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>Israel Faxx
>JN Oct. 7, 1998, Vol. 6, No. 178

Sharon Draws the Line at Hand Shaking

By IsraelWire

National Infrastructure Minister Ariel Sharon told Israeli journalists this week that if he is appointed to the foreign minister portfolio, he does not plan to shake hands with PLO Authority Chief Yasir Arafat. Sharon, considered to be a political hawk, has been adamantly opposed to the government's plans to implement a 13.1 percent withdrawal from areas throughout Judea and Samaria, as per the Oslo Accords.

A Non-Conventional Look at Israel During '73 War

By Danny Gur-Arieh (IsraelWire)

On the second day of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan told the cabinet that the Arab offensive might destroy the Jewish state.

Twenty-four hours later, American intelligence personnel detected signs from Israel which analysts interpreted as a nuclear-related alert. Israel has never publicly discussed the nuclear dimension of that war. But one official confirms the country deployed nuclear-capable Jericho missiles.

"With the situation so severe on both fronts, it makes sense that if Israel had a nuclear capability at the time -- and we know it did -- certain kinds of preparations would be made," said analyst Avner Cohen. "That doesn't mean that Israel was about to launch nuclear weapons at Arab capitals. But it does mean that Israel was closer than ever before to considering the moment in which nuclear weapons might be used."

According to reports published abroad, Israel has conducted a clandestine nuclear weapons program since the 1950s and now possesses hundreds of atomic bombs. Its long-standing policy of deliberate ambiguity on nuclear issues is aimed at deterring enemies while averting international pressure on non-proliferation.

When the United States detected the first signs of activity at a site believed to store nuclear-capable missiles on Oct. 8, 1973, Israel was believed to have manufactured a handful of nuclear warheads. "We were aware of an existing missile site, which was placed on some kind of alert," said William Quandt, a member of the National Security Council staff that advised President Nixon. "All we could see was that something happened at the site in tense circumstances."

Quandt said concern that Israel might resort to nuclear weapons fuelled Washington's urgency to stop the war or at least prevent it from "turning into a real debacle."

.By this time, Israeli Ambassador Simcha Dinitz was lobbying hard for an airlift of arms and planes to replenish Israel's dwindling supply. He said that while the Pentagon was concerned the airlift would provoke an Arab oil embargo, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger realized Israel's situation was desperate.

Dinitz denies Israel used the prospect of a nuclear exchange as leverage with the United States. "It did not come up during the war and it would have been stupid to raise it," Dinitz said.

"I believe that Israel would have been left with very few options had it not received a replenishment of arms. That doesn't necessarily mean that Israel threatened the United States, but nuclear preparations Israel made certainly made it clear to Washington that Israel could consider a nuclear option if it doesn't get the supplies it needs."

On Oct. 12, the sixth day of the war, Nixon sided with Kissinger, ordering what Dinitz said was the largest military airlift in American history.

While Dinitz conducted overt diplomacy with US leaders, Yuval Ne'eman was appointed to handle quiet contact on behalf of Israel's Defense Ministry. Ne'eman, a key figure in Israel's nuclear program since its inception and a long-time director of the country's Atomic Energy Agency, describes a second nuclear-related incident involving Israel's classified Jericho missiles.

During the second week of the campaign, the United States gave Israel satellite information indicating Egypt might be conducting its own nuclear activity. The images showed trucks, which US analysts said were the kind used to transport nuclear warheads, parked near an Egyptian Scud missile site. Egypt had no known nuclear weapons program but Israel was concerned it may have received warheads from the Soviet Union.

Ne'eman, in the first such disclosure since the war, said the information prompted Israel to deploy its long-range Jerichos which, according to reports published abroad, are capable of carrying nuclear warheads. "Dado (then Israeli army chief David Elazar) responded by deploying our Jericho missiles in a very open area so that Soviet satellites could see them clearly,' said Ne'eman. "There was no nuclear matter involved. These were regular missiles."

Ne'eman said deploying the Jerichos was Israel's way of drawing a line in the sand and warning the Soviet Union and Egypt not to cross it. But analysts say the signal could easily have been misinterpreted as a prelude to an Israeli nuclear strike and prompted a perilous escalation with the Soviet Union.

"This is the danger of nuclear ambiguity as a policy," said Cohen, whose new book "Israel and the Bomb" traces the country's nuclear history since 1950. "When you cannot talk explicitly about what you have and what you might or might not do, signaling...becomes a very dangerous thing."

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