Since the late 1960s, every Israeli government has practiced a policy of nuclear opacity that, while acknowledging that Israel maintains the option of building nuclear weapons, leaves it factually uncertain as to whether Israel actually possesses nuclear weapons and if so at what operational status. Since the mid-1960s, this policy has been publicly expressed—and recently reaffirmed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—as the phrase “We won’t be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East” (Netanyahu, 2011).
This statement is widely seen as a deception, because it is a long-held conclusion among governments and experts that Israel has produced a sizable stockpile of nuclear warheads (probably unassembled) designed for delivery by ballistic missiles and aircraft. Common sense dictates that a country that has developed and produced nuclear warheads for delivery by designated delivery vehicles has, regardless of their operational status, introduced the weapons to the region. But Israeli governments have attached so many interpretations to “introduce” that common sense doesn’t appear to apply.
Declassified documents from US–Israeli negotiations in 1968–1969 about the sale and delivery of F-4 Phantom aircraft show that the White House understood full well that “they [Israel] interpreted that [“introduction”] to mean they could possess nuclear weapons as long as they did not test, deploy, or make them public” (White House, 1969a: 1). In a memo prepared for President Nixon on the Israeli nuclear program, national security advisor Henry Kissinger stated: “This is one program on which the Israelis have persistently deceived us—and may even have stolen from us” (White House, 1969a: 7 of attachment).