Ex-US president: Israel has 150 nukes

Carter tells Times Israeli arsenal proves it would be impossible for Iran to develop arsenal in secret.

carterspeech224.88 (photo credit: AP)
(photo credit: AP)
One month after his visit to the region spurred criticism from Israeli officials for his meeting with Syria-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, former US president Jimmy Carter is again making waves, this time saying that Israel possesses 150 nuclear weapons. The London Times said Carter made the comment Sunday while at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival in England. He was discussing Iran, and the difficulty it would have in building a secret nuclear arsenal, when he mentioned the Israeli weapons, the paper said. In a report published on Monday, Carter was quoted as saying that the international community should conduct direct dialogue with Iran in order to persuade the country to drop its nuclear ambitions. It was unclear from the newspaper's account whether Carter was citing those estimates, offering his own independent assessment or drawing on US intelligence he would have had access to as president. Although it is widely speculated that Israel indeed has nuclear weapons, no Israeli government has ever admitted to such. Former Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Aharon Ze'evi Farkash downplayed Carter's comments on Tuesday, but warned that they could potentially be used by Iran to push its nuclear development. "[Carter] is not the first and he won't be the last to talk about this," Farkash said during an interview with Israel Radio. "I think the dialogue about Israel on this subject is known, and I wouldn't want to expand on this; as it is, it would seem that in [Carter's] latest visit to the region, he was so hurt [by the political establishment shunning him] that he saw fit to say things which I think weren't that responsible. "He was a president a long time ago, and these kinds of things could do damage, but on the other hand, it could enhance the deterrent," Farkash continued, but added that with regard to the current international effort to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions, "they, the enemy, or some of our 'less good' friends, could use these claims against us." Meanwhile, in an interview with The Guardian, Carter called on members of the European Union to break the embargo of the Gaza Strip, which he called "one of the greatest human rights crimes on Earth." "Most families in Gaza are eating only one meal per day. To see Europeans going along with this is embarrassing," he said. Carter called the ban on talking to Hamas "unrealistic" and cited Israeli cease-fire negotiations with Hamas - via Egyptian mediator Omar Suleiman - as reason enough for the Europeans to reexamine their stance. AP contributed to this report.