One of the nicest things about relocating to Monterey is that Avner Cohen, a colleague from my days at the University of Maryland, has relocated too. Avner, like me, is a lapsed philosopher with a deep interest in nuclear weapons — there is probably no one who knows more about the Israeli nuclear weapons program. Well, no one who can talk, anyway.
Avner’s knowledge is based on decades of research. Now, that material is available to other scholars. Avner donated to the Woodrow Wilson Center his research materials — tens of thousands of pages of copies of archival documents, countless press clippings, and hundreds of hours of oral history interviews — that form the basis for his books, Israel and the Bomb and The Worst Kept Secret. Some of these materials are now online.
As part of the announcement process, Avner wrote an op-ed for the New York Times.
I am pleased to note that Avner also accepted my suggestion to collect all the wonky bits that might not interest a general reader in a long-form piece for the blog. You are in for a real treat.
How Nuclear Was It? New Testimony on the 1973 Yom Kippur War
Two weeks ago the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project (NPIHP), which is housed at the History and Public Policy Program of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C., released the first installment from my personal archival collection, known now as the “Avner Cohen Collection,” on its digital nuclear archive web site.
The key item in this release is a video interview (as well as a written transcript) which I made in 2008 with the late Azarayahu ‘Sini’ Arnan, a former senior advisor in the Israeli government, who provides a dramatic eyewitness description of a closed-door ministerial consultation in which Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir overruled Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, halting preparations to ready the country’s nuclear weapons for a possible demonstration during the 1973 War. This interview upends conventional assumptions that Israel was very close to using nuclear weapons in this conflict (or even threatened to use nuclear weapons) and provides unique insight into how the Israeli government came to this decision.
On the day of the release, which coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, the New York Times published an op-ed piece I authored about the Sini interview. It was in this context that my colleague Jeffrey Lewis suggested that I should write something for this blog that will go beyond what I already said in the New York Times and elsewhere. Almost with no hesitation I told Jeffrey, sure, I’ll do something. That something will try to discuss the nuclear dimension of the 1973 War beyond what was discussed before, and it will also be homage to this great blog that for some time I have had the desire to be a contributor.
So here it is and I hope it will stir some further discussion.
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