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Arms Control and Proliferation Profile: Israel
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Updated: July 2013

This profile summarizes the major arms control agreements, regimes, initiatives, and practices that Israel subscribes to and those that it does not. It also describes the major weapons programs, policies, and holdings of Israel, as well as its proliferation record. This profile is one of a series focused on the arms control record and status of key states, all of which are available on the Arms Control Association’s Website at http://www.armscontrol.org.

Major Multilateral Arms Control Agreements and Treaties

 

Signed

Ratified

Biological Weapons Convention

- - -

- - -

Chemical Weapons Convention

1993

- - -

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

1996

- - -

Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)

-Suspected of developing nuclear arms outside the treaty.

- - -

- - -

Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons

-Party to three of the five protocols.[1]

- - -

1995

Outer Space Treaty

1967

1977

Ottawa Mine Ban Convention

- - -

- - -

Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM)

-With reservation to Art. 17 paragraph 2

1983

2002

CPPNM 2005 Amendment

- - -

2012

International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism

2006

- - -


Export Control Regimes, Nonproliferation Initiatives, and Safeguards

Australia Group: Not a member.

Missile Technology Control Regime: Not a member, but Israel has committed to maintaining export controls consistent with the regime.

Nuclear Suppliers Group: Not a member. Israel is prohibited from importing key nuclear materials and technologies from the 45 group members because Israel does not subject its entire nuclear enterprise to safeguards administered by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Wassenaar Arrangement: Not a member, but Israel has pledged its “adherence to the principles” of the arrangement.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol: Israel has not negotiated such an agreement.

Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism: Participant.

Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation: Not a participant.

Proliferation Security Initiative: Participant.

UN Security Council Resolutions 1540 and 1673: Israel has filed the requested reports on its activities to fulfill the resolutions and volunteered to provide assistance to other states.


Major Weapons Programs, Policies, and Practices

Biological Weapons:

The Israeli government operates an extensive and sophisticated biodefense program. It has not made public pronouncements on its biological weapons policy nor signed the Biological Weapons Convention, which is widely interpreted as an indication that Israel has some offensive capabilities.

Chemical Weapons:

Israel has signed, but not ratified, the Chemical Weapons Convention. Although the status of its formerly extensive offensive weapons program and stockpile is unknown, there is no doubt that Israel is active in defensive research. Russian intelligence claimed in 1993 that “Israel has a store of chemical weapons of its own manufacture...[and] is capable of producing toxic substances of all types, including nerve-paralyzing, blister-producing and temporarily incapacitating substances and so forth.” [2] According to a 2008 report by the Center for Strategic & International Studies, Israel may have stockpiles of weaponized nerve gas, but there is no firm evidence supporting this claim. [3]

Conventional Weapons Trade:

Israel has been an important and leading arms client of the United States, but Israel also is stepping up its arms sales abroad. In the process, Israel upset the United States by transferring certain weapons and technologies, including spare parts for unmanned aerial vehicles, to China. Israel and the United States signed a secret memorandum in August 2005 aimed at restricting certain Israeli exports to other countries. [4]

Israel is the one of a few Middle East states that has consistently volunteered its annual arms export and import data to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms.

From 2003 to 2010, Israel made $8,200 million in arms transfer agreements with developing countries, ranking Israel the eighth leading global supplier of arms. Over the same time period, Israel also ranked 5th among leading recipients of arms transfers, with arms purchases valued at $10,300 million. [5]

In January 2007, the United States made a preliminary finding that Israel might have violated the use terms of imported U.S. arms, specifically cluster munitions. In a summer 2006 conflict with Hezbollah guerillas located in southern Lebanon, Israel employed U.S.-origin cluster munitions, which were reportedly authorized exclusively for use against clear military targets. Allegations were made that Israel used the weapons more indiscriminately, prompting condemnation by members of the international community. The United States had suspended cluster munitions exports to Israel for several years during the 1980s because of a finding that Israel had misused the weapons. In 2008, Israel announced it would replace importing U.S.-manufactured cluster bombs for ones made in Israel. [6] As of July 2012, Israel has not joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

The Nuclear Arsenal, an Overview:

Israel is suspected of having a nuclear arsenal ranging from 100 to 200 nuclear warheads, [7] although it has never officially acknowledged possessing such arms or demonstrated its capability through a declared nuclear test. Israel officially maintains that it “will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East.”

Delivery Systems

Missiles

  • Ballistic Missiles: Israel fields an arsenal of Jericho missiles, which are based on French technology and road- and rail-mobile, these missiles are believed to be nuclear capable. The Jericho-1 was first deployed in the early 1970s and has a range of 1,200 km. The 1,800 kilometer-range Jericho-2 followed in 1990. The Jericho-III was first tested in 2008, and has a range of 4,800-6,500. [8] A second test of the Jericho-III was conducted in November 2011. [9] The current deployment status of these missiles is unknown.

  • Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles: Israel is believed to have indigenously developed a submarine-launched cruise missile system “with a range of around 1,500 km with a warhead weighing up to 200 kilograms.”[10] The British paper the Sunday Times reported the test of a nuclear version of this missile off the coast of Sri Lanka in June 2000, which is the only evidence of its existence.  The Israeli government has denied its allegedly existence.

  • Cruise Missiles: Israel has purchased U.S.-origin Harpoon cruise missiles with a range of 120 kilometers. Reports suggest that Israel has modified the Harpoon system to deliver nuclear payloads. [11]

Submarines

  • Independent analysts believe Israel’s Dolphin-class conventional submarines have been outfitted to deliver nuclear weapons. Israel bought the first two Dolphin-class submarines from Germany in the 1990s, and secured the purchase of the 6th submarine in 2011. [12]

Strategic Bombers

  • The Israeli military operates 205 F-16 and F-15 aircrafts. Some are believed to be certified to deliver nuclear payloads. [13]

Nuclear Doctrine

Israel has long maintained a policy of ambiguity about its nuclear arsenal.  Israeli officials never confirmed or denied the existence of such weapons and maintain it will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East, however international analysts believe Israel has between 100 to 200 nuclear warheads.  It is believed that Israel uses the Negev Nuclear Research Center to produce plutonium for its nuclear arsenal.[14]

Fissile Material

According to the 2011 Global Fissile Material Report, Israel may still produce plutonium for weapons. The report estimates Israel may have produced  820 ± 150 kg of plutonium at its underground Dimona production reactor since it opened in the 1960s. While Israel is believed to still be operating the reactor, its exact status is unknown. Additionally, Israel may have produced highly enriched uranium in the past for military purposes. [15] The country’s stockpile of highly enriched uranium is estimated at approximately .3 metric tons.


Proliferation Record

Israel is not known to have deliberately or significantly contributed to the spread of biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons to other states, although the extent of Israel’s involvement in South Africa’s previously secret, now abandoned, nuclear weapons program is uncertain.


Other Arms Control and Nonproliferation Activities

On June 7, 1981, Israeli planes bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor, which Israel charged would contribute to an Iraqi nuclear weapons program. That attack did not halt the secret Iraqi nuclear weapons program, which was not exposed and dismantled until the aftermath of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

In September 2007, Israel bombed what they claimed was a nuclear reactor in Syria. [16] Israel has also made public threats to attack nuclear facilities in Iran to prevent the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Israel participated in both the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington, DC and the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit held in Seoul, South Korea.

According to the International Panel of Fissile Material’s report in 2008, Israel is in opposition to a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. The report explains Israel is increasingly concerned about Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons, and does not feel that such a treaty would be able to handle the perceived threat. [17]At the 2012 Conference on Disarmament, Israel did not mention the FMCT, but urged the members to focus on other issues, rather than the “four core issues” that continue to be in a stalemate. [18]

-Researched and prepared by Alex Bollfrass. Updated by Victor Silva


ENDNOTES

1. Israel has not ratified Protocol III on Incendiary Weapons and Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War. It also has not approved an amendment that extends the convention’s application beyond just interstate conflicts to intrastate conflicts.

2. Russian Federation Foreign Intelligence Service, A New Challenge After the Cold War: Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, 1993.

3. Cordesman, Anthony H. Israeli Weapons Of Mass Destruction An Overview, Center for Strategic & International Studies, June 2, 2008, 32 pp.

4. Pomper, Miles, “U.S., Israel Reach China Arms Deal,” Arms Control Today, September 2005, p. 34.

5. Grimmett, Richard F., Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2003-2010, Congressional Research Service, September 22, 2011, 89 pp

6. International Panel on Fissile Materials, Global Fissile Material Report 2011, January 2012, 49 pp.

7. Ibid.

8. Elleman, Michael. “Banning Long-Range Missiles In the Middle East: A First Step For Regional Arms Control.” Arms Control Today, May 2012, p. 14.

9. Collina, Tom Z. “Israel Has Nuclear-Armed Sub, Report Says.” Arms Control Today, July/August 2012, p. 34

10. Boese, Wade, “Israel Allegedly Fielding Sea-based Nuclear Missiles,” Arms Control Today, November 2003, p. 26.

11. Collina, Tom Z. “Israel Has Nuclear-Armed Sub, Report Says.” Arms Control Today, July/August 2012, p. 34.

12. SIPRI Yearbook 2013, (Oxford: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2012),  p 321.

13. SIPRI Yearbook 2013, (Oxford: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2012),  p 322.

14. International Panel on Fissile Materials, Global Fissile Material Report 2011, January 2012, 49 pp.

15. Sharp, Jeremy M., U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel, Congressional Research Service, March 12, 2012, 38 pp.

16. “IAEA: Syria site bombed by Israel ‘was likely nuclear,” BBC News, May 24, 2011.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-13530945

17. International Panel on Fissile Materials, Banning the Production of Fissile Materials for Nuclear Weapons: Country Perspectives on the Challenges to a Fissile Material (Cutoff) Treaty, September 2008, 90 pp.

18. Statement by Ms. Tamar Rahamimoff-Honig, Deputy Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament on “Revitalizing the Work of the CD,” June 14, 2012.