Nuclear explosion
[Representational image]Creative Commons

Israel planned to detonate a nuclear weapon before the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, it has emerged 50 years later. This is a further indication that Israel may actually have nuclear arms, and may have had them for quite some time, despite the country's reticence in either admitting or denying it. 

According to a New York Times article, retired brigadier general Itzhak Yaakov described the project — codenamed the Doomsday Operation — in an interview, and also said that Israel would have detonated the atomic weapon had it thought it would lose the war against Egypt — which was then called the United Arab Republic. 

The conflict ended up being a six-day affair — from June 5 to 10 — and came to be called the Six-Day War. Israel won the war against Egypt, Jordan and Syria so fast that the weapon had not even been moved to the Sinai peninsula, where it was to be detonated atop a mountain, Yaakov told Avner Cohen, a scholar who studies the nuclear history of Israel.

Israel's nuclear policy

As mentioned earlier, Israel has a nuclear policy of neither confirming nor denying that it possesses nuclear weapons — a move that is called "nuclear opacity" or "nuclear ambiguity." However, over the decades several high-ranking Israeli officials have off-hand confirmed that Israel has nuclear weapons. 

Yaakov's revelations add to that. They show that Israel might have had nuclear weapons as early as 1967. This was a full seven years before India became the third country — after the US and Russia — in 1974 to come out in the open about nuclear bombs by conducting three states. India's test would prompt the setting up of the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG), where India itself is looking to gain entry right now.

Meanwhile, Yaakov himself had been arrested in 2001 for talking about Israel's nuclear programme to a reporter. No part of that interview would make it out intact. 

In picture: Samson pulls down the pillars [Artist's representation].Wikimedia Commons

Precursor to the Samson option?

According to the Yaakov, the "Doomsday Operation" was codenamed Shimson, after the Biblical hero Samson. Interestingly, many defence analysts and authors have referred to Israel's deterrence policy or the option to launch major nuclear strikes if much of Israel is destroyed as the Samson option — something that is believed to exist even today. 

Samson, it may be remembered, was an Old Testament hero who was the strongest in the world, with his strength lying in his hair. He was betrayed by his beloved Delilah, who cut off his hair while he slept.He was imprisoned by the enemy, blinded and tied to two pillars that were central to a building full of people. As his last act, he prayed to God for strength and pulled the two pillars down with his bare hands, thereby getting the building to collapse and killing many enemies within it.