NY Times: Israel planned nuclear option in Sinai during ’67 war

The New York Times alleges that Israel had considered a nuclear option in Sinai ahead of the June 1967 war, fearing a doomsday scenario, as Egypt had threatened to annihilate the Jewish state. Israel rejects the report.

On Monday, the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the Six Day War, the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project of Washington, D.C.’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (WWICS) will drop a bombshell of atomic proportions – the highly respected research institute will release classified documents suggesting Israel considered detonating a nuclear bomb in the Sinai Peninsula during the 1967 Six Day War. The doomsday scenario, code-named “Shimshon,” or Samson, became moot thanks to the IDF’s lightning victory over the armies of Egypt. Jordan and Syria.

The story, which The New York Times (NYT) broke Saturday, says documents will be uploaded to a WWICS website on June 5. Among them will be a digital archive of the Avner Cohen Collection. In 1999 and 2000, Cohen – a historian and professor well known for his works on Israel’s nuclear history and strategic policy including Israel and the Bomb and The Worst-Kept Secret – interviewed retired IDF Brig.-Gen. Itzhak Yaakov, who reportedly oversaw the plan.

Adding credibility to the explosive revelations, in 2001 – two years after his interviews with Cohen – the brigadier general was arrested in Israel and charged with passing secret information with intent to harm state security. The charges related to memoirs he wrote, the Haaretz daily reported in its obituary of Yaakov in 2013.

Yaakov was acquitted of the main charge but found guilty of the unauthorized handing over of secret information, Haaretz said, noting that he received a two-year suspended sentence.

The Sinai nuclear bomb plan is “the last secret of the 1967 war,” Cohen told the NYT.

“The plan, if activated by order of the prime minister and military chief of staff, was to send a small paratrooper force to divert the Egyptian Army in the desert area so that a team could lay preparations for the atomic blast,” the report said.

“Two large helicopters were to land, deliver the nuclear device and then create a command post in a mountain creek or canyon. If the order came to detonate, the blinding flash and mushroom cloud would have been seen throughout the Sinai and Negev deserts, and perhaps as far away as Cairo.”

While Israel maintains a policy of so-called nuclear ambiguity, neither confirming nor denying the existence of her atomic arsenal, it is widely believed the country may have as many as 200 nuclear weapons.

No Evidence of Plan to Bomb Sinai

Deputy Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office Michael Oren, author of Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, said in a statement that thousands of declassified documents from the war lend no support to the purported last-ditch plan to drop a nuclear bomb in Sinai.

The Israeli Embassy in Washington declined to comment on the report or on Yaakov’s role, the NYT said.

The revelations about a Sinai nuclear bomb are not the first shocking news of atomic weapons to emerge decades after the 1967 Six Day War. In 2007 Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez published Foxbats over Dimona: The Soviets’ Nuclear Gamble in the Six-Day War (Yale University Press). The authors posited that the war originated in a scheme by the Soviet Politburo to eliminate Israel’s nuclear facility at Dimona, and with it the country’s aspiration to develop nuclear weapons. Among the revelations in the book was that Soviet photo-reconnaissance MiG-25s (the “Foxbats” of the title) overflew the Dimona reactor in May 1967. The Kremlin’s plan to destroy the so-called Ben-Gurion’s pants factory was foiled by the United Nations’ timely declaration of a ceasefire, which precluded the Soviet Union from painting its aircraft in the colors of the Syrian Air Force before bombing Dimona.

By Gil Zohar, World Israel News