Sunday, November 3, 2013
Avner Cohen on Israel's Nuclear Decision, October 1973
A nice essay by Avner Cohen on the Israeli decision-making during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. The general sense until now has been that, facing an increasingly difficult situation on both the Egyptian and Syrian fronts, Israel readied its nuclear arsenal. There was always some doubt about whether this was because Israel feared that it was about to lose the war and wanted to Arab states down with it if it came to that or if it was a signal to the US to come to its assistance. Cohen suggests, based on interviews with insiders to the decision-making process and declassified minutes of key meetings, that with the exception of Moshe Dayan, the Israeli cabinet exercised restraint. Dayan's proposal for a nuclear 'demonstration' was not followed through. What exactly that demonstration would have been is not clear, though Cohen speculates that it could have been a nighttime high-altitude nuclear airburst that would be visible from key Arab cities. Though I have no expertise on Israeli nuclear issues, as an option, such a demonstration would appear to have been politically quite difficult. Though Cohen discounts it, a more credible demonstration would have been an underground nuclear test. But Cohen's essay also outlines some of the problems of oral history as also the absolute necessity of such research tactics especially where state secrecy on a subject matter is so great. Anyway, a great essay by the key chronicler of the Israeli nuclear establishment.