Israel and WMD : Incentives and Capabilities


  • Normark Magnus
  • Lindblad Anders
  • Norqvist Anders
  • Sandström Björn
  • Waldenström Louise

Publish date: 2005-01-01

Report number: FOI-R--1734--SE

Pages: 55

Written in: English


  • Weapons of mass destruction
  • nuclear weapons
  • biological weapons
  • chemical weapons
  • Israel
  • the Middle East
  • security policy
  • deterrence
  • policy of ambiguity


The Middle East is characterised by a comprehensive security deficit, where military power still constitutes the primary tool to protect the regional states. The aftermath of 9/11 has had a profound effect on the Middle Eastern security context and generated an increased focus on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the region. This study focuses on Israel, which hihgly influences the region´s attitude towards WMD. However, Israel is often disregarded in Western discussions regarding the impact of WMD on the security dilemmas in the Middle East. The purpose of this report is to evaluate Israel´s scientific and technical capabilities to develop WMD, and the state´s political intent to utilize this capacity for offensive and/or defensive purposes. The report argues that the Israeli nuclear arsenal is linked to the optimal ability for deterrence and counter-strikes, if the state´s existence is threatened. Israel has developed offensive chemical and biological warfare (CBW) capabilities in the past, but it has not been possible to conclude if these offensive programs still remain active. A probable rationale behind Israel´s offensive WMD profile is that the ambiguous policy regarding CBW still serves a vital purpose in its strategy of projecting a credible and massive deterrence capability.