The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bar­gain With the Bomb

Avn­er Cohen
  • Review
By – October 3, 2011

The secret of the title is no secret at all, since any­one rea­son­ably well-informed knows that Israel has the bomb.” Pro­fes­sor Cohen, of Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, a spe­cial­ist in this del­i­cate field, has focused his atten­tion in this book on the bar­gain which Gol­da Meir made with Richard Nixon in 1969. Israel could devel­op and store nuclear weapons. But Israel would not acknowl­edge that pos­ses­sion, even offi­cial­ly to its own gov­ern­ment and the Unit­ed States would con­cur in a pact of non-dis­clo­sure. This bar­gain was called ani­mut,” the Hebrew word for opacity. 

Israel, a weak coun­try in 1969, he notes, arrived at the con­tract out of fear, and just­ly so. The author acknowl­edges that the arrange­ment has brought Israel many advan­tages, respect, pro­tec­tion, and a source for tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ment. How­ev­er, he points out that this sit­u­a­tion is incon­sis­tent with the norms of a democ­ra­cy, where the civil­ian gov­ern­ment cus­tom­ar­i­ly con­trols the mil­i­tary. Today, he feels, as the mil­i­tary pow­er­house of the Mid­dle East, Israel might now con­sid­er tak­ing some risks. Cohen dis­cuss­es Pres­i­dent Obama’s desire for a nuclear-free Mid­dle East zone, includ­ing Israel. 

Although Israel, the author says, is under­stand­ably reluc­tant, still, he strong­ly believes that they should join. If oth­er states have the bomb, Israel can have the bomb, open­ly, too, he rea­sons. But as a state among states, Israel must also accept the respon­si­bil­i­ty of adher­ing to the code-cease the arms race and con­sent to work for glob­al nuclear dis­ar­ma­ment. The meaty part of this book, deal­ing with this prob­lem, is in the last three sec­tions. The pre­ced­ing parts should be use­ful to mil­i­tary, aca­d­e­m­ic, and diplo­mat­ic per­son­nel. Abbre­vi­a­tions, acknowl­edge­ments, bib­li­og­ra­phy, con­tents, epi­logue, intro­duc­tion, notes, preface.

Jane Waller­stein worked in pub­lic rela­tions for many years. She is the author of Voic­es from the Pater­son Silk Mills and co-author of a nation­al crim­i­nal jus­tice study of parole for Rut­gers University.

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