Israel’s political leaders had been interested in developing nuclear weapons since before the foundation of the state, but their active pursuit of them followed the 1955 Czech-Egyptian arms deal, which threatened to overwhelm Israel.1 Israel’s pursuit of a nuclear option was partly the result of an inability to secure an extended deterrent from the US, and partly the traumatic experience of the Holocaust, which caused the Israelis to put a strong emphasis on self-reliance.2 France’s diplomatic defeat in the subsequent 1956 Suez War led it to agree to collaborate with Israel and thereby facilitate an Israeli nuclear weapons program.3 France’s motivation was initially commercial — to sell Israel a reactor — but their shared experience with Nazism during the Second World War and of confronting Arab nationalists, of both being defeated during the 1956 Suez crisis, and of both being frozen out of Anglo-American nuclear efforts predisposed them to a joint nuclear effort. However, the actual French decision to build a nuclear weapons infrastructure for Israel was the consequence of determined Israeli lobbying in an extremely fragmentary French executive political structure. Receiving passive executive approval was sufficient for the Zionist sympathetic Gaullist nuclear bureaucracy, but it is highly unlikely that any strong French executive, led by Charles de Gaulle or any other, would have supported a decision to help Israel to the extent it did. French political leaders, as evinced by de Gaulle’s apparent demonstration of regret, made a miscalculation when they agreed to provide nuclear assistance to Israel.
- Nuclear Weapon
- Foreign Minister
- Nuclear Deterrent
- Peaceful Purpose
- Nuclear Weapon Program
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© 2014 Julian Schofield
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Schofield, J. (2014). French Nuclear Assistance to Israel. In: Strategic Nuclear Sharing. Global Issues Series. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137298454_7
Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, London
Print ISBN: 978-1-349-45236-1
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