web analytics
October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



History And Strategy Israel, “Palestine,” And The Samson Option


Beres-Louis-Rene

“For By Wise Counsel, Thou Shalt Make Thy War” (Proverbs, 24:6)

In 1882, Leo Pinsker, a Jewish physician of Odessa, horrified by the pogroms of 1881, concluded (quite reasonably, to be sure) that anti-Semitism is an incurable psychosis. The remedy, he then adduced, must be for all Jews to accept the imperatives of self-help and self-liberation. Later, Theodore Herzl, having witnessed the spectacle of Alfred Dreyfus in France, wrote The Jewish State. An attempt to solve once and for all “The Jewish Question,” Herzl’s pamphlet was premised on the following core idea: “The nations in whose midst Jews live are all either covertly or openly anti-Semitic.” This means, he proceeded to argue, that a perfectly simple plan was needed. “Let the sovereignty be granted us over a portion of the globe large enough to satisfy the rightful requirements of a nation; the rest we shall manage for ourselves.”

The necessary grant of sovereignty finally took effect in May 1948. The portion of the globe encompassed by this grant (a portion far less generous than what had originally been promised by Great Britain and by pertinent international law) was smaller than that occupied by certain counties in the state of California. But the world continues to begrudge the Jewish state even this tiny portion.

This same world now wishes to create a 23rd Arab state of “Palestine,” yet another enemy country that would be literally carved from the still-living body of Israel. Should this happen – now with the full support of President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton – a unique security threat would imperil Israel. In the end, this threat could include assorted risks of both nuclear war and nuclear terrorism.

What should be Israel’s operational and doctrinal response to this emerging existential menace? Sooner rather than later, Israel will need to clarify and codify the most critical elements of its national nuclear strategy. One such element, albeit one that has generally been misunderstood, concerns the so-called “Samson Option.”

Taken in isolation, a Palestinian state would seemingly have no direct bearing on Israel’s nuclear posture. Yet, although obviously non-nuclear itself, Palestine could still diminish Israel’s capacity to wage certain essential forms of conventional war. This, in turn, could enlarge the Jewish State’s incentive to rely on unconventional weapons and policies in various circumstances.

Facing steadily growing dangers from a new Arab state that would act collaboratively with certain of the 22 other already-existing Arab states, Israel would feel compelled to bring elements of its long-secret nuclear strategy (the “bomb in the basement”) out into the open. Palestine could also be used militarily against Israel by other regional adversary states, whether it would actually wish to collaborate or not. Either way, for Israel the survival consequences could be considerable.

Israel’s nuclear strategy, while never articulated in any precise or public fashion, is oriented toward deterrence. The Samson Option refers to a presumed policy based upon an implicit threat of overwhelming nuclear retaliation for specific enemy aggressions. This policy would plausibly enter into force only where such aggressions threatened Israel’s national existence.

The real point of the Samson Option would never be to communicate the availability of a graduated Israeli nuclear deterrent. Rather, it would signal the unstated promise of a massive counter city (“counter value” in military parlance) reprisal. To be sure, the Samson Option per se is not likely to deter any aggressions short of nuclear and/or certain biological first strike attacks upon the Jewish State.

More than anything else, “Samson’s” overriding rationale would be to bring the following message to potential attackers: “We (Israel) may have to die, but (this time) we won’t die alone.” For this reason, the Samson Option could serve Israel better as an essential adjunct to deterrence and certain preemption options than as a core nuclear strategy. The Samson Option should never be confused with Israel’s core nuclear strategy which targets deterrence at far less apocalyptic levels of conflict.

How can the Samson Option best serve Israel’s strategic requirements? Although the primary mission of Israel’s still undisclosed nuclear weapons must be to preserve the Jewish State – not to wreak havoc or vengeance in a spasm of last-resort reprisals – recognizable preparations for a Samson Option could still enhance Israel’s nuclear deterrence and preemption capabilities.

Concerning Israeli nuclear deterrence, visible and identifiable preparations for a Samson Option could help to convince certain enemy states that aggression would not be gainful. This is especially true if Israeli “Samson” preparations were coupled with some level of nuclear disclosure (i.e., ending Israel’s posture of nuclear ambiguity); if Israel’s “Samson” weapons appeared sufficiently invulnerable to enemy first strikes; and if these weapons were plainly “counter city” in mission function. In view of what nuclear strategists sometimes refer to as the “rationality of pretended irrationality,” Samson could also assist Israeli nuclear deterrence by demonstrating an Israeli willingness to take certain existential risks.

To a variable extent, the nuclear deterrence benefits of pretended irrationality would depend upon prior enemy state awareness of Israel’s counter city targeting posture. Exactly such a posture had been recommended more than six years ago by the private “Project Daniel Group,” in its then-confidential report to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

In reference to strategies of preemption, Israeli preparations for a Samson Option, again purposely recognizable, could convince Israel’s own leadership that defensive first-strikes would be safe to undertake. These leaders would expect that Israeli preemptive strikes, known under international law as expressions of “anticipatory self-defense,” could be undertaken with reduced expectations of unacceptably destructive enemy retaliations. This expectation would depend upon prior Israeli decisions on nuclear disclosure; on Israeli perceptions of the effects of such disclosure on enemy retaliatory intentions; on Israeli judgments about enemy perceptions of Samson weapons vulnerability; and on presumed enemy awareness of Samson’s counter city force posture. As in the case above, concerning Samson and Israeli nuclear deterrence, last-resort nuclear preparations could enhance Israel’s preemption options by displaying a bold national willingness to take existential risks.

But pretended irrationality can be a double-edged sword. Israeli leaders must remain mindful of this. Brandished too “irrationally,” Israeli preparations for a Samson Option could encourage enemy preemptions.

Left to themselves, neither deterred nor preempted, certain Arab/Islamic enemies of Israel, especially after creation of a Palestinian state, could threaten to bring the Jewish State face-to-face with the considered torments of Dante’s Inferno, “Into the eternal darkness, into fire, into ice.” It is essential, therefore, that Israeli strategic planners and political leaders now begin to acknowledge their obligation to strengthen the country’s nuclear security posture, and to take all necessary steps to ensure that any failure of nuclear deterrence will not spark regional nuclear warfare.

One important way to meet this vital obligation would be to focus more explicitly on the Samson Option. To ignore this option could imperil and undermine Herzl’s territorial/ideological remedy for the Jewish Question.

LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is the author of many books and articles dealing with Israeli security matters. He was Chair of Project Daniel, and is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

About the Author: Louis René Beres, strategic and military affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, is professor of Political Science at Purdue University. Educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), he lectures and publishes widely on international relations and international law and is the author of ten major books in the field. In Israel, Professor Beres was chair of Project Daniel.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “History And Strategy Israel, “Palestine,” And The Samson Option”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Do you know where your vegetables grow?
Not So Kosher Shemittah L’Mehadrin
Latest Indepth Stories
Eller-102414-Cart

I had to hire a babysitter so that I could go shopping or have someone come with me to push Caroline in her wheelchair.

Bills to restore the balance of power in Israel will be fought by the not-so-judicial left.

Widespread agreement in Israel opposing Palestinian diplomatic warfare, commonly called “lawfare.”

Chaye Zisel Braun

Arab terrorism against Jews and the State of Israel is not something we should be “calm” about.

Peace Now Chairman Yariv Oppenheimer

The Israeli left, led by tenured academics, endorses pretty much anything harmful to its own country

We were devastated: The exploitation of our father’s murder as a vehicle for political commentary.

Judea and Samaria (Yesha) have been governed by the IDF and not officially under Israeli sovereignty

While not all criticism of Israel stemmed from anti-Semitism, Podhoretz contends the level of animosity towards Israel rises exponentially the farther left one moved along the spectrum.

n past decades, Oman has struck a diplomatic balance between Saudi Arabia, the West, and Iran.

The Torah scroll which my family donated will ride aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier

The Jewish Press endorses the reelection of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. His record as governor these past four years offers eloquent testimony to the experience and vision he has to lead the Empire State for the next four years.

I think Seth Lipsky is amazing, but it just drives home the point that newspapers have a lot of moving parts.

Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.

The question of anti-Semitism in Europe today is truly tied to the issue of immigration.

Polls indicate that the Palestinians are much more against a two state solution than the Israelis.

More Articles from Louis Rene Beres
Louis Rene Beres

President Obama’s core argument on a Middle East peace process is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Louis Rene Beres

Once upon a time in America, every adult could recite at least some Spenglerian theory of decline.

President Obama’s core argument is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Specific strategic lessons from the Bar Kokhba rebellion.

Still facing an effectively unhindered nuclear threat from Iran, Israel will soon need to choose between two strategic options.

For states, as for individuals, fear and reality go together naturally.

So much of the struggle between Israel and the Arabs continues to concern space.

An undifferentiated or across-the-board commitment to nuclear ambiguity could prove harmful to Israel’s’s overall security.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/history-and-strategy-israel-palestine-and-the-samson-option/2009/07/01/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: