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Even with its still-undeclared nuclear weapons, Israel could more or less efficiently deter enemy unconventional attacks, and also most large conventional aggressions. With such weapons, Israel could launch non-nuclear preemptive strikes against enemy state hard targets that might threaten Israel’s annihilation. Without these weapons, any such acts of anticipatory self-defense would likely represent the onset of a much wider war. This is because there would no longer be any convincing threat of an Israeli counter-retaliation.

Israel’s nuclear weapons represent an impediment to the use of nuclear weapons, and also to the commencement of regional nuclear war. Over time, however, the credibility of Israel’s nuclear deterrent will require some carefully considered and purposeful departures from the traditional country posture of “deliberate nuclear ambiguity.” Then, with an informed view to enhanced nuclear deterrence, it will be optimal time to take the Israeli bomb out of the “basement.”

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When he served as Israel’s prime minister, Shimon Peres expressed an enthusiastic willingness to “give up the atom” in exchange for “peace.” As in so many other areas of Israel’s vital national interest, Peres was prepared to make a very bad deal for his country. Indeed, if it were ever left to depend upon the tender “peace” mercies of Israel’s sworn enemies, a denuclearized Jewish state would not long endure.

Si vis pacem, para bellum atomicum.

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Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Emeritus Professor of International Law at Purdue and the author of twelve books and several hundred articles on nuclear strategy and nuclear war. He was Chair of Project Daniel, which submitted its special report on Israel’s Strategic Future to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, on January 16, 2003.