Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's apparent inclusion of Israel in the nuclear club and confirmation that the country has nuclear weapons could prove disastrous to Israel's strategic standing, senior defense officials said Tuesday. According to the officials - responsible for planning Israel's long-term defense strategy - Olmert's comment could eventually lead to renewed pressure to open up the country's nuclear installations to international inspections. Egypt has repeatedly called for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections of the Dimona nuclear facility as well as Israel's signature on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
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Olmert's comment was even more surprising considering that in recent weeks he held two four-hour long meetings with former minister Dan Meridor - author of Israel's newly-formulated defense doctrine - during which he was briefed on the main principles, which include maintaining Israel's long-standing policy of nuclear ambiguity.
Following the meetings, The Jerusalem Post has learned, Olmert told Meridor he planned to adopt the doctrine in its entirety, and bring it to the security cabinet for final approval.
A high-level adviser to Olmert on defense and diplomatic issues told the Post recently that Israel needed to maintain nuclear ambiguity "at all costs."
"This policy scares our adversaries," the high-ranking official said. "Even if they think they know, they don't really know and that scares them."
According to the official, Israel's policy has paid off by preventing IAEA inspection of its nuclear sites. The policy has also allowed the United States to rebuff calls - like those from the Egyptians - for international inspections of Israel's facilities. In addition, the policy has so far warded off attempts by other Middle Eastern countries - except for Iran - to begin developing their own nuclear programs using the excuse that Israel has a nuclear capability.
On Tuesday, Defense Minister Amir Peretz reiterated that the policy of ambiguity had not changed. "I definitely believe that the policy remains the same," Peretz said during a visit to the Judea and Samaria Division. "We continue the same policy and to do our job the best we can. Let no one think [however that] we will remain aloof from world events."
Other officials called Tuesday for a reevaluation of the policy of nuclear ambiguity. With Teheran racing toward nuclear independence, these officials said Israel needed to openly deter Iran by publicly confirming its nuclear capabilities.