Surgeon, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), and as the Deputy Commander of the U.S. Army Aeromedical Center, Fort Rucker, Alabama.
I would like to acknowledge the assistance, guidance and encouragement from my Air War College (AWC) faculty research advisor, Dr. Andrew Terrill, instructor of the Air War College Arab-Israeli Wars course. Thanks are also due to the great aid of the Air University librarians. The author is also indebted to Captain J. R. Saunders, USN and Colonel Robert Sutton, USAF. Who also offered helpful suggestions.
This paper is a history of the Israeli nuclear weapons program drawn from a review of unclassified sources. Israel began its search for nuclear weapons at the inception of the state in 1948. As payment for Israeli participation in the Suez Crisis of 1956, France provided nuclear expertise and constructed a reactor complex for Israel at Dimona capable of large-scale plutonium production and reprocessing. The United States discovered the facility by 1958 and it was a subject of continual discussions between American presidents and Israeli prime ministers. Israel used delay and deception to at first keep the United States at bay, and later used the nuclear option as a bargaining chip for a consistent American conventional arms supply. After French disengagement in the early 1960s, Israel progressed on its own, including through several covert operations, to project completion. Before the 1967 Six-Day War, they felt their nuclear facility threatened and reportedly assembled several nuclear devices. By the 1973 Yom Kippur War Israel had a number of sophisticated nuclear bombs, deployed them, and considered using them. The Arabs may have limited their war aims because of their knowledge of the Israeli nuclear weapons. Israel has most probably conducted several nuclear bomb tests. They have continued to modernize and vertically proliferate and are now one of the world's larger nuclear powers. Using “bomb in the basement” nuclear opacity, Israel has been able to use its arsenal as a deterrent to the Arab world while not technically violating American nonproliferation requirements.
The Third Temple's Holy of Holies:
Israel's Nuclear Weapons
Warner D. Farr
This is the end of the Third Temple.
- Attributed to Moshe Dayan
during the Yom Kippur War
As Zionists in Palestine watched World War II from their distant sideshow, what lessons were learned? The soldiers of the Empire of Japan vowed on their emperor's sacred throne to fight to the death and not face the inevitability of an American victory. Many Jews wondered if the Arabs would try to push them into the Mediterranean Sea. After the devastating American nuclear attack on Japan, the soldier leaders of the empire reevaluated their fight to the death position. Did the bomb give the Japanese permission to surrender and live? It obviously played a military role, a political role, and a peacemaking role. How close was the mindset of the Samurai culture to the Islamic culture? Did David Ben-Gurion take note and wonder if the same would work for Israel? Could Israel find the ultimate deterrent that would convince her opponents that they could never, ever succeed? Was Israel's ability to cause a modern holocaust the best way to guarantee never having another one?
The use of unconventional weapons in the Middle East is not new. The British had used chemical artillery shells against the Turks at the second battle of Gaza in 1917. They continued chemical shelling against the Shiites in Iraq in 1920 and used aerial chemicals in the 1920s and 1930s in Iraq.
Israel's involvement with nuclear technology starts at the founding of the state in 1948. Many talented Jewish scientists immigrated to Palestine during the thirties and forties, in particular, Ernst David Bergmann. He would become the director of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission and the founder of Israel's efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Bergmann, a close friend and advisor of Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, counseled that nuclear energy could compensate for Israel's poor natural resources and small pool of military manpower. He pointed out that there was just one nuclear energy, not two, suggesting nuclear weapons were part of the plan. As early as 1948, Israeli scientists actively explored the Negev Desert for uranium deposits on orders from the Israeli Ministry of Defense. By 1950, they found low-grade deposits near Beersheba and Sidon and worked on a low power method of heavy water production.
The newly created Weizmann Institute of Science actively supported nuclear research by 1949, with Dr. Bergmann heading the chemistry division. Promising students went overseas to study nuclear engineering and physics at Israeli government expense. Israel secretly founded its own Atomic Energy Commission in 1952 and placed it under the control of the Defense Ministry. The foundations of a nuclear program were beginning to develop.
II. 1948-1962: With French Cooperation
It has always been our intention to develop a nuclear potential.
- Ephraim Katzir
In 1949, Francis Perrin, a member of the French Atomic Energy Commission, nuclear physicist, and friend of Dr. Bergmann visited the Weizmann Institute. He invited Israeli scientists to the new French nuclear research facility at Saclay. A joint research effort was subsequently set up between the two nations. Perrin publicly stated in 1986 that French scientists working in America on the Manhattan Project and in Canada during World War II were told they could use their knowledge in France provided they kept it a secret. Perrin reportedly provided nuclear data to Israel on the same basis. One Israeli scientist worked at the U.S. Los Alamos National Laboratory and may have directly brought expertise home.
After the Second World War, France's nuclear research capability was quite limited. France had been a leading research center in nuclear physics before World War II, but had fallen far behind the U.S., the U.S.S.R., the United Kingdom, and even Canada. Israel and France were at a similar level of expertise after the war, and Israeli scientists could make significant contributions to the French effort. Progress in nuclear science and technology in France and Israel remained closely linked throughout the early fifties. Israeli scientists probably helped construct the G-1 plutonium production reactor and UP-1 reprocessing plant at Marcoule. France profited from two Israeli patents on heavy water production and low-grade uranium enrichment. In the 1950s and into the early 1960s, France and Israel had close relations in many areas. France was Israel's principal arms supplier, and as instability spread through French colonies in North Africa, Israel provided valuable intelligence obtained from contacts with sephardic Jews in those countries.
The two nations collaborated, with the United Kingdom, in planning and staging the Suez Canal-Sinai operation against Egypt in October 1956. The Suez Crisis became the real genesis of Israel's nuclear weapons production program. With the Czech-Egyptian arms agreement in 1955, Israel became worried. When absorbed, the Soviet-bloc equipment would triple Egyptian military strength. After Egypt's President Nasser closed the Straits of Tiran in 1953, Israeli Prime Minister Ben-Gurion ordered the development of chemical munitions and other unconventional munitions, including nuclear. Six weeks before the Suez Canal operation, Israel felt the time was right to approach France for assistance in building a nuclear reactor. Canada had set a precedent a year earlier when it had agreed to build a 40-megawatt CIRUS reactor in India. Shimon Peres, the Director-General of the Defense Ministry and aide to Prime Minister (and Defense Minister) David Ben-Gurion, and Bergmann met with members of the CEA (France's Atomic Energy Commission). During September 1956, they reached an initial understanding to provide a research reactor. The two countries concluded final agreements at a secret meeting outside Paris where they also finalized details of the Suez Canal operation.
For the United Kingdom and France, the Suez operation, launched on October 29, 1956, was a total disaster. Israel's part was a military success, allowing it to occupy the entire Sinai Peninsula by 4 November, but the French and British canal invasion on 6 November was a political failure. Their attempt to advance south along the Suez Canal stopped due to a cease-fire under fierce Soviet and U.S. pressure. Both nations pulled out, leaving Israel to face the pressure from the two superpowers alone. Soviet Premier Bulganin and President Khrushchev issued an implicit threat of nuclear attack if Israel did not withdraw from the Sinai.
On 7 November 1956, a secret meeting was held between Israeli foreign minister Golda Meir, Shimon Peres, and French foreign and defense ministers Christian Pineau and Maurice Bourges-Manoury. The French, embarrassed by their failure to support their ally in the operation, found the Israelis deeply concerned about a Soviet threat. In this meeting, they substantially modified the initial understanding beyond a research reactor. Peres secured an agreement from France to assist Israel in developing a nuclear deterrent. After further months of negotiation, agreement was reached for an 18-megawatt (thermal) research reactor of the EL-3 type, along with plutonium separation technology. France and Israel signed the agreement in October 1957. Later the reactor was officially upgraded to 24 megawatts, but the actual specifications issued to engineers provided for core cooling ducts sufficient for up to three times this power level, along with a plutonium plant of similar capacity. Data from insider reports revealed in 1986 would estimate the power level at 125-150 megawatts. The reactor, not connected to turbines for power production, needed this increase in size only to increase its plutonium production. How this upgrade came about remains unknown, but Bourges-Maunoury, replacing Mollet as French prime minister, may have contributed to it. Shimon Peres, the guiding hand in the Israeli nuclear program, had a close relationship with Bourges-Maunoury and probably helped him politically.
Why was France so eager to help Israel? DeMollet and then de Gaulle had a place for Israel within their strategic vision. A nuclear Israel could be a counterforce against Egypt in France's fight in Algeria. Egypt was openly aiding the rebel forces there. France also wanted to obtain the bomb itself. The United States had embargoed certain nuclear enabling computer technology from France. Israel could get the technology from America and pass it through to France. The U.S. furnished Israel heavy water, under the Atoms for Peace program, for the small research reactor at Soreq. France could use this heavy water. Since France was some years away from nuclear testing and success, Israeli science was an insurance policy in case of technical problems in France's own program. The Israeli intelligence community's knowledge of past French (especially Vichy) anti-Semitic transgressions and the continued presence of former Nazi collaborators in French intelligence provided the Israelis with some blackmail opportunities. The cooperation was so close that Israel worked with France on the preproduction design of early Mirage jet aircraft, designed to be capable of delivering nuclear bombs.
French experts secretly built the Israeli reactor underground at Dimona, in the Negev desert of southern Israel near Beersheba. Hundreds of French engineers and technicians filled Beersheba, the biggest town in the Negev. Many of the same contractors who built Marcoule were involved. SON (a French firm) built the plutonium separation plants in both France and Israel. The ground was broken for the EL-102 reactor (as it was known to France) in early 1958.
Israel used many subterfuges to conceal activity at Dimona. It called the plant a manganese plant, and rarely, a textile plant. The United States by the end of 1958 had taken pictures of the project from U-2 spy planes, and identified the site as a probable reactor complex. The concentration of Frenchmen was also impossible to hide from ground observers. In 1960, before the reactor was operating, France, now under the leadership of de Gaulle, reconsidered and decided to suspend the project. After several months of negotiation, they reached an agreement in November that allowed the reactor to proceed if Israel promised not to make nuclear weapons and to announce the project to the world. Work on the plutonium reprocessing plant halted. On 2 December 1960, before Israel could make announcements, the U.S. State Department issued a statement that Israel had a secret nuclear installation. By 16 December, this became public knowledge with its appearance in the New York Times. On 21 December, Ben-Gurion announced that Israel was building a 24-megawatt reactor “for peaceful purposes.”
Over the next year, relations between the U.S. and Israel became strained over the Dimona reactor. The U.S. accepted Israel's assertions at face value publicly, but exerted pressure privately. Although Israel allowed a cursory inspection by well known American physicists Eugene Wigner and I. I. Rabi, Prime Minister Ben-Gurion consistently refused to allow regular international inspections. The final resolution between the U.S. and Israel was a commitment from Israel to use the facility for peaceful purposes, and to admit an U.S. inspection team twice a year. These inspections began in 1962 and continued until 1969. Inspectors saw only the above ground part of the buildings, not the many levels underground and the visit frequency was never more than once a year. The above ground areas had simulated control rooms, and access to the underground areas was kept hidden while the inspectors were present. Elevators leading to the secret underground plutonium reprocessing plant were actually bricked over. Much of the information on these inspections and the political maneuvering around it has just been declassified.
One interpretation of Ben-Gurion's “peaceful purposes” pledge given to America is that he interpreted it to mean that nuclear weapon development was not excluded if used strictly for defensive, and not offensive purposes. Israel's security position in the late fifties and early sixties was far more precarious than now. After three wars, with a robust domestic arms industry and a reliable defense supply line from the U.S., Israel felt much more secure. During the fifties and early sixties a number of attempts by Israel to obtain security guarantees from the U.S. to place Israel under the U.S. nuclear umbrella like NATO or Japan, were unsuccessful. If the U.S. had conducted a forward-looking policy to restrain Israel's proliferation, along with a sure defense agreement, we could have prevented the development of Israel's nuclear arsenal.
One common discussion in the literature concerns testing of Israeli nuclear devices. In the early phases, the amount of collaboration between the French and Israeli nuclear weapons design programs made testing unnecessary. In addition, although their main efforts were with plutonium, the Israelis may have amassed enough uranium for gun-assembled type bombs which, like the Hiroshima bomb, require no testing. One expert postulated, based on unnamed sources, that the French nuclear test in 1960 made two nuclear powers not one—such was the depth of collaboration.]25] There were several Israeli observers at the French nuclear tests and the Israelis had “unrestricted access to French nuclear test explosion data.” Israel also supplied essential technology and hardware. The French reportedly shipped reprocessed plutonium back to Israel as part of their repayment for Israeli scientific help.
However, this constant, decade long, French cooperation and support was soon to end and Israel would have to go it alone.
III. 1963-1973: Seeing the Project to Completion
To act in such a way that the Jews who died in the gas chambers would be the last Jews to die without defending themselves.
- Golda Meir[28 ]
Israel would soon need its own, independent, capabilities to complete its nuclear program. Only five countries had facilities for uranium enrichment: the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, and China. The Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation, or NUMEC, in Apollo, Pennsylvania was a small fuel rod fabrication plant. In 1965, the U.S. government accused Dr. Zalman Shapiro, the corporation president, of “losing” 200 pounds of highly enriched uranium. Although investigated by the Atomic Energy Commission, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other government agencies and inquiring reporters, no answers were available in what was termed the Apollo Affair. Many remain convinced that the Israelis received 200 pounds of enriched uranium sometime before 1965. One source links Rafi Eitan, an Israeli Mossad agent and later the handler of spy Jonathan Pollard, with NUMEC. In the 1990s when the NUMEC plant was disassembled, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission found over 100 kilograms of plutonium in the structural components of the contaminated plant, casting doubt on 200 pounds going to Israel.
The joint venture with France gave Israel several ingredients for nuclear weapons construction: a production reactor, a factory to extract plutonium from the spent fuel, and the design. In 1962, the Dimona reactor went critical; the French resumed work on the underground plutonium reprocessing plant, and completed it in 1964 or 1965. The acquisition of this reactor and related technologies was clearly intended for military purposes from the outset (not “dual-use”), as the reactor has no other function. The security at Dimona (officially the Negev Nuclear Research Center) was particularly stringent. For straying into Dimona's airspace, the Israelis shot down one of their own Mirage fighters during the Six-Day War. The Israelis also shot down a Libyan airliner with 104 passengers, in 1973, which had strayed over the Sinai. There is little doubt that some time in the late sixties Israel became the sixth nation to manufacture nuclear weapons. Other things they needed were extra uranium and extra heavy water to run the reactor at a higher rate. Norway, France, and the United States provided the heavy water and “Operation Plumbat” provided the uranium.
After the 1967 war, France stopped supplies of uranium to Israel. These supplies were from former French colonies of Gabon, Niger, and the Central Africa Republic. Israel had small amounts of uranium from Negev phosphate mines and had bought some from Argentina and South Africa, but not in the large quantities supplied by the French. Through a complicated undercover operation, the Israelis obtained uranium oxide, known as yellow cake, held in a stockpile in Antwerp. Using a West German front company and a high seas transfer from one ship to another in the Mediterranean, they obtained 200 tons of yellow cake. The smugglers labeled the 560 sealed oil drums “Plumbat,” which means lead, hence “Operation Plumbat.” The West German government may have been involved directly but remained undercover to avoid antagonizing the Soviets or Arabs. Israeli intelligence information on the Nazi past of some West German officials may have provided the motivation.
Norway sold 20 tons of heavy water to Israel in 1959 for use in an experimental power reactor. Norway insisted on the right to inspect the heavy water for 32 years, but did so only once, in April 1961, while it was still in storage barrels at Dimona. Israel simply promised that the heavy water was for peaceful purposes. In addition, quantities much more than what would be required for the peaceful purpose reactors were imported. Norway either colluded or at the least was very slow to ask to inspect as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) rules required. Norway and Israel concluded an agreement in 1990 for Israel to sell back 10.5 tons of the heavy water to Norway. Recent calculations reveal that Israel has used two tons and will retain eight tons more.
Author Seymour Hersh, writing in the Samson Option says Prime Minister Levi Eshkol delayed starting weapons production even after Dimona was finished. The reactor operated and the plutonium collected, but remained unseparated. The first extraction of plutonium probably occurred in late 1965. By 1966, enough plutonium was on hand to develop a weapon in time for the Six-Day War in 1967. Some type of non-nuclear test, perhaps a zero yield or implosion test, occurred on November 2, 1966. After this time, considerable collaboration between Israel and South Africa developed and continued through the 1970s and 1980s. South Africa became Israel's primary supplier of uranium for Dimona. A Center for Nonproliferation Studies report lists four separate Israel-South Africa “clandestine nuclear deals.” Three concerned yellowcake and one was tritium. Other sources of yellowcake may have included Portugal.
Egypt attempted unsuccessfully to obtain nuclear weapons from the Soviet Union both before and after the Six-Day War. President Nasser received from the Soviet Union a questionable nuclear guarantee instead and declared that Egypt would develop its own nuclear program.[43 ] His rhetoric of 1965 and 1966 about preventive war and Israeli nuclear weapons coupled with overflights of the Dimona rector contributed to the tensions that led to war. The Egyptian Air Force claims to have first overflown Dimona and recognized the existence of a nuclear reactor in 1965.[44 ] Of the 50 American HAWK antiaircraft missiles in Israeli hands, half ringed Dimona by 1965. Israel considered the Egyptian overflights of May 16, 1967 as possible pre-strike reconnaissance. One source lists such Egyptian overflights, along with United Nations peacekeeper withdrawal and Egyptian troop movements into the Sinai, as one of the three “tripwires” which would drive Israel to war. There was an Egyptian military plan to attack Dimona at the start of any war but Nasser vetoed it. He believed Israel would have the bomb in 1968. Israel assembled two nuclear bombs and ten days later went to war. Nasser's plan, if he had one, may have been to gain and consolidate territorial gains before Israel had a nuclear option. He was two weeks too late.
The Israelis aggressively pursued an aircraft delivery system from the United States. President Johnson was less emphatic about nonproliferation than President Kennedy-or perhaps had more pressing concerns, such as Vietnam. He had a long history of both Jewish friends and pressing political contributors coupled with some first hand experience of the Holocaust, having toured concentration camps at the end of World War II. Israel pressed him hard for aircraft (A-4E Skyhawks initially and F-4E Phantoms later) and obtained agreement in 1966 under the condition that the aircraft would not be used to deliver nuclear weapons. The State Department attempted to link the aircraft purchases to continued inspection visits. President Johnson overruled the State Department concerning Dimona inspections. Although denied at the time, America delivered the F-4Es, on September 5, 1969, with nuclear capable hardware intact.
The Samson Option states that Moshe Dayan gave the go-ahead for starting weapon production in early 1968, putting the plutonium separation plant into full operation. Israel began producing three to five bombs a year. The book Critical Mass asserts that Israel had two bombs in 1967, and that Prime Minister Eshkol ordered them armed in Israel's first nuclear alert during the Six-Day War. Avner Cohen in his recent book, Israel and the Bomb, agrees that Israel had a deliverable nuclear capability in the 1967 war. He quotes Munya Mardor, leader of Rafael, the Armament Development Authority, and other unnamed sources, that Israel “cobbled together” two deliverable devices.
Having the bomb meant articulating, even if secretly, a use doctrine. In addition to the “Samson Option” of last resort, other triggers for nuclear use may have included successful Arab penetration of populated areas, destruction of the Israeli Air Force, massive air strikes or chemical/biological strikes on Israeli cities, and Arab use of nuclear weapons.
In 1971, Israel began purchasing krytrons, ultra high-speed electronic switching tubes that are “dual-use," having both industrial and nuclear weapons applications as detonators. In the 1980s, the United States charged an American, Richard Smith (or Smyth), with smuggling 810 krytrons to Israel. He vanished before trial and reportedly lives outside Tel Aviv. The Israelis apologized for the action saying that the krytrons were for medical research. Israel returned 469 of the krytrons but the rest, they declared, had been destroyed in testing conventional weapons. Some believe they went to South Africa. Smyth has also been reported to have been involved in a 1972 smuggling operation to obtain solid rocket fuel binder compounds for the Jericho II missile and guidance component hardware. Observers point to the Jericho missile itself as proof of a nuclear capability as it is not suited to the delivery of conventional munitions.
On the afternoon of 6 October 1973, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel in a coordinated surprise attack, beginning the Yom Kippur War. Caught with only regular forces on duty, augmented by reservists with a low readiness level, Israeli front lines crumbled. By early afternoon on 7 October, no effective forces were in the southern Golan Heights and Syrian forces had reached the edge of the plateau, overlooking the Jordan River. This crisis brought Israel to its second nuclear alert.
Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, obviously not at his best at a press briefing, was, according to Time magazine, rattled enough to later tell the prime minister that “this is the end of the third temple,” referring to an impending collapse of the state of Israel. “Temple” was also the code word for nuclear weapons. Prime Minister Golda Meir and her “kitchen cabinet” made the decision on the night of 8 October. The Israelis assembled 13 twenty-kiloton atomic bombs. The number and in fact the entire story was later leaked by the Israelis as a great psychological warfare tool. Although most probably plutonium devices, one source reports they were enriched uranium bombs. The Jericho missiles at Hirbat Zachariah and the nuclear strike F-4s at Tel Nof were armed and prepared for action against Syrian and Egyptian targets. They also targeted Damascus with nuclear capable long-range artillery although it is not certain they had nuclear artillery shells.
U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was notified of the alert several hours later on the morning of 9 October. The U.S. decided to open an aerial resupply pipeline to Israel, and Israeli aircraft began picking up supplies that day. Although stockpile depletion remained a concern, the military situation stabilized on October 8th and 9th as Israeli reserves poured into the battle and averted disaster. Well before significant American resupply had reached Israeli forces, the Israelis counterattacked and turned the tide on both fronts.
On 11 October, a counterattack on the Golan broke the back of Syria's offensive, and on 15 and 16 October, Israel launched a surprise crossing of the Suez Canal into Africa. Soon the Israelis encircled the Egyptian Third Army and it was faced with annihilation on the east bank of the Suez Canal, with no protective forces remaining between the Israeli Army and Cairo. The first U.S. flights arrived on 14 October. Israeli commandos flew to Fort Benning, Georgia to train with the new American TOW anti-tank missiles and return with a C-130 Hercules aircraft full of them in time for the decisive Golan battle. American commanders in Germany depleted their stocks of missiles, at that time only shared with the British and West Germans, and sent them forward to Israel.
Thus started the subtle, opaque use of the Israeli bomb to ensure that the United States kept its pledge to maintain Israel's conventional weapons edge over its foes. There is significant anecdotal evidence that Henry Kissinger told President of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, that the reason for the U.S. airlift was that the Israelis were close to “going nuclear.”
A similar Soviet pipeline to the Arabs, equally robust, may or may not have included a ship with nuclear weapons on it, detected from nuclear trace emissions and shadowed by the Americans from the Dardanelles. The Israelis believe that the Soviets discovered Israeli nuclear preparations from COSMOS satellite photographs and decided to equalize the odds. The Soviet ship arrived in Alexandria on either 18 or 23 October (sources disagree), and remained, without unloading, until November 1973. The ship may have represented a Soviet guarantee to the Arab combatants to neutralize the Israeli nuclear option. While some others dismiss the story completely, the best-written review article concludes that the answer is “obscure.” Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev threatened, on 24 October, to airlift Soviet airborne troops to reinforce the Egyptians cut off on the eastern side of the Suez Canal and put seven Soviet airborne divisions on alert. Recent evidence indicates that the Soviets sent nuclear missile submarines also. Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine claimed that the two Soviet SCUD brigades deployed in Egypt each had a nuclear warhead. American satellite photos seemed to confirm this. The U.S. passed to Israel images of trucks, of the type used to transport nuclear warheads, parked near the launchers. President Nixon's response was to bring the U.S. to worldwide nuclear alert the next day, whereupon Israel went to nuclear alert a third time. This sudden crisis quickly faded as Prime Minister Meir agreed to a cease-fire, relieving the pressure on the Egyptian Third Army.
Shimon Peres had argued for a pre-war nuclear demonstration to deter the Arabs. Arab strategies and war aims in 1967 may have been restricted because of a fear of the Israeli “bomb in the basement,” the undeclared nuclear option. The Egyptians planned to capture an eastern strip next to the Suez Canal and then hold. The Syrians did not aggressively commit more forces to battle or attempt to drive through the 1948 Jordan River border to the Israeli center. Both countries seemed not to violate Israel proper and avoided triggering one of the unstated Israeli reasons to employ nuclear weapons. Others discount any Arab planning based on nuclear capabilities. Peres also credits Dimona with bringing Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem to make peace. This position was seemingly confirmed by Sadat in a private conversation with Israeli Defense Minister Ezer Weizman.
At the end of the Yom Kippur War (a nation shaking experience), Israel has her nuclear arsenal fully functional and tested by a deployment. The arsenal, still opaque and unspoken, was no longer a secret, especially to the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union.
IV. 1974-1999: Bringing the Bomb up the Basement Stairs
- Reportedly welded on the
first Israeli nuclear bomb
Shortly after the 1973 war, Israel allegedly fielded considerable nuclear artillery consisting of American 175 mm and 203 mm self-propelled artillery pieces, capable of firing nuclear shells. If true, this shows that Dimona had rapidly solved the problems of designing smaller weapons since the crude 1967 devices. If true, these low yield, tactical nuclear artillery rounds could reach at least 25 miles. The Israeli Defense Force did have three battalions of the 175mm artillery (36 tubes), reportedly with 108 nuclear shells and more for the 203mm tubes. Some sources describe a program to extend the range to 45 miles. They may have offered the South Africans these low yield, miniaturized, shells described as, “the best stuff we got.” By 1976, according to one unclassified source, the Central Intelligence Agency believed that the Israelis were using plutonium from Dimona and had 10 to 20 nuclear weapons available.
In 1972, two Israeli scientists, Isaiah Nebenzahl and Menacehm Levin, developed a cheaper, faster uranium enrichment process. It used a laser beam for isotope separation. It could reportedly enrich seven grams of Uranium 235 sixty percent in one day. Sources later reported that Israel was using both centrifuges and lasers to enrich uranium.
Questions remained regarding full-scale nuclear weapons tests. Primitive gun assembled type devices need no testing. Researchers can test non-nuclear components of other types separately and use extensive computer simulations. Israel received data from the 1960 French tests, and one source concludes that Israel accessed information from U.S. tests conducted in the 1950s and early 1960s. This may have included both boosted and thermonuclear weapons data. Underground testing in a hollowed out cavern is difficult to detect. A West Germany Army Magazine, Wehrtechnik, in June 1976, claimed that Western reports documented a 1963 underground test in the Negev. Other reports show a test at Al-Naqab, Negev in October 1966.
A bright flash in the south Indian Ocean, observed by an American satellite on 22 September 1979, is widely believed to be a South Africa-Israel joint nuclear test. It was, according to some, the third test of a neutron bomb. The first two were hidden in clouds to fool the satellite and the third was an accident—the weather cleared. Experts differ on these possible tests. Several writers report that the scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory believed it to have been a nuclear explosion while a presidential panel decided otherwise. President Carter was just entering the Iran hostage nightmare and may have easily decided not to alter 30 years of looking the other way. The explosion was almost certainly an Israeli bomb, tested at the invitation of the South Africans. It was more advanced than the “gun type” bombs developed by the South Africans. One report claims it was a test of a nuclear artillery shell. A 1997 Israeli newspaper quoted South African deputy foreign minister, Aziz Pahad, as confirming it was an Israeli test with South African logistical support.
Controversy over possible nuclear testing continues to this day. In June 1998, a Member of the Knesset accused the government of an underground test near Eilat on May 28, 1998. Egyptian “nuclear experts” had made similar charges. The Israeli government hotly denied the claims.
Not only were the Israelis interested in American nuclear weapons development data, they were interested in targeting data from U.S. intelligence. Israel discovered that they were on the Soviet target list. American-born Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard obtained satellite-imaging data of the Soviet Union, allowing Israel to target accurately Soviet cities. This showed Israel's intention to use its nuclear arsenal as a deterrent political lever, or retaliatory capability against the Soviet Union itself. Israel also used American satellite imagery to plan the 7 June 1981 attack on the Tammuz-1 reactor at Osiraq, Iraq. This daring attack, carried out by eight F-16s accompanied by six F-15s punched a hole in the concrete reactor dome before the reactor began operation (and just days before an Israeli election). It delivered 15 delay-fused 2000 pound bombs deep into the reactor structure (the 16th bomb hit a nearby hall). The blasts shredded the reactor and blew out the dome foundations, causing it to collapse on the rubble. This was the world's first attack on a nuclear reactor.
Since 19 September 1988, Israel has worked on its own satellite recon- naissance system to decrease reliance on U.S. sources. On that day, they launched the Offeq-1 satellite on the Shavit booster, a system closely related to the Jericho-II missile. They launched the satellite to the west away from the Arabs and against the earth's rotation, requiring even more thrust. The Jericho-II missile is capable of sending a one ton nuclear payload 5,000 kilometers. Offeq-2 went up on 3 April 1990. The launch of the Offeq-3 failed on its first attempt on 15 September 1994, but was successful 5 April 1995.
Mordechai Vanunu provided the best look at the Israeli nuclear arsenal in 1985 complete with photographs. A technician from Dimona who lost his job, Vanunu secretly took photographs, immigrated to Australia and published some of his material in the London Sunday Times. He was subsequently kidnapped by Israeli agents, tried and imprisoned. His data shows a sophisticated nuclear program, over 200 bombs, with boosted devices, neutron bombs, F-16 deliverable warheads, and Jericho warheads. The boosted weapons shown in the Vanunu photographs show a sophistication that inferred the requirement for testing. He revealed for the first time the underground plutonium separation facility where Israel was producing 40 kilograms annually, several times more than previous estimates. Photographs showed sophisticated designs which scientific experts say enabled the Israelis to build bombs with as little as 4 kilograms of plutonium. These facts have increased the estimates of total Israeli nuclear stockpiles (see Appendix A). In the words of one American, “[the Israelis] can do anything we or the Soviets can do.” Vanunu not only made the technical details of the Israeli program and stockpile public but in his wake, Israeli began veiled official acknowledgement of the potent Israeli nuclear deterrent. They began bringing the bomb up the basement stairs if not out of the basement.
Israel went on full-scale nuclear alert again on the first day of Desert Storm, 18 January 1991. Seven SCUD missiles were fired against the cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa by Iraq (only two actually hit Tel Aviv and one hit Haifa). This alert lasted for the duration of the war, 43 days. Over the course of the war, Iraq launched around 40 missiles in 17 separate attacks at Israel. There was little loss of life: two killed directly, 11 indirectly, with many structures damaged and life disrupted. Several supposedly landed near Dimona, one of them a close miss. Threats of retaliation by the Shamir government if the Iraqis used chemical warheads were interpreted to mean that Israel intended to launch a nuclear strike if gas attacks occurred. One Israeli commentator recommended that Israel should signal Iraq that “any Iraqi action against Israeli civilian populations, with or without gas, may leave Iraq without Baghdad.” Shortly before the end of the war the Israelis tested a “nuclear capable” missile which prompted the United States into intensifying its SCUD hunting in western Iraq to prevent any Israeli response. The Israeli Air Force set up dummy SCUD sites in the Negev for pilots to practice on—they found it no easy task. American government concessions to Israel for not attacking (in addition to Israeli Patriot missile batteries) were:
Allowing Israel to designate 100 targets inside Iraq for the coalition to destroy,
Satellite downlink to increase warning time on the SCUD attacks (present and future),
“Technical parity with Saudi jet fighters in perpetuity.”
All of this validated the nuclear arsenal in the minds of the Israelis. In particular the confirmed capability of Arab states without a border with Israel, the so-called “second tier” states, to reach out and touch Israel with ballistic missiles confirmed Israel's need for a robust first strike capability.] Current military contacts between Israel and India, another nuclear power, bring up questions of nuclear cooperation. Pakistani sources have already voiced concerns over a possible joint Israeli-Indian attack on Pakistan's nuclear facilities. A recent Parameters article speculated on Israel's willingness to furnish nuclear capabilities or assistance to certain states, such as Turkey. A retired Israeli Defense Force Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Amnon Shahak, has declared, “all methods are acceptable in withholding nuclear capabilities from an Arab state.”
As the Israeli bomb comes out of the basement, open discussion, even in Israel, is occurring on why the Israelis feel they need an arsenal not used in at least two if not three wars. Avner Cohen states: “It [Israel] must be in a position to threaten another Hiroshima to prevent another holocaust.” In July 1998 Shimon Peres was quoted in the Jordan Times as saying, “We have built a nuclear option, not in order to have a Hiroshima, but to have an Oslo,” referring to the peace process.
One list of current reasons for an Israeli nuclear capability is:
To deter a large conventional attack,
To deter all levels of unconventional (chemical, biological, nuclear) attacks,
To preempt enemy nuclear attacks,
To support conventional preemption against enemy nuclear assets,
To support conventional preemption against enemy non-nuclear (conventional, chemical, biological) assets,
For nuclear warfighting,
The “Samson Option” (last resort destruction).
The most alarming of these is the nuclear warfighting. The Israelis have developed, by several accounts, low yield neutron bombs able to destroy troops with minimal damage to property. In 1990, during the Second Gulf War, an Israeli reserve major general recommended to America that it “use non-contaminating tactical nuclear weapons” against Iraq. Some have speculated that the Israelis will update their nuclear arsenal to “micronukes” and “tinynukes” which would be very useful to attack point targets and other tactical or barrier (mining) uses. These would be very useful for hardened deeply buried command and control facilities and for airfield destruction without exposing Israeli pilots to combat. Authors have made the point that Israeli professional military schools do not teach nuclear tactics and would not use them in the close quarters of Israel. Many Israeli officers have attended American military schools where they learned tactical use in crowded Europe.
However, Jane's Intelligence Review has recently reported an Israeli review of nuclear strategy with a shift from tactical nuclear warheads to long range missiles. Israel always has favored the long reach, whether to Argentina for Adolph Eichmann, to Iraq to strike a reactor, Entebbe for hostages, Tunisia to hit the PLO, or by targeting the Soviet Union's cities. An esteemed Israeli military author has speculated that Israel is pursuing an R&D program to provide MIRVs (multiple independent reentry vehicles) on their missiles.
The government of Israel recently ordered three German Dolphin Class 800 submarine, to be delivered in late 1999. Israel will then have a second strike capability with nuclear cruise missiles, and this capability could well change the nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Israeli rhetoric on the new submarines labels them “national deterrent” assets. Projected capabilities include a submarine-launched nuclear missile with a 350-kilometer range. Israel has been working on sea launch capability for missiles since the 1960s. The first basing options for the new second-strike force of nuclear missile capable submarines include Oman, an Arab nation with unofficial Israeli relations, located strategically near Iran. A report indicates that the Israel Defense Ministry has formally gone to the government with a request to authorize a retaliatory nuclear strike if Israel was hit with first strike nuclear weapons. This report comes in the wake of a recent Iran Shihab-3 missile test and indications to Israel that Iran is two to three years from a nuclear warhead. Israeli statements stress that Iran's nuclear potential would be problem to all and would require “American leadership, with serious participation of the G-7 . . . .”
A recent study highlighted Israel's extreme vulnerability to a first strike and an accompanying vulnerability even to a false alarm. Syria's entire defense against Israel seems to rest on chemical weapons and warheads. One scenario involves Syria making a quick incursion into the Golan and then threatening chemical strikes, perhaps with a new, more lethal (protective-mask-penetrable) Russian nerve gas if Israel resists. Their use would drive Israel to nuclear use. Israeli development of an anti- missile defense, the Arrow, a fully fielded (30-50) Jericho II ballistic missile, and the soon-to-arrive strategic submarine force, seems to have produced a coming change in defense force structure. The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, quotes the Israeli Chief of Staff discussing the establishment of a “strategic command to . . . prepare an adequate response to the long term threats. . . ”
The 1994 accord with Jordan, allowing limited Israeli military presence in Jordanian skies, could make the flying distance to several potential adversaries considerably shorter. Israel is concerned about Iran's desire to obtain nuclear weapons and become a regional leader, coupled with large numbers of Shiite Moslems in southern Lebanon. The Israeli Air Force commanding general issued a statement saying Israel would “consider an attack” if any country gets “close to achieving a nuclear capability.” The Israelis are obviously considering actions capable of stopping such programs and are buying aircraft such as the F-15I with sufficient operational range. At the first delivery of these 4,000 kilometer range fighters, the Israeli comment was, “the aircraft would help counter a growing nuclear threat.” They consider such regional nation nuclear programs to be a sufficient cause for war. Their record of accomplishment is clear: having hit the early Iraqi nuclear effort, they feel vindicated by Desert Storm. They also feel that only the American and Israeli nuclear weapons kept Iraq's Saddam Hussein from using chemical or biological weapons against Israel.
Israel, like Iran, has desires of regional power. The 1956 alliance with France and Britain might have been a first attempt at regional hegemony. Current debate in the Israeli press considers offering Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and perhaps Syria (after a peace agreement) an Israeli nuclear umbrella of protection. A nuclear Iran or Iraq might use its nuclear weapons to protect some states in the region, threaten others, and attempt to control oil prices.
Another speculative area concerns Israeli nuclear security and possible misuse. What is the chain of decision and control of Israel's weapons? How susceptible are they to misuse or theft? With no open, frank, public debate on nuclear issues, there has accordingly been no debate or information on existing safeguards. This has led to accusations of “monolithic views and sinister intentions.” Would a right wing military government decide to employ nuclear weapons recklessly? Ariel Sharon, an outspoken proponent of “Greater Israel” was quoted as saying, “Arabs may have the oil, but we have the matches.” Could the Gush Emunim, a right wing religious organization, or others, hijack a nuclear device to “liberate” the Temple Mount for the building of the third temple? Chances are small but could increase as radicals decry the peace process. A 1997 article reviewing the Israeli Defense Force repeatedly stressed the possibilities of, and the need to guard against, a religious, right wing military coup, especially as the proportion of religious in the military increases.[139 ]
Israel is a nation with a state religion, but its top leaders are not religious Jews. The intricacies of Jewish religious politics and rabbinical law do affect their politics and decision processes. In Jewish law, there are two types of war, one obligatory and mandatory (milkhemet mitzvah) and the one authorized but optional (milkhemet reshut). The labeling of Prime Minister Begin's “Peace for Galilee” operation as a milchemet brera (“war of choice”) was one of the factors causing it to lose support. Interpretation of Jewish law concerning nuclear weapons does not permit their use for mutual assured destruction. However, it does allow possession and threatening their use, even if actual use is not justifiable under the law. Interpretations of the law allow tactical use on the battlefield, but only after warning the enemy and attempting to make peace. How much these intricacies affect Israeli nuclear strategy decisions is unknown.
The secret nature of the Israeli nuclear program has hidden the increasing problems of the aging Dimona reactor and adverse worker health effects. Information is only now public as former workers sue the government. This issue is now linked to continued tritium production for the boosted anti-tank and anti-missile nuclear warheads that Israeli continues to need. Israel is attempting to obtain a new, more efficient, tritium production technology developed in India.
One other purpose of Israeli nuclear weapons, not often stated, but obvious, is their “use” on the United States. America does not want Israel's nuclear profile raised. They have been used in the past to ensure America does not desert Israel under increased Arab, or oil embargo, pressure and have forced the United States to support Israeli diplomatically against the Soviet Union. Israel used their existence to guarantee a continuing supply of American conventional weapons, a policy likely to continue.
Regardless of the true types and numbers (see Appendix A) of Israeli nuclear weapons, they have developed a sophisticated system, by myriad methods, and are a nuclear power to be reckoned with. Their nuclear ambiguity has served their purposes well but Israel is entering a different phase of visibility even as their nuclear capability is entering a new phase. This new visibility may not be in America's interest. Many are predicting the Israeli nuclear arsenal will become less useful “out of the basement” and possibly spur a regional arms race. If so, Israel has a 5-10 year lead time at present before mutual assured destruction, Middle East style, will set in. Would regional mutual second strike capability, easier to acquire than superpower mutual second strike capability, result in regional stability? Some think so. Current Israeli President Ezer Weizman has stated “the nuclear issue is gaining momentum [and the] next war will not be conventional.