Israel and weapons of mass destruction
|Weapons of mass destruction|
Israel is widely believed to possess weapons of mass destruction, and to be one of four nuclear-armed countries not recognized as a Nuclear Weapons State by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The US Congress Office of Technology Assessment has recorded Israel as a country generally reported as having undeclared chemical warfare capabilities, and an offensive biological warfare program. Officially Israel neither confirms nor denies possessing nuclear weapons.
It is believed that Israel had possessed an operational nuclear weapons capability by 1967, with the mass production of nuclear warheads occurring immediately after the Six-Day War. Although no official statistics exist, it has been estimated that Israel possesses from 75 to as many as 400 nuclear weapons, which are reported to include thermonuclear weapons in the megaton range. Israel is also reported to possess a wide range of different systems, including neutron bombs, tactical nuclear weapons, and suitcase nukes. Israel is believed to manufacture its nuclear weapons at the Negev Nuclear Research Center.
Nuclear weapons delivery
Nuclear weapons delivery mechanisms include Jericho intercontinental ballistic missiles, with a range of 11,500 km, and which are believed to provide a second-strike option. Israel's nuclear-capable ballistic missiles are believed to be buried so far underground that they would survive a nuclear attack. Additionally, Israel is believed to have an offshore nuclear second-strike capability, using submarine-launched nuclear-capable cruise missiles, which can be launched from the Israeli Navy's Dolphin-class submarines. The Israeli Air Force has F-15I and F-16I Sufa fighter aircraft are capable of delivering nuclear weapons at long distances using conformal fuel tanks and their aerial refueling fleet of modified Boeing 707's.
The Israeli government maintains a policy of deliberate ambiguity on whether it has nuclear weapons, saying only that it would "not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East." Former International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei regarded Israel as a state possessing nuclear weapons. Much of what is known about Israel's nuclear program comes from revelations in 1986 by Mordechai Vanunu, a technician at the Negev Nuclear Research Center who served an 18-year prison sentence as a result. Israel has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but supports establishment of a Middle East Zone free of weapons of mass destruction.
Israel has signed but not ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). In 1983 a report by the CIA stated that Israel, after "finding itself surrounded by frontline Arab states with budding CW capabilities, became increasingly conscious of its vulnerability to chemical attack... undertook a program of chemical warfare preparations in both offensive and protective areas... In late 1982 a probable CW nerve agent production facility and a storage facility were identified at the Dimona Sensitive Storage Area in the Negev Desert. Other CW agent production is believed to exist within a well-developed Israeli chemical industry."
190 liters of dimethyl methylphosphonate, a CWC schedule 2 chemical used in the synthesis of sarin nerve gas, was discovered in the cargo of El Al Flight 1862 after it crashed in 1992 en route to Tel Aviv. Israel insisted the material was non-toxic, was to have been used to test filters that protect against chemical weapons, and that it had been clearly listed on the cargo manifest in accordance with international regulations. The shipment was from a U.S. chemical plant to the IIBR under a U.S. Department of Commerce license.
In 1993, the U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment WMD proliferation assessment recorded Israel as a country generally reported as having undeclared offensive chemical warfare capabilities. Former US deputy assistant secretary of defense responsible for chemical and biological defense Dr. Bill Richardson said in 1998 "I have no doubt that Israel has worked on both chemical and biological offensive things for a long time... There's no doubt they've had stuff for years."
Israel is believed to have developed an offensive biological warfare capability. The US Congress Office of Technology Assessment records Israel as a country possessing a long-term, undeclared biological warfare program. Israel is not a signatory to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). It is assumed that the Israel Institute for Biological Research in Ness Ziona develops vaccines and antidotes for chemical and biological warfare. It has not been possible to conclude whether Israel currently maintains an offensive biological weapons program; it is speculated that Israel retains an active ability to produce and disseminate biological weapons.
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Israel is believed to have the capacity to produce chemical warfare agents, and probably has stocks of bombs, rockets, and artillery shells. Public reports that a mustard and nerve gas production facility was established in 1982 in the Dimona restricted area are apparently erroneous. Israel is also probably poised to rapidly produce biological weapons, though there are no public reports of currently active production effort or associated locations.…Israel's primary chemical and biological warfare facility is at Nes Ziyyona [Noss Ziona], near Tel Aviv. The Israeli Institute for Bio-Technology is believed to be the home of both offensive and defensive research.
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Israel does not stockpile or produce BW in large-scale today. However, we assess that Israel has a breakout capability for biological weapons and also CW, i.e. the knowledge needed to implement theoretical knowledge into the practical management of production and deployment of CBW. The knowledge base would be the one that was built during the 1950s and 1960s where today’s advanced research can be used to upgrade potential BW and CW agents and their behaviour in the environment. We have not found any conclusive evidence that show that Israel’s offensive programs still remain active today.
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- Obsessive secrecy undermines democracy By Reuven Pedatzur Ha'aretz. Tuesday, August 8, 2000—Cohen published "Israel and the Bomb" in the United States, and a Hebrew translation of the book has appeared here. In the eyes of the defense establishment, Cohen has committed a double sin.
- Fighting to preserve the tattered veil of secrecy By Ronen Bergman The publication of Dr. Avner Cohen's book and of the Vanunu trial transcripts set off alarm bells for the Defense Ministry's chief of security, who is striving to protect the traditional opacity regarding Israel's nuclear affairs.
- Blast, from the past to the present By Yirmiyahu Yovel Ha'aretz. 28 July 2000—If, in the context of the peace agreements and talks with the United States, Israel were to confirm its nuclear capability - while committing itself to no nuclear testing and pledging to build its defense system on conventional weapons as in the past - maybe then it might achieve at least de facto recognition, if not international legitimacy, for its nuclear weaponry, to be used only as a "last resort" and a tool for safeguarding peace after Israel withdraws.
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