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Egypt Against Israel

- Abstract

The existence of Israel’s nuclear arsenal has never been acknowledged by the Israeli government, yet it is an open secret and, as such, has proved a most effective weapon. Not, however, in deterring conventional Arab attacks; this it has never done and was never intended to do. Israel did not contemplate the use of nuclear weapons when it was threatened with strangulation in 1967; nor did it consider the nuclear option in 1973, when it faced the very real possibility of military defeat. The purpose of its nuclear option is strictly to deter a nuclear or other nonconventional attack; in the case of conventional war, only the threat of total annihilation would make using nuclear weapons acceptable.

But if Israel’s nuclear capability has a highly limited military function, it has nevertheless proved politically useful lately—to, of all people, Israeli doves. In leftist circles, the nuclear arsenal is regularly invoked these days as a kind of fail-safe mechanism that will guarantee the country’s security when, as it is hoped, Israel withdraws from the territories it won in the Six-Day War of 1967.

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