Israeli officials rushed to rebut the statement released by the country’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who acknowledged the presence of nuclear weapons in Israel. Olmert gave an interview to a TV channel shortly before his official visit to Germany. German journalists had every reason to make sensational reports based on Olmert’s remarks.
When speaking about the uranium-enrichment program conducted by Iran, Ehud Olmert said that Israel was included on the list of the countries that could be referred to as nuclear powers. Speaking in English in the interview, Olmert said: "Iran, openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Can you say that this is the same level, when they are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as America, France, Israel, Russia?" German reporters decided that Olmert confirmed the existence of the Israeli nuclear arsenal, albeit by implication.
Press secretary of the Israeli Prime Minister, Miri Eisin, and an official spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry, Mark Regev, stated that Olmert had been misunderstood. The Israeli officials reminded that Israel was still following the policy of nuclear uncertainty. To put it otherwise, Israel neither confirms nor rejects the existence of its nuclear arms. The officials also said that Ehud Olmert only named four democratic states which, unlike Iran, pose absolutely no threat to the world. Nevertheless, it is generally believed that Israel possesses a considerable nuclear arsenal.
Israeli media are calling it a "nuclear slip" of the tongue. Israel has long declined to confirm or deny having the bomb as part of a "strategic ambiguity" policy that it says fends off numerically superior Arab enemies. This reticence is a major irritant for Arabs and Iran, which see a double standard in U.S. policy in the region.
By not declaring itself to be nuclear armed, Israel skirts a U.S. ban on funding countries that proliferate weapons of mass destruction. It can thus enjoy more than $2 billion in annual military and other aid from Washington, Reuters says.
In the meantime, many Israeli politicians criticize Olmert for such a careless statement. A deputy of Likud, Yuval Steinitz, urged the Israeli Prime Minister to step down.
To add more fuel to the fire, an anonymous Israeli official stated that the existence of Israeli nuclear arsenal was not a secret to anyone in the world, The Voice of Russia radio station said.
Opposition politicians in Israel on Tuesday rounded on Olmert, who has seen his personal approval rating plummet since the summer war against Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas.
"This causes great harm to Israel. We are in the midst of a huge (diplomatic) onslaught against Iran's attempts to make a nuclear bomb," former Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, a member of the right-wing Likud party, said on Army Radio.
The Los Angeles Times wrote in 2003 that Israel had obtained a possibility to launch nuclear missiles from submarines. It became possible, the newspaper wrote, after Israeli specialists conducted a nuclear modification of Harpoon cruise missiles supplied by the USA. The same year the IAEA Director, Mohammed El-Baradei, called upon Israel to refuse from its nuclear weapons for the sake of peace in the Middle East. Baradei added that Israel should follow the example of South African Republic – the only country in the world that voluntarily declined the nuclear weapons program in 1989.
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