Book says Israel has larger arsenal than suspected

October 20, 1991|By Joel Brinkley | Joel Brinkley,New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- A new book says that Israel has a nuclear arsenal far larger than the U.S. government previously suspected and that a principal potential target for those arms has been the Soviet Union.

"The Samson Option," by Seymour M. Hersh, says the Israelis have gone to full nuclear alert -- meaning that nuclear missiles have been wheeled out of silos and put on launchers -- three times, twice during the 1973 war and once earlier this year, while Israel was under missile attack from Iraq. In those cases, the book, which is scheduled to be published today, says the targets would have been the Arab nations that were threatening Israel.

But, quoting Israeli officials and U.S. officials who discussed the matter with the Israelis, Mr. Hersh says Israel's central strategic RTC doctrine during the 1970s and much of the 1980s was that the Soviet Union should know that it was under the threat of Israeli nuclear attack.

Mr. Hersh says Israel used U.S. reconnaissance-satellite photos and other intelligence data -- some of it obtained openly and some of it illegally -- to target Soviet cities.

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