dimona reactor 298.88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Dr. Ariel Levite, the deputy director-general of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, admitted for the first time at the Herzliya Conference on Sunday that Israel is a nuclear "threshold state."
A threshold state is defined as one with the potential for developing nuclear weapons, but which has not officially announced this.
Levite presented a historical analysis of nuclear history in his lecture at a session on "The Strategic Implication of the Changing International Nuclear Order."
According to Levite, during the "second nuclear age," which lasted from 1967 to 1989, international stability and treaties stopped the spread of nuclear arms beyond the five nuclear powers (US, USSR, Britain, France, China). Nonethless, there was a "crawling forward... as a result of which three threshold states present themselves, which remain outside the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty]: India, Pakistan and Israel."
Levite's comment in the lecture runs counter to Israel's policy of nuclear ambiguity, under which officials and politicians never allude to Israel's capabilities.
Questioned after his lecture by The Jerusalem Post about his grouping Israel among the nuclear threshold states, Levite denied he had done so. He started with, "I said that is what the world believes," then changed to, "I didn't mention Israel at all, I only spoke about other countries. I left Israel to other speakers."
But Levite's denial is not borne out by the conference's official transcripts. Indeed, his speech can be seen and heard on the conference's Web site.
Levite is second-in-command of the commission responsible for all Israeli nuclear research and policy. The director-general is Dr. Gideon Frank, and it is chaired by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Since the period described by Levite, India and Pakistan have declared their capabilities and tested nuclear bombs. On the other hand, according to foreign sources, Israel has nuclear weapons, but it has never admitted it. Instead, Israel has used the formulation: "Israel will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the region."
A former senior official involved with Israel's nuclear establishment said after Levite's lecture, "It's a well-known fact in the world, but I believe that this is the first time that an Israeli official said so."