Israel's 'Nuclear Ambiguity' Policy
This concept refers to an Israeli policy of avoiding exposing the development stage and capabilities of its nuclear program. Israel deems this policy to be central to its national security strategy.
Background: American-Backed Nuclear Ambiguity
Since Israel’s establishment, the country’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion aspired to achieve nuclear capabilities in order to ensure Israel's survival in the face of its many challenges. Aided by France, these efforts ultimately led to the beginning of Israel’s nuclear project in 1957-58.
Since the inception of the nuclear project, Israel adopted an ambiguous stance regarding the development stage and purpose of the program, and settled for Levi Eshkol's vague statement that "Israel will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East".
In the beginning of the 1960s, the US began to push for limiting the global spread of nuclear weapons with the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The Kennedy (1960-63) and Johnson (1963-68) Administrations demanded that Israel join the NPT and allow inspection of its nuclear program.
After ongoing discussions with the US, Prime Minister Golda Meir and U.S. President Richard Nixon agreed in 1969 that the U.S. would de-facto acknowledge Israel's nuclear capabilities and not ask it to join the NPT as long as Israel maintained a low profile and did not reveal its capabilities via public statements or nuclear testing. So far, all American presidents have kept these implicit understandings.
Israel's nuclear ambiguity policy is known to have influenced the actions of other countries in the region and became a central component in the country’s deterrence, as part of its security strategy.