In the early 1950s, Israel secretly launched a project designed to achieve a nuclear option. Initially supported by France, this daring project stood to engineer a dramatic change in Israel's strategic position vis-a-vis its neighboring Arab states and the wider international community. A nuclear program was driven by the firm conviction of David Ben-Gurion that Israel's existence could be guaranteed only with the aid of such a deterrent. The ensuing nuclear defense strategy was upheld by successive Israeli governments. Adamantly opposed to America's request to allow external supervision of its nuclear activity, Israel labored to avert a potentially disastrous rift with its one superpower ally. Israel's Nuclear Option recounts the dialogue and related diplomatic activity that took place during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and the Ben-Gurion and Eshkol premierships. The intense and often difficult discussions, which pitted Israel's security concerns against the United States' determined goal to stem nuclear proliferation, eventually produced a set of formal and informal strategic understandings regarding Israel's nuclear deterrence.
Zaki Shalom is a senior researcher at the Ben-Gurion Research Center, Ben-Gurion University. His main fields of study are the Arab-Israeli conflict and Israel's defense policy. He has published several books and numerous articles dealing with various aspects of these topics. His previous book, David Ben-Gurion, the State of Israel, and the Arab World, 1949-1956, is also published by Sussex Academic Press.