Following a report by the New York Times on Sunday, claiming that Israel had achieved nuclear capabilities by the Six-Day War in 1967, and was planning to set off a nuclear bomb in the Sinai Peninsula to deter the Egyptians, the Israeli researcher whose work the Times piece was partially based on came out to refute these claims.
The New York Times’ initial reporting stated that then-Brig. Gen. Yitzhak “Yisha” Yaakov said as much to Prof. Avner Cohen and Prof. Ronen Bergman as part of a Yedioth Ahronoth article. Speaking to Ynet later Sunday, Prof. Cohen came out against the Times piece, saying that Israel, in fact, was not planning to activate a nuclear bomb in the Sinai Peninsula during the Six-Day War in 1967, since at the time it did not have nuclear capabilities.
The Times cited Yaakov, who passed away four years ago, as saying that the plan to bomb Egypt was called the Samson Option, and that it would be used as a last resort. He added that were it to have been used, the nuclear blast might have ended up killing him and his commando team.
Yaakov quoted then-IDF Operations Directorate Maj. Gen. Ezer Weizman as saying that Egypt was going to attack the southern city of Dimona, which is next to Israel’s nuclear reactor.
“It has long been known that Israel, fearful for its existence, rushed to complete its first atomic device on the eve of the Arab-Israeli war. But the planned demonstration remained secret in a country where it is taboo to discuss even half-century-old nuclear plans, and where fears persist that Iran will eventually obtain a nuclear weapon, despite its deal with world powers,” the Times wrote, adding that “Shimon Peres, the former Israeli president and prime minister who died last year, hinted at the plan’s existence in his memoirs.”
However, Prof. Cohen, who in addition to interviewing Yaakov has authored a nuclear history of Israel called Israel and the Bomb, strongly objected to the New York Times piece. In an interview with Ynet, Cohen stated it was wrong for the Times article to have relied on Yaakov’s 32-year-old memory. “He describes events as he saw them from his own personal point of you. Does it accurately fit with the overall, objective and the historical truth? It’s hard to tell. I had a lot of questions about this,” said Cohen. Read more at YNet.