US Still Won’t Confirm Israeli Nukes

Among the more absurd aspects of U.S. foreign policy is the persistent refusal to confirm that Israel has a nuclear arsenal, even as U.S. officials threaten and even attack other countries for allegedly harboring the intent to build a single bomb, hypocrisy that Sam Husseini dissects.

By Sam Husseini

Retired Gen. (and former CIA Director) David Petraeus — who despite recent scandals is (according to CNN) still advising the White House — was asked at a recent Aspen Institute event about Israel’s nuclear weapons arsenal and replied “I can’t comment.”

This seems to be part of long-standing U.S. and Israeli government policy not to confirm the existence of Israel’s nuclear weapons arsenal. This policy has apparently taken the form of official gag orders on the issue, as Grant F. Smith, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy, has noted.

A photograph of a control room at Israel's Dimona nuclear weapons plant in the 1980s. (Photograph taken by nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, who was later kidnapped and imprisoned by Israel as punishment for revealing its secret nuclear arsenal.)

A photograph of a control room at Israel’s Dimona nuclear weapons plant in the 1980s. (Photograph taken by nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, who was later kidnapped and imprisoned by Israel as punishment for revealing its secret nuclear arsenal.)

It’s particularly absurd that someone like Petraeus, who presumes to engage in tough straight talk and allegedly shows bravery, is incapable of saying that Israel has a nuclear weapons arsenal.

Similarly, Philip Gordon, former special White House assistant on the Middle East and now at the Council on Foreign Relations, was recently asked on C-Span if it “isn’t time for the U.S. to stop officially pretending that it doesn’t know whether Israel has nuclear weapons?”

Gordon replied that there’s not a lot of doubt about the “the existence of a nuclear weapons capability in Israel,” but that a U.S. acknowledgement of that fact would be irrelevant. For instance, he argued that “Iranian nuclear aspiration is driven significantly by their insecurity” resulting from U.S. actions in the region, not Israel’s nuclear weapons. (Transcript below)

What’s perhaps most remarkable about Gordon’s response is that it shows U.S. officials being more willing to point to U.S. government actions as a destabilizing factor in the region than the actions of the Israeli government. Somehow, a cost-free action of simply acknowledging the empirical fact of Israel’s nuclear arsenal is not to be considered.

It’s also notable that there’s much vocalizing about the alleged Iranian program setting off a nuclear arms race in the Mideast, but the thought that Israel’s nuclear weapons program has influenced others in the region is off limits. This is particularly absurd because we know that Israel’s program and its aggressive actions helped spawn the Iraqi nuclear weapons program when it existed in the 1980s. [See “Myth: Israel’s Strike on Iraqi Reactor Hindered Iraqi Nukes.”]

So the idea that Israel’s nuclear arsenal would have no effect on Iran seems rather far-fetched. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists recently published the piece “Of weapons programs in Iran and Israel, and the need for journalists to report on both,” which notes: “As shown in the Bulletin’s coverage over the years, the Israeli government does indeed have a robust nuclear program that began decades ago; it continues to operate outside the international nuclear nonproliferation regime to this day.

“This program has a convoluted history. In a July 2013 article, nuclear proliferation scholar Leonard Weiss outlined the Lavon Affair, a failed 1954 Israeli covert operation against Egypt, undertaken in hopes it would destabilize the regime of Egypt’s leader, Gamel Abdel Nasser. In a complicated way, the bungled effort eventually deepened the Franco-Israeli military cooperation that helped Israel create its nuclear arsenal.”

Yet, senior U.S. officials from both the Republican and Democratic parties decline to confirm that Israel possesses nuclear weapons. Years ago when I asked former Sen. John Edwards about Israel’s nuclear weapons, he ignored it all together and worried aloud about the Iranian nuclear program setting off the Saudis and Jordanians. [See “The Absurd U.S. Stance on Israel’s Nukes: A Video Sampling of Denial.”]



Questioner: We know Israel has a nuclear weapons programs — Petraeus: I can’t comment.

Questioner: My question was do you support that, do you support Israel having nuclear weapons?

Petraeus: I can’t —

Questioner: You can’t comment on that, okay. And then seeing an apartheid state, why is the U.S. allowing them to be an apartheid state against the Palestinians, while we’re developing a strategy for it? … [inaudible]


Caller: I just wanted to ask Gordon whether you think it’s time for the U.S. to stop officially pretending that it doesn’t know whether Israel has nuclear weapons? The NNTP conference at the U.N. totally collapsed last month because the U.S., U.K. and Canada didn’t want any initiatives for a nuclear free Middle East to go forward. Its well documented that charitable donations, material know how, technology has flowed from the U.S. to Israel for its nuclear program, yet there are never any prosecutions.

And according to a poll released this week, 55 percent of Americans want that program to be officially acknowledged, so why can’t the federal government, the U.S. federal government, finally admit what everyone knows and stop pretending it doesn’t exist?

Host: And what poll was that?

Caller: That was the Institute for Research Middle Eastern Policy poll titled “Israel’s Nuclear Weapons program should be acknowledged and inspected.”

Philip Gordon: So as Grant suggests, I don’t think there is a lot of doubt throughout the region or in the United States about the existence of a nuclear weapons capability in Israel, I also don’t think that the question of official U.S. acknowledgment or not on that issue would make a significant difference to the problems we are talking about.

Look, in the long run I think we would all agree that it would be best if there were no nuclear weapons at all in the Middle East, and that’s something that the United States should strive for. But again, I don’t know that on the issues we’re talking about, or frankly even on nuclear issues like the Iranian nuclear issue, I think the Iranian nuclear aspiration is driven significantly by their insecurity, their concern about U.S. military power being used to its east and west, their drive for regional hegemony, and it would exist whether, not only whether Israel had nuclear weapons that existed, but whether Israel itself existed. So I’m not sure that’s an essential variable in this debate.”

Sam Husseini is communications director for the Institute for Public Accuracy. Follow him on twitter: @samhusseini

30 comments for “US Still Won’t Confirm Israeli Nukes

  1. Bob Koelle
    July 9, 2015 at 23:18

    The comments here are far more educational than this simplistic story. I’d rather read an account of how the nukes came into existence, how many there are, etc, rather than waste my time reading complaints that Senators, Pentagon officials, presidential candidates are choosing not to disclose what is presumably classified information, and risk prosecution.

    • Greg Driscoll
      July 10, 2015 at 17:52

      Bob Koelle — As I wrote higher up the chain of responses/comments:

      Two books you may want to read dealing with the issue of Israeli nuclear weapons and the U. S. government’s complicity-by-silence as well as Israelis’ convoluted (and to my mind, immoral) reasoning to justify the weapons and the secrecy are: “Israel and the Bomb”, and “The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb”, both by Avner Cohen. All one can say is “Hypocrisy, thy name is Eretz Yisrael and the U. S. of A.”

      The two books deal with the history of Israeli nuclear weapons development, what the U.S. knew and when, and how the Israeli government, using convoluted reasoning, justifies their weapons possession & refusal to acknowledge same, and how the U. S. goverernment (starting with LBJ) condoned their possession and “secret” status, and still refuses to officially acknowledge knowing about the weapons (which would probably bring on a legal if not a “constitutional’ crisis) for the U. S. government.

  2. Otto Schiff
    July 9, 2015 at 00:09

    All The above are very simplistic comments on very complex matters.

    • KHawk
      July 9, 2015 at 14:02

      Yours is perhaps the most simplistic of all. Care to elaborate?

    • Il Boverino
      July 10, 2015 at 14:35

      The story’s very simple. Israel has Nukes. Amerika knows about them but pretends not to know. How much less complicated can it get?

  3. desertspeaks
    July 8, 2015 at 22:33

    Everyone that has been paying attention, knows that Israel has nuclear weapons! Everyone knows that Israel refuses all IAEA inspections! Everyone knows that Israel refuses to sign onto the nuclear non proliferation treaty!

  4. city
    July 8, 2015 at 17:34

    How many more wars must we fight for them?

  5. george Archers
    July 8, 2015 at 15:47

    you folks do not get it, Israel is 51 first state of jUSA and is a subversive tool.. Only reason it is kept a secret— America can distance itself from UN sanctions or what ever..

    • Il Boverino
      July 10, 2015 at 14:32

      UN sanctions against Amerika hahaha hahaha hahaha. Sorry just let me pick myself up off the floor. One word “veto”

  6. albert
    July 8, 2015 at 14:54

    No SH-T SHERLOCK — The Jews brag about how they parasitically infiltrate and usurp Gentile Nations …. think Egypt and Babylon and now America.
    If a country is unable to place honest high level officials in the government that take their oath seriously and are not compromised by duel-citizen loyalties, there is no other path other than that of destruction for that nation.
    “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” Matthew 6:24
    WHY are “American”politicians always taking “trips”to Israel? To collect their BRIBES.

    American Taxpayers give over $4BILLION a year to Israel. How much of YOUR $4 BILLION is coming back to America as BRIBES to “your” politicians? The Stooges that fall all over themselves putting Israel’s interests AHEAD of America! The US Congress is Jewish-occupied territory and the TRAITORS in Congress are not loyal to America, they are loyal to the parasite “Israel”.
    “Pro-Israel Policy groups such as AIPAC work with unlimited funding to divert US policy in the region ( Middle East )” Jack Straw, Member of Parliament and former Foreign Secretary of the British Labor Party
    When the congress is dominated by a foreign interest to the extent that its members act uniformly on a signal from a foreign government through its domestic lobby, the republic is as much as ended.
    The republicon party should be registered as a FOREIGN AGENT since it does NOT represent AMERICA.

    • Greg Driscoll
      July 9, 2015 at 19:54

      Why narrow your FOREIGN AGENT observation solely to the Republican Party? The Democrats are equally in the Israeli government’s thrall. As I’ve said for many years, there is but one party in the U.S. and it has two right wings…

  7. Prince Random
    July 8, 2015 at 14:25

    To me, the proper word is ‘acknowledge’. The US won’t acknowledge Israeli nuclear weapons. Even though one of Israels apparently less bright PMs openly admitted/boasted that Israel is a nuclear power (Olmert).

    So, this is more like the various coups that the US also won’t acknowledge. In that case, its because parts of US kick in towards governments that gain power via a coup. Thus, the US can’t possibly acknowledge the coups in places like Honduras or Ukraine.

    Various treaties the US has ratified probably kick in to effect the second the US government ‘acknowledges’ the boasts of PM Olmert of Israels nuclear power. The US government would face quite a fight if they tried to change these laws against coups or nuclear weapons, so instead they find it easier to just lie.

    Remember, any act of secrecy is a coup against the idea of a democracy, because the people can not exert power when they aren’t told what’s going on.

  8. Peter Loeb
    July 8, 2015 at 05:52


    This takes many forms. It is excellently analyzed
    by Norman Finkelstein in his book THE HOLOCAUST
    INDUSTRY”. Suposedly Israel is in need of security
    against the millions of “terrorist” Arabs which surround
    it…as well as universal “Anti-Semitism” (as defined
    by Israel) . “Poor things”!!!

    —Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

  9. Vesuvius
    July 8, 2015 at 04:42

    Thanks for this very important article! Anyone following Israeli-American matters knows of course that Israel today is sitting on a very big pile of nukes (ready to use against who? Palestinians in Gaza? Or ayatullas in Iran? Or perhaps against ISIL?). But the details given here are most relevant, not least the ones given by commentators.

    As a European Citizen, I am grateful for the facts given by commentator tika, explaning the stubborn U.S. refusal to call a spade a spade. But does the White House et. al. believe they are kidding anyone? This idiotic cover-up should be exposed by every U.S. Presidential Hopeful in 2017, if honest!

    • dahoit
      July 8, 2015 at 12:46

      2017 would be a year too late.
      The Samson option;If we are gonna go down,you’re gonna come with me.

  10. tika
    July 8, 2015 at 01:06

    I think the reticence comes from this bit of legislation:

    The Symington and Glenn amendments to foreign aid law specifically prohibit US aid to nuclear states outside the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

    Acknowledgement of the Israeli nuclear arsenal should then bring about an immediate stop to all foreign aid to Israel. This could also bring about some interesting lawsuits, or at the very least some quite embarrassing discussions in both Congress and Senate. After all, the US government has been in violation of its own laws since 1977.

    • the lion
      July 8, 2015 at 06:02

      If there is an admission that Israel has Nuclear weapons and is outside the IAEA, the US cannot sell them, let alone give them any weapons that have the ability to deliver such weapons!

    • momus
      July 8, 2015 at 14:15

      Thank you Tika. Now I understand.

  11. Greg Driscoll
    July 7, 2015 at 18:40

    Two books you may want to read dealing with the issue of Israeli nuclear weapons and the U. S. government’s complicity-by-silence as well as Israelis’ convoluted (and to my mind, immoral) reasoning to justify the weapons and the secrecy are: “Israel and the Bomb”, and “The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb”, both by Avner Cohen. All one can say is “Hypocrisy, thy name is Eretz Yisrael and the U. S. of A.”

  12. July 7, 2015 at 17:20

    In April, The National Security Archive of George Washington University published documents detailing the discovery of Israel’s nuclear deceptions, debates over Israel’s lack of candor and efforts to pressure the Israelis to answer key questions about the Dimona.

    This ‘discovery’ came as the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower was drawing to a close, caused apprehension in Washington by raising concern about regional stability and nuclear proliferation, but it also produced annoyance because Israeli officials at all levels repeatedly provided less than credible answers to U.S. questions about Dimona…

    In 2005, while in Jerusalem researching for my first historical fiction, I became a reporter after Israel’s Nuclear whistle blower Mordechai Vanunu told me:

    “The French were responsible for the actual building of the Dimona. The Germans gave the money; they were feeling guilty for the Holocaust, and tried to pay their way out. Everything inside was written in French, when I was there the Dimona descended seven floors underground.

    “In 1955, Perez and Guirion met with the French to agree they would get a nuclear reactor if they fought against Egypt to control the Sinai and Suez Canal. That was the war of 1956. Eisenhower demanded that Israel leave the Sinai, but the reactor plant deal continued on.

    “Did you know that President Kennedy tried to stop Israel from building atomic weapons? In 1963, he forced Prime Minister Ben Guirion to admit the Dimona was not a textile plant, as the sign outside proclaimed, but a nuclear plant. The Prime Minister said, ‘The nuclear reactor is only for peace.’

    “When Johnson became president, he made an agreement with Israel that two senators would come every year to inspect. Before the senators would visit, the Israelis would build a wall to block the underground elevators and stairways. From 1963 to ’69, the senators came, but they never knew about the wall that hid the rest of the Dimona from them.

    “Nixon stopped the inspections and agreed to ignore the situation. As a result, Israel increased production. In 1986, there were over two hundred bombs. Today, they may have enough plutonium for ten bombs a year.”

    Learn more about US collusion in Israel’s nuclear deceptions in the FREE eBook: “The Vanunu Legend: Israel’s Nuclear Whistleblower’s Struggle for Freedom”

  13. Joe
    July 7, 2015 at 15:00

    With long experience, direct evidence, and impartial analysis. we can say with certainty that Israel has waged and is waging war against the United States in election bribes and control of mass media. It is the primary troublemaker in the Middle east and the world, and the corrupter of nearly every US institution. Any supporter of Israel is a traitor to the United States.

    • Mark
      July 7, 2015 at 15:20

      What you say is the truth Joe, and the evidence pointing to politicians and mass media news favoring Israel and thereby being complicit is substantially condemning.

      The question is how to get Israel’s chief enablers and dupes, American’s in general, to understand the truth and their own part in it.

      I think maybe the other large industry controlled and run by pro-Zionists — the banking industry and their controlling the economy — is going to deliver an evonomic crash which may turn out to be the catalyst that wakes the sleeping people.

      • N Dalton
        July 7, 2015 at 17:25

        American’s in general,need to understand that Israel is basically another Nazi-state.

        There is no question that the US is controlled and run by pro-Zionists on every level
        of government / institutions and supported within the political establishments and by every Branch of government which is completely in the pocket of Zionist – Israel.

        It sure works perfectly,considering that every individual is filling their own pockets – from the billions that the lower and upper houses `approve ` of these US -Aides – makes this a win – win proposition for all parties involved.

        It obviously goes without saying – considering the nature and history of politics – that
        Zionist had realized that politicians in both houses are open and willing to bribery – of course, the Zionist controlled media won`t comment on it as a matter of policy.

    • Zedden Tunoughts
      July 7, 2015 at 16:05

      I do not disagree in total, but there are plenty of forces within this country already selling it out and leaving it a third-world failed state. There are loads of plutocrats, oligarchs, and fascists here already.

      • Dick Chicanery
        July 7, 2015 at 16:06

        Most of whom make up the republican rogue’s gallery of presidential candidates.

        • REDPILLED
          July 7, 2015 at 16:44

          BOTH Wall Street/corporate political parties are to blame. Hillary Clinton just said she will defend Israel and oppose the BDS movement trying to end the Israeli oppression of Palestinians, and Bernie Sanders is pro-Israel no matter what, as are nearly all other Democrats and Republicans.

          See Hillary Clinton Pledges to Defend Israeli Apartheid and Fight BDS Movement in Letter to Mega-Donor | Common Dreams | Breaking

          • ironyage
            July 7, 2015 at 18:13

            Yeah, yeah; the parties are exactly the same and equally responsible. So don’t bother to vote.

    • James Robinson
      July 8, 2015 at 09:39

      Hear, hear!

    • dahoit
      July 8, 2015 at 12:43

      Call me a ditto head.

  14. Tom Welsh
    July 7, 2015 at 12:12

    So basically it doesn’t matter whether Israel has one thermonuclear weapon or 200. It doesn’t matter whether Israel signs the NPT, even if it has one of the largest nuclear arsenals in the world.

    But it is desperately important that Iran should be radically prevented from enriching uranium further than one-fifth of the way to weapons grade. Even though its national leader has formally stated that nuclear weapons are un-Islamic. Even though all US intelligence agencies agree that Iran has not had an active nuclear weapons program since the one the US government urged the Shah to pursue.

    So how does the US government expect anyone to take the NPT seriously? (Especially since it is so derelict in its obligations under that treaty).

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