Israel's nuclear bomb — 40 years of ambiguity

Avner CohenAvner Cohen’s recent op-ed in Haaretz looks back to the 40th anniversary of a meeting between Richard Nixon and Golda Meir. Cohen, author of the forthcoming Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb: Democracy, Secrecy, and Taboo, writes,

During a protracted tete-a-tete meeting between Golda Meir and Richard Nixon, nuclear ambiguity was born as a joint Israeli-American policy. Nixon was the first American president to realize that Israel had gotten the bomb and accept it. The understandings that were reached during that meeting have, for better or for worse, determined the unique nature of Israel’s nuclear program ever since.

Cohen suggests that Nixon felt that a nuclear Israel was in the interest of the United States but was concerned that their possession of the bomb was a secret. Ultimately, however this policy of secrecy has hurt both Israel and the United States. Cohen concludes writing:

The understandings between Nixon and Meir have left Israel’s nuclear project in a chronic state of nonlegitimacy both at home [Israel] and abroad. At home, it is not possible to tell the truth, with the result that the entire public discourse about Israeli national security leaves a great deal to be desired. A quotation “from foreign sources” does not bear the same weight as stating the truth as it is. And abroad, our [Israeli] actions are seen as having been conceived in sin, while America’s support is viewed as an expression of double standards, even though that is not the case.

The time has thus come for Israel and the U.S. to find an appropriate and responsible way to renounce the Nixon-Meir trap.

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