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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 pdf document Egypt and pdf document Iran, have repeatedly pressured Israel to disarm its nuclear arsenal.  Since the 1980s, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has passed pdf document 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 pdf document 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.


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