Monday, April 17, 2006

Israel is a real threat to peace

Israel has the most advanced nuclear weapons program in the Middle East. David Ben Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, clandestinely established the program in the late 1950s to meet the perceived existential threat to the nascent state. It was a well known fact to Britain and United States who are now threatening sanctions and nuclear attacks on Iran.

Israel's nuclear program is centred at the Negev Research Centre, outside the town of Dimona. Based on estimates of the plutonium production capacity of the Dimona reactor, Israel has approximately 100-200 nuclear explosive devices, according to Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

Officially, Israel has declared that it will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East; however, it has not signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

Israel's possession of nuclear weapons and its policy of declaratory ambiguity have led to increased tensions in current Middle East peace discussions and arms control negotiations.

Israel's neighbouring states allege that the Jewish state also has an offensive biological weapons (BW) program, but there are no reliable sources on specific biological agents the Israelis may possess. Reportedly, Israel specialised military units sabotaged water wells with typhoid and dysentery bacteria in Acre (near Haifa), Palestine during the 1948 war, but evidence of such events is fragmentary.

Speculation that the program is located at the Israel Institute of Biological Research (IIBR) in Nes Ziona has raised both international and domestic concerns. Activists within the Israeli community have recently protested the expansion of the Institute due to reports, denied by Israeli officials, of multiple injuries and deaths within the facility and one near-evacuation of the surrounding area. Israel is not a signatory to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC).

While there are allegations that Israel has an advanced chemical weapons (CW) program, no confirmed evidence of production or stockpiling exists. Some reports have suggested an offensive CW program is located at the Israel Institute for Biological Research in Nes Ziona. In October 1992, an El Al airliner carrying a cargo of approximately 50 gallons of dimethyl methylphosphonate (a widely used simulant for defensive research but also a possible precursor of sarin nerve agent) destined for the Institute crashed in Amsterdam. Israel stated that this material was being imported to test gas masks. Israel has signed but not ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

Israel's missile program began in the 1960s and it has a varied missile industry, having developed ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as missile defence systems and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Israel supplied similar defence systems to the Singapore Air Force.

The Jericho ballistic missiles series was initiated in the 1960s with French assistance, beginning with the short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) Jericho-1 with a 500 km range. In the 1970s, Israel developed the intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) Jericho-2, a two-stage , solid-fueled missile with a range of 1,500 to 3,500 km. There are some unconfirmed reports that suggest the existence of a 4,000 km-range Jericho-3 missile that may stem from Israel's space launch vehicle, the Shavit. Israel has also developed, with U.S. financial asisstance, the Arrow theater defence missile, which has become one of the only functioning missile defence systems in the world. Israel has recently reported to have successfully tested the Arrow-2 anti-ballistic missile system, as well as new long-range guided missiles.

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