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June 05, 1987 - Image 50

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-06-05

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Yitzhak Rabin (left) and Shimon Peres (right): On opposite ends
of the nuclear debate.

Israelis Disagree
On Nuclear Strategy

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Friday, June 5, 1987



Special to The Jewish News


strategic issues raised
in the Jerusalem trial
of Mordechai Vanunu, charged
with leaking Israel's atomic
secrets to a foreign newspaper,
have been largely lost in the
According to Vanunu's in-
formation as published in Lon-
don's Sunday Times, Israel now
ranks as the world's sixth
largest nuclear power—just
after (in descending order)
Great Britain, France, and the
People's Republic of China.
According to the report, Is-
rael has stockpiled at least 100
nuclear weapons, and has
the"components and ability to
build atomic, neutron or hyd-
rogen bombs" of both the
"suburb-busting" nuclear and
"city-busting" thermo-nuclear
At the outset, observers ex-
pressed doubt that Vanunu's
nuclear story was on the level,
reading it as an intentional
leak in order to warn off the
Syrians, whose chemical
weapons build-up was recently
discussed in the media.
In fact, quite the opposite
may be true: to the "sudden"
appearance of information on
the Syrians' chemical warfar
capabilities was probably in-
troduced to provide part of the
strategic context for the dis-
cussion of Israel's nuclear force
which the Vanunu revelations
thrust upon us.

Israel's nuclear strategy is at
the heart of one of the critical
debates dividing Isreali
strategic planners and leading

politicians. The key question is
to what extent Israel should
employ, and rely on, a nuclear
umbrella to balance out what
is ultimately an insurmounta-
ble Arab conventional edge.
This division cuts across
other issues, like the dove/
hawk territorial one. Both the
annexationists and the doves
are divided among pro-nuclear
and pro-conventional lines.
Prof. Yuval Ne'eman, an in-
ternationally recognized ex-
pert on nuclear physics who
heads the far-right Tehiya
Party, is pro-nuclear. Ariel
Sharon, no less a commited
anexationist, sees Israel's fu-
ture wars in conventional,
non-nuclear terms.
The nuclear/conventional
strategic debate also divides
Israeli moderates. There are
doves who see a nuclear um-
brella as a substitute for
strategic depth. Others doubt
that Israel could live safely
within the old 1967 borders.
This debate was the secret
text animating supporters of
Shimon Peres (Israel's
foremost champion of nuclear
thinking) and Yitzhak Rabin
in the years when the two
struggled for leadership of the
Labor Party. It also explains
why Rabin briefly took Sharon
on as an adviser, while Peres
appointed Ne'eman, during the
last Labor government in the
Now this internal Israeli
discussion, suppressed by a
tradition of self-imposed si-
lence on national security mat-
ters, has come out into the
open. But the new disclosures
still level the most important
questions unanswered.
What are the geographical
and situational—not to men-

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