Official policy and threats
During the 1960s Israel concentrated on conventional military superiority to defend lands confiscated in the 1948 and 1967 wars – and to convince Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories that they could not break free of it.
However, in 1973’s Yom Kippur War Israel was almost overwhelmed by Arab forces.
Prime Minister Golda Meir authorized a nuclear alert, ordering 13 atomic bombs be prepared for missiles and aircraft.
Fearing intervention by the Soviet Union, U.S. forces went on Defense Condition (DEFCON) III alert status, something which could have led to full scale nuclear war in case of misinterpretation of signals or hardware or software failures.
Additionally, as Seymour Hersh documents in detail in his book The Samson Option, from 1973 these weapons have been used to discourage the Soviet Union – now Russia – from intervening militarily on behalf of Arab nations.
Obviously an Israeli nuclear attack on Russia by the United States’ great ally Israel would result in Russia sending thousands of nuclear weapons towards the U.S. and the U.S. responding in kind.
Not surprisingly, no nation state has attempted to attack Israel since 1973. A former Israeli official justified Israel’s threats. “You Americans screwed us” in not supporting Israel in its 1956 war with Egypt. “We can still remember the smell of Auschwitz and Treblinka.
Next time we’ll take all of you with us.” General Moshe Dayan, a leading promoter of Israel’s nuclear program, has been quoted as saying “Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.”
Amos Rubin, an economic adviser to former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, said “If left to its own Israel will have no choice but to fall back on a riskier defense which will endanger itself and the world at large… To enable Israel to abstain from dependence on nuclear arms calls for $2 to 3 billion per year in U.S. aid.”
In 1977, after a right-wing coalition under Menachen Begin took power, the Israelis began to use the Samson Option not just to deter attack but to allow Israel to “redraw the political map of the Middle East” by expanding hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers into the West Bank and Gaza.
Then-Minister of Defense Ariel Sharon said things like “We are much more important than (Americans) think.
He proclaimed his – and many Likud Party members’ – goals of transforming Jordan into a Palestinian state and “transferring” all Palestinian refugees there. A practice known worldwide as “ethnic cleansing.”
To dissuade the Soviet Union from interfering with its plans, Prime Minister Begin immediately “gave orders to target more Soviet cities” for potential nuclear attack. Its American spy Jonathan Pollard was caught stealing such nuclear targeting information from the U.S. military in 1985.
During the next 25 years Israel became more militarily adventurous, bombing Iraq’s under-construction Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, invading Lebanon to destroy Palestinian refugee camps in 1982 and to fight Hezbollah in 2006, massively bombing civilian targets in the West Bank Jenin refugee camp in 2002 and thoughout Gaza in 2008-2009.
There are conflicting reports about whether Israel went on nuclear alert and armed missiles with nuclear weapons during the 1991 Gulf War after Iraq shot conventionally armed scud missiles into it.
Israeli defense analyst Zeev Schiff explained: “Israel could respond with a nuclear retaliation that would eradicate Iraq as a country.” It is believed President Bush gave Sharon the green-light to attack Baghdad in retaliation, including with nuclear weapons, but only if attacks came before the American military invasion.
Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres has admitted that nuclear weapons are used by Israel for “compellent purposes” – i.e., forcing others to accept Israeli political demands. In 1998 Peres was quoted as saying, “We have built a nuclear option, not in order to have a Hiroshima, but to have an Oslo,” referring to imposing a settlement on the Palestinians.
In her book Israel’s Sacred Terrorism Livia Rokach documented how Israelis have used religion to justify paramilitary and state “terrorism” to create and maintain a Jewish State. Two other Israeli retaliation strategies are the popularized phrase “Wrath of God,” the alleged Israeli assassination of those it held responsible for the 1972 killings of Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympics, and the “Dahiya doctrine” of destruction of civilian areas to punish Palestinians for supporting their leaders.
Israeli Israel Shahak wrote in 1997: “Israel clearly prepares itself to seek overtly a hegemony over the entire Middle East…without hesitating to use for the purpose all means available, including nuclear ones.”
Zeev Schiff opined in 1998 that “Off-the-cuff Israeli nuclear threats have become a problem.” In 2003 David Hirst noted that “The threatening of wild, irrational violence, in response to political pressure, has been an Israeli impulse from the very earliest days” and called Israel a candidate for “the role of ‘nuclear-crazy’ state.”
Noam Chomsky said of the Samson Option “the craziness of the state is not because the people are insane. Once you pick a policy of choosing expansion over security, that’s what you end up getting stuck with.” Efraim Karsh calls the Samson Option the “rationality of pretended irrationality,” but warns that seeming too irrational could encourage other nations to attack Israel in their own defense.