Israel’s NC3 Profile: Opaque Nuclear Governance
Israel is a unique case among the current nine nuclear weapons states. It is the sixth state—and the first and only one in the Middle East—to develop, acquire, and possess nuclear weapons. And yet, to this day, it has never openly acknowledged its nuclear weapons-state status. Nor has the outside world, friends or foes alike, pressed Israel to come clean publicly about its nuclear status.
As a long-held policy, Israel neither confirms nor denies possession of nuclear weapons. Instead, ever since the mid-1960s—a time in which Israel did not yet possess nuclear weapons capability—Israel has declared, first privately and then publicly, that “it will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East.” This formula became the essence of Israel’s policy of nuclear opacity.
In this essay, Avner Cohen traces and exposes Israel’s two most fundamental principles of the Israeli NC3 thinking: first, insisting on a strict physical and organizational separation between nuclear (e.g., pits) and non-nuclear assets (e.g., military delivery platform); second, creating a two-tier governance architecture at various levels.
This paper is accompanied by a Fourth Leg podcast: Elements of Caution and Prudence.