Time for Israel to Drop Nuclear Ambiguity

June 21, 2018
Avner Cohen

The following is an excerpt from Haaretz.

Israelis have always been ignorant about the way their country runs its nuclear affairs. Nearly every aspect of the country’s nuclear activity is defined as classified, all the more so any high-ranking diplomatic activity concerning nuclear affairs. So American journalist Adam Entous of The New Yorker magazine did the Israeli public a favor when he published an article last week about the history of Israeli-American coordination regarding Israel’s nuclear arsenal, its “worst-kept secret.”

For the first time, Entous details how four U.S. administrations, from Clinton through Trump, dealt with the Israeli nuclear issue. According to Entous, it’s become a regular ritual that after the first meeting between a new occupant of the White House and the Israeli prime minister, the latter requests a letter signed by the president renewing the Americans’ seal of approval for the nuclear understandings between the two countries. This presidential letter is never explicit about its intent, it uses hints and code phrases. Each American president is asked to affirm his commitment to the understandings that comprise Israel-U.S. nuclear relations.

To understand the ritual of presidential letters, we must go back to the starting point. In 1991, Aluf Benn was the reporter who revealed in Haaretz the existence of these nuclear understandings going back years, between Richard Nixon and Golda Meir. In September 1969, when Meir made her first visit to the U.S. as prime minister, she reached an array of understandings with Nixon that removed any dispute over the nuclear issue from the agenda between the two countries. The understandings concluded a decade of cat-and-mouse between them on this issue.

Continue reading at Haaretz.

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