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>JN Oct. 7, 1998, Vol. 6, No. 178
Sharon Draws the Line at Hand Shaking
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
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
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
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
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