Nuclear weapons and Israel
The State of Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons. Estimates of Israel's stockpile range between 80 and 400 nuclear warheads, and the country is believed to possess the ability to deliver them in several methods, including by aircraft, as submarine-launched cruise missiles, and via the Jericho series of intermediate to intercontinental range ballistic missiles. Its first deliverable nuclear weapon is thought to have been completed in late 1966 or early 1967; which would make it the sixth country in the world to have developed them.
|State of Israel|
|Nuclear program start date||Unknown (estimated 1948 or 1949)|
|First nuclear weapon test||Unknown (reported partner in early French testing 1960, reported local Israeli underground test 1963, reported Israeli test in Vela Incident 1979)|
|First thermonuclear weapon test||Unknown|
|Last nuclear test||Unknown|
|Largest yield test||Unknown|
|Current stockpile||Unknown (estimated 80–400 warheads)|
|Current strategic arsenal||Unknown|
|Cumulative strategic arsenal in megatonnage||Unknown|
|Maximum missile range||Unknown (estimated up to 11,500 km)|
However, Israel maintains a policy of deliberate ambiguity, never officially denying nor admitting to having nuclear weapons, instead repeating over the years that "Israel will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East". Israel has also declined to sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), despite international pressure to do so, saying that would be contrary to its national security interests.
Additionally, Israel developed the Begin Doctrine of counter-proliferation and preventive strikes, denying other regional actors the ability to acquire their own nuclear weapons. The Israeli Air Force conducted Operation Opera and Operation Orchard, destroying the Iraqi and Syrian nuclear reactors in 1981 and 2007, respectively, and the Stuxnet malware that severely damaged Iranian nuclear facilities in 2010 is thought to have been developed by Israel. As of 2019, Israel remains the only country in the Middle East believed to possess nuclear weapons. The Samson Option refers to Israel's deterrence strategy of massive retaliation with nuclear weapons as a "last resort" against a country whose military has invaded and/or destroyed much of Israel.
Israel began to investigate the nuclear field soon after it declared independence in 1948 and, with French co-operation, secretly began building the Negev Nuclear Research Center, a facility near Dimona housing a nuclear reactor and reprocessing plant in the late 1950s. The first extensive details of the weapons program came in October 5, 1986, with media coverage of revelations from Mordechai Vanunu, a technician formerly employed at the center. Vanunu was soon kidnapped by the Mossad and brought back to Israel, where he was sentenced to 18 years in prison for treason and espionage.