Israel crosses the threshold

May 03, 2006

CHICAGO, Ill.--When President Richard Nixon took office, he was confronted with evidence that Israel would soon have nuclear weapons. Now, with the aid of 30 recently declassified documents, Avner Cohen of the University of Maryland's Center for International and Security Studies and William Burr of the National Security Archive recount the untold story of the tense debate that erupted in the Nixon administration over whether Israel should be prevented from crossing the nuclear threshold.

Writing in the May/June Bulletin, Cohen and Burr reveal that while Nixon and his national security adviser Henry Kissinger were inclined to accommodate Israel's nuclear ambitions, senior State Department and Pentagon officials had differing views. President Nixon's final decisions would form the basis for the U.S.-Israeli policy of "don't ask, don't tell" that Cohen and Burr argue is now a burdensome anomaly: "Such ideas as a nuclear-free Middle East, or even the inclusion of Israel in an updated nonproliferation regime, cannot even be discussed properly."

The article, "Israel Crosses the Threshold," is now available online. The declassified documentary record is available on the National Security Archive website. For media queries, Avner Cohen can be reached at (301) 578-1906.

Also in this issue of the Bulletin: Across the United States, 70,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste sits in temporary storage, waiting to be permanently disposed. But as MIT's Allison Macfarlane reports, after billions of dollars and years of delays, the best U.S. solution so far, Yucca Mountain, is still far from a sure thing. "Congress wants to avoid revisiting the issue of site selection because the political costs are extremely high," Macfarlane writes. "No politician wants to allow a nuclear waste dump in his or her backyard."
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