Six Day War expert Michael Oren rejects NYT report of nuclear ‘doomsday’ plan


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli government minister Michael Oren, a former ambassador to the United States, rejected a report that Israel was prepared to detonate a nuclear bomb in the Sinai to turn the tide of the 1967 war with its Arab neighbors if necessary.

The New York Times published a report on Saturday about the existence of the “doomsday” plan, based on an interview by leading Israeli nuclear scholar Avner Cohen with retired IDF Brig.-Gen. Itzhak Yaakov, who allegedly oversaw the plan.

Yaakov, who oversaw weapons development for the Israeli military, detailed the plan to Cohen in interviews in 1999 and 2000; he died in 2013 at the age of 87.

He said the plan was codenamed Shimshon, or Samson, the biblical hero of immense strength, who in a last burst of strength brought down a Philistine temple killing himself along with his enemies.

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Oren, who wrote a comprehensive history of the Six Day War, responded to the Times report on Sunday, saying that thousands of declassified documents from the war do not support a plan to detonate a nuclear bomb in Egypt’s Sinai.

He noted that basing such a report on one source is unacceptable.

“I also interviewed Yitzhak Yaakov, and I was not convinced that the story holds water,” he told the Times of Israel. “They released tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of classified documents from the Six Day War, the government discussions of our defense establishment and foreign intelligence organizations, and there is not even half a hint that supports Avner Cohen’s version. If there was something there, we would find more evidence.”

Yaakov was arrested in 2001, at the age of 75, for discussing the country’s nuclear program with Ronen Bergman, a reporter for the Israeli daily Yediot Acharonot.

Israel maintains “nuclear ambiguity,” neither confirming nor denying that it has nuclear weapons.

On Monday, the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington is releasing on a special website a series of documents related to the atomic plan.  Cohen is a global fellow of the Center.

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