Barak Says He Won't Budge on Nukes

No matter what his feelings may be toward Mordechai Vanunu, Prime Minister Ehud Barak has no intention of acknowledging or disarming Israel's nuclear arsenal in the foreseeable future.

That is the inescapable conclusion of an October 4 statement to the Knesset by the leader of Israel's new government. He said Israel will continue "to maintain strategic deterrent capability, even in peacetime, for whatever geographical or time range is required."

Alaf Benn, diplomatic correspondent of [set ital]Ha'aretz[end ital], the Israeli daily newspaper, took this to mean that Israel would continue to resist U.S. pressure for international inspection of its Dimona nuclear reactor at least until Iran and Iraq both have accepted tight international control over all weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them.

Barak thus left no doubt that he is following the policy of his predecessors in maintaining "nuclear ambiguity," in which Israel maintains a "nuclear deterrent" without acknowledging its possession of a nuclear arsenal.

Since India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in May, 1998, the Clinton Administration has been pressing Israel to join other nuclear weapons states in signing a treaty to cut off further production of plutonium, a nuclear weapons ingredient. Israel has refused because enforcement would require international inspection of its Dimona reactor, where, as Vanunu revealed in 1986, weapons-grade plutonium has been produced since the 1960s.

Benn reported that Clinton relaxed his pressure for a few months after Barak succeeded former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, hoping for a softening of the Israeli position. On October 4 he got his answer.