Israel maintains a policy of opacity regarding its nuclear program, which started with French assistance in the late 1950s. The Israeli government neither confirms nor denies the possession of nuclear weapons, but it is believed that Israel possesses some 100-200 nuclear weapons, making it the fifth and possibly fourth largest nuclear power, ahead of Britain, and possibly ahead of France. No concrete evidence on nuclear testing is available. Israel is the only country in the Middle East that is not a member to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
When US intelligence first discovered Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor in 1960, the US government failed to put a halt to Israeli nuclear activities. It is estimated that Israel had produced its first nuclear weapons by 1967, and started a missile program around the same time. Today, Israel also maintains a functioning missile defense system, the Arrow theater missile defense system.
Regional players, especially Egypt and Iran, have repeatedly pressured Israel to disarm its nuclear arsenal. Since the 1980s, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has passed annual resolutions calling upon Israel to join the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state. Israel’s status as a de facto nuclear state is also a common theme of debate at NPT meetings. It is generally believed that a peaceful resolution to Middle Eastern affairs cannot be achieved without ending the Israeli nuclear program. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has initiated a security dialogue with the Israeli government, seeking Israeli support for a Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone. This would require Israel, who is a member of the IAEA, to give up its nuclear weapons.
- Study on a Possible Israeli Strike on Iran’s Nuclear Development Facilities. CSIS, March 14, 2009.
- Israel crosses the threshold. Avner Cohen and William Burr. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May/June 2006.
- Israel’s Nuclear Program and Middle East Peace. Lionel Beehner. Council on Foreign Relations, February 10, 2006.
- The Establishment of a NWFZ in the Middle East, Explanation of Vote by Mr. Alon Bar Director of Arms Control, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 26 October 2004
- UNGA Resolution: The risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, 16 December 2004
- UNGA Resolution: Establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region of the Middle East, 16 December 2004
- Statement on the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT), Explanation of vote by Mr. Alon Bar, Director of Arms Control, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 4 November 2004
- The Risk of Nuclear Proliferation in the ME, Explanation of vote by Mr. Alon Bar, Director of Arms Control, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1 November 2004
- Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Explanation of vote by Mr. Alon Bar, Director of Arms Control Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1 November 2004
- Communication from the Permanent Mission of Israel to the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding Nuclear Export Controls, 13 August 2004
- Israeli nuclear capabilities and threat: Explanatory Memorandum on Israeli Nuclear Capabilities and Threat Submitted to the IAEA by the Member States in The League of Arab States, 21 July 2003
- Peace and Non-Proliferation: Which Comes First?,” Gad Yaacobi, Ambassador to the UN. 14 March 1995
- 1995 NPT Review Conference Resolution on the Middle East, 1995
- UNGA Resolution: Israeli nuclear armament, 30 November 1987
- The 22 September 1979 Event. Interagency Intelligence Memorandum, National Security Archive, December 1979, pp. 5,9 (paragraphs 4,26), MORI.
- Memorandum of conversation between representative of the Atomic Energy Commission and the State Department regarding the last American visit in Dimona in July 1969 and the future of those visits. United States National Archives, 13 August 1969.
- Subject: Israeli Nuclear Program. Memo from Henry Kissinger to Richard M. Nixon. Nixon Archives, 16 July 1969.
- Stopping the introduction of nuclear weapons into the Middle East. Memorandum to the Secretary of State. National Security Archive, March 17, 1969.
- Memorandum for the President on the subject of Dimona Reactor by the State Department. United States National Archives, Central Foreign Policy Files, 30 March 1961.
- Document submitted on the last day of the Eisenhower Administration to the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, January 19, 1961.
- Memorandum of conversation between President Eisenhower and his senior aides concerning the discovery of the Dimona project. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, December 19, 1961.
- CIA Information Report. Dr. Henry Gomberg's debriefing as to his findings in Israel. United States National Archives, February 1961.
- Memorandum of conversation with the Israeli science attaché in Washington, Dr. Ephraim Lahav concerning Israel's nuclear program. United States National Archives, December 4, 1956.