The Bomb in the Basement: How Israel Went Nuclear and What That Means for the World

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The Bomb in the Basement: How Israel Went Nuclear and What That Means for the World

by Michael Karpin
Simon & Schuster, 2006
416 pp. $26.00
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Israel's nuclear capability is shrouded in calculated ambiguity: its existence will never be officially confirmed, but occasional revelations are helpful in giving its deterrent value a boost at appropriate moments (for example, in a time of superterrorism and Iranian nuclear aspirations). The Israeli nuclear program's basic history -- the French giving Israel the wherewithal to become a nuclear power, the discovery of the Dimona reactor and the resulting tensions with the United States in the early 1960s, the development of the Jericho missile -- was told by Avner Cohen (Israel and the Bomb) in 1998. The novelty of this account lies in Karpin's ability, as a journalist, to get participants in the project to talk on the record and in its addition of many fascinating details to what was already known. Karpin is good on the interaction between the nuclear decisions and the wider strategic debates under way in the Israeli government today, as well as on how its policy of ambiguity has been developed and sustained.