Most Americans have no idea that the possibility of a full-fledged nuclear “suicide bombing” by the state of Israel itself is a cornerstone of Israel’s national security planning. However, there are some U.S. policymakers who have dared to express their concerns about this dangerous policy, which is known as what Pulitzer Prize-winning author Seymour Hersh referred to, in the book by the same name, “The Samson Option.”
As Hersh has documented—and Israeli historian Avner Cohen has confirmed it in even more detail in his own book, Israel and the Bomb—Israel’s entire national defense policy (from its inception) was framed around the development of powerful nuclear bombs. As Hersh makes clear, the Israelis are willing, if necessary, to “blow up the world”—including themselves—if they have to do so in order to defeat their Arab foes.
The so-called “Samson Option” for Israel is based on the well-known story of Samson in the Bible, who—after being captured by the Philistines—brought down Dagon’s temple in Gaza and killed himself along with a number of Philistines. As Hersh put it: “For Israel’s nuclear advocates, the Samson Option became another way of saying ‘Never Again’.”
The Sampson Option is a matter of concern—even for many high-placed American policy makers who are otherwise staunch supporters of Israel—but this is not something that has received widespread attention in the American press.
American Free Press reported one year ago that—buried in brief news notes in some Jewish newspapers in early 2003—former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres had formally broken Israel’s longstanding policy of denying its nuclear weapons capabilities, although it was not reported in the mass media in America. Peres admitted in a Feb. 20, 2003 speech in Jerusalem that Israel did indeed have nuclear weapons. The Israeli leader made the admission to a delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.(Despite all of this, most mainstream reports about Israel’s nuclear programs continue to state that Israel officially denies having nuclear weapons, Peres’ state-ment notwithstanding.)
This admission by Peres was particularly interesting because in 1999, many American Jewish organizations reacted with alarm when then-President Bill Clinton dared to mention Israel’s nuclear program. On May 14, 1999, the influential Jewish weekly, Forward, published an article expressing outrage that “President Clinton is raising for the first time public concerns about Israel’s nuclear program.”
The article pointed out that some 35 members of the U.S. Congress had written a letter to Clinton expressing concerns about imprisoned Israeli nuclear engineer Mordechai Vanunu, who was the first to publicly expose Israel’s nuclear bomb production program.
Responding in a letter dated April 22, 1999 to then- Rep. Lynn Rivers (D-Mich.), President Clinton did more than just express his own concerns about Vanunu’s plight. Clinton also said: “I . . . share your concerns about the Israeli nuclear program. We have repeatedly urged Israel and other non-parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty to adhere to the treaty and accept comprehensive International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.”
Forward reported that “Jewish leaders reacted with shock at news that Mr. Clinton had weighed in on Mr.Vanunu and Israel’s nuclear program,” and cited the reaction of Anti-Defamation League director Abe Foxman, who attacked Clinton, saying: “I can’t believe the president would send such a letter. These are very sensitive issues. It is so judgmental.”
Foxman’s disgust with Clinton was not unique. Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, declared: “The president’s reference to Israel’s nuclear program is surprising and disturbing. As far as we know it’s unprecedented.”