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Samson Option

Samson Option

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The Samson Option is a term used to describe Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

’s alleged deterrence strategy
Deterrence theory
Deterrence theory gained increased prominence as a military strategy during the Cold War with regard to the use of nuclear weapons, and features prominently in current United States foreign policy regarding the development of nuclear technology in North Korea and Iran. Deterrence theory however was...

 of massive retaliation
Massive retaliation
Massive retaliation, also known as a massive response or massive deterrence, is a military doctrine and nuclear strategy in which a state commits itself to retaliate in much greater force in the event of an attack.-Strategy:...

 with nuclear weapons as a “last resort” against nations whose military attacks threaten its existence, and possibly against other targets as well.
Israel refuses to admit it has nuclear weapons
Nuclear weapons and Israel
Israel is widely believed to be the sixth country in the world to have developed nuclear weapons and to be one of four nuclear-armed countries not recognized as a Nuclear Weapons State by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty , the others being India, Pakistan and North Korea...

 or to describe how it would use them, an official policy of nuclear ambiguity
Policy of deliberate ambiguity
A policy of deliberate ambiguity is the practice by a country of being intentionally ambiguous on certain aspects of its foreign policy or whether it possesses certain weapons of mass destruction...

, also known as "nuclear opacity." This has made it difficult for anyone outside the Israeli government to definitively describe its true nuclear policy, while still allowing Israel to influence the perceptions, strategies and actions of other governments.

As early as 1976, the CIA believed that Israel possessed 10 to 20 nuclear weapons. By 2002 it was estimated that the number had increased to between 75 and 200 thermonuclear weapons, each in the multiple-megaton range. Kenneth S. Brower has estimated as many as 400 nuclear weapons. These can be launched from land, sea and air
Nuclear triad
A nuclear triad refers to a nuclear arsenal which consists of three components, traditionally strategic bombers, ICBMs and SLBMs. The purpose of having a three-branched nuclear capability is to significantly reduce the possibility that an enemy could destroy all of a nation's nuclear forces in a...

. This gives Israel a second strike
Second strike
In nuclear strategy, a second strike capability is a country's assured ability to respond to a nuclear attack with powerful nuclear retaliation against the attacker...

 option even if much of the country is destroyed.

The term "Samson Option" has also been used more generally in reference to Israel's nuclear program. Commentators have also employed the term in reference to situations where non-nuclear, non-Israeli actors, such as Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

, Yassir Arafat and Hezbollah have threatened conventional weapons retaliation—and even regarding former United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 President George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

's foreign policy.

Deterrence Doctrine


The original conception of the Samson Option was only as deterrence. According to US journalist Seymour Hersh
Seymour Hersh
Seymour Myron Hersh is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and author based in Washington, D.C. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine on military and security matters...

 and Israeli historian Avner Cohen
Avner Cohen
Avner Cohen is writer, historian, and professor, and is well known for his works on nuclear weapons. Cohen received a B.A. in Philosophy from Tel Aviv University in 1975. He went on to study at York University where he received an M.A. in Philosophy in 1977 and four years later earned a Ph.D....

, Israeli leaders like David Ben-Gurion
David Ben-Gurion
' was the first Prime Minister of Israel.Ben-Gurion's passion for Zionism, which began early in life, led him to become a major Zionist leader and Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization in 1946...

, Shimon Peres
Shimon Peres
GCMG is the ninth President of the State of Israel. Peres served twice as the eighth Prime Minister of Israel and once as Interim Prime Minister, and has been a member of 12 cabinets in a political career spanning over 66 years...

, Levi Eshkol
Levi Eshkol
' served as the third Prime Minister of Israel from 1963 until his death from a heart attack in 1969. He was the first Israeli Prime Minister to die in office.-Biography:...

 and Moshe Dayan
Moshe Dayan
Moshe Dayan was an Israeli military leader and politician. The fourth Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces , he became a fighting symbol to the world of the new State of Israel...

 coined the phrase in the mid-1960s. They named it after the biblical
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 figure Samson
Samson
Samson, Shimshon ; Shamshoun or Sampson is the third to last of the Judges of the ancient Israelites mentioned in the Tanakh ....

, who pushed apart the pillars of a Philistine
Philistines
Philistines , Pleshet or Peleset, were a people who occupied the southern coast of Canaan at the beginning of the Iron Age . According to the Bible, they ruled the five city-states of Gaza, Askelon, Ashdod, Ekron and Gath, from the Wadi Gaza in the south to the Yarqon River in the north, but with...

 temple, bringing down the roof and killing himself and thousands of Philistines who had gathered to see him humiliated. They contrasted it with ancient siege of Masada
Masada
Masada is the name for a site of ancient palaces and fortifications in the South District of Israel, on top of an isolated rock plateau, or horst, on the eastern edge of the Judean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea. Masada is best known for the violence that occurred there in the first century CE...

 where 936 Jewish Sicarii
Sicarii
Sicarii is a term applied, in the decades immediately preceding the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, to an extremist splinter group of the Jewish Zealots, who attempted to expel the Romans and their partisans from Judea using concealed daggers .-History:The Sicarii used...

 committed mass suicide
Mass suicide
- Examples :Mass suicide sometimes occurs in religious or cultic settings. Defeated groups may resort to mass suicide rather than being captured. Suicide pacts are a form of mass suicide unconnected to cults or war that are sometimes planned or carried out by small groups of frustrated people...

 rather than be defeated and enslaved by the Romans
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

.

Although nuclear weapons were viewed as the ultimate guarantor of Israeli security, as early as the 1960s the country avoided building its military around them, instead pursuing absolute conventional superiority so as to forestall a last resort nuclear engagement.

Seymour Hersh writes that the "surprising victory of Menachem Begin's Likud Party in the May 1977 national elections...brought to power a government that was even more committed than Labor to the Samson Option and the necessity of an Israeli nuclear arsenal."

Louis René Beres
Louis Rene Beres
Louis René Beres is a professor of Political Science at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN. The son of Austrian Jewish refugees, he was born on August 31, 1945 in Zürich, Switzerland and earned a B.A. from Queens College and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1971...

, a professor of Political Science
Political science
Political Science is a social science discipline concerned with the study of the state, government and politics. Aristotle defined it as the study of the state. It deals extensively with the theory and practice of politics, and the analysis of political systems and political behavior...

 at Purdue University
Purdue University
Purdue University, located in West Lafayette, Indiana, U.S., is the flagship university of the six-campus Purdue University system. Purdue was founded on May 6, 1869, as a land-grant university when the Indiana General Assembly, taking advantage of the Morrill Act, accepted a donation of land and...

, chaired Project Daniel
Project Daniel
Project Daniel was a 2003 Israeli project, commissioned to assess the threat to the nation of Israel from other states in the Middle East, drawing particular attention to Iran, with Iran's nuclear program in mind. It was prepared by a high-powered team of Israeli foreign policy and military experts...

, a group advising Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, argues in that paper and elsewhere that the effective deterrence of the Samson Option would be increased by ending the policy of nuclear ambiguity. In a 2004 article he recommends Israel use the Samson Option threat to “support conventional preemptions” against enemy nuclear and non-nuclear assets because “without such weapons, Israel, having to rely entirely upon non-nuclear forces, might not be able to deter enemy retaliations for the Israeli preemptive strike
Preemptive strike
A preemptive strike refers to a surprise attack launched with the stated intention of countering an anticipated enemy offensive.  Preemptive strike may also refer to:...

.” In 2002, the Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Times is a daily newspaper published in Los Angeles, California, since 1881. It was the second-largest metropolitan newspaper in circulation in the United States in 2008 and the fourth most widely distributed newspaper in the country....

 published an opinion piece by Louisiana State University
Louisiana State University
Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, most often referred to as Louisiana State University, or LSU, is a public coeducational university located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The University was founded in 1853 in what is now known as Pineville, Louisiana, under the name...

 professor David Perlmutter
David D. Perlmutter
David D. Perlmutter, PH.D. became the director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa on June 30, 2009. He is a Professor and Starch Faculty Fellow at the University of Iowa. As a documentary photographer, he is the author or editor of seven books on political...

 in which he wrote: "Israel has been building nuclear weapons for 30 years. The Jews understand what passive and powerless acceptance of doom has meant for them in the past, and they have ensured against it. Masada
Masada
Masada is the name for a site of ancient palaces and fortifications in the South District of Israel, on top of an isolated rock plateau, or horst, on the eastern edge of the Judean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea. Masada is best known for the violence that occurred there in the first century CE...

 was not an example to follow — it hurt the Romans not a whit, but Samson in Gaza? What would serve the Jew-hating world better in repayment for thousands of years of massacres but a Nuclear Winter. Or invite all those tut-tutting European statesmen and peace activists to join us in the ovens? For the first time in history, a people facing extermination while the world either cackles or looks away--unlike the Armenians, Tibetans, World War II European Jews or Rwandans--have the power to destroy the world. The ultimate justice?"

In 2003, Martin van Creveld
Martin van Creveld
Martin Levi van Creveld is an Israeli military historian and theorist.Van Creveld was born in the Netherlands in the city of Rotterdam, and has lived in Israel since shortly after his birth. He holds degrees from the London School of Economics and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he has...

, a professor
Professor
A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

 of military history at Israel’s Hebrew University, thought that the Al-Aqsa Intifada
Al-Aqsa Intifada
The Second Intifada, also known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada and the Oslo War, was the second Palestinian uprising, a period of intensified Palestinian-Israeli violence, which began in late September 2000...

 then in progress threatened Israel's existence. Van Creveld was quoted in David Hirst's "The Gun and the Olive Branch" (2003) as saying:
"We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all directions, perhaps even at Rome. Most European capitals are targets for our air force. Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: 'Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.' I consider it all hopeless at this point. We shall have to try to prevent things from coming to that, if at all possible. Our armed forces, however, are not the thirtieth strongest in the world, but rather the second or third. We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under.

See also

  • Massive retaliation
    Massive retaliation
    Massive retaliation, also known as a massive response or massive deterrence, is a military doctrine and nuclear strategy in which a state commits itself to retaliate in much greater force in the event of an attack.-Strategy:...

  • Israel and weapons of mass destruction
    Israel and weapons of mass destruction
    Israel is widely believed to possess weapons of mass destruction, and to be one of four nuclear-armed countries not recognized as a Nuclear Weapons State by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty...

  • No first use
  • Nuclear weapons and Israel
    Nuclear weapons and Israel
    Israel is widely believed to be the sixth country in the world to have developed nuclear weapons and to be one of four nuclear-armed countries not recognized as a Nuclear Weapons State by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty , the others being India, Pakistan and North Korea...

  • Project Daniel
    Project Daniel
    Project Daniel was a 2003 Israeli project, commissioned to assess the threat to the nation of Israel from other states in the Middle East, drawing particular attention to Iran, with Iran's nuclear program in mind. It was prepared by a high-powered team of Israeli foreign policy and military experts...

  • Preemptive war
    Preemptive war
    A preemptive war is a war that is commenced in an attempt to repel or defeat a perceived inevitable offensive or invasion, or to gain a strategic advantage in an impending war before that threat materializes. It is a war which preemptively 'breaks the peace'. The term: 'preemptive war' is...

  • Dahiya doctrine
    Dahiya doctrine
    The Dahiya doctrine is a military strategy put forth by the Israeli general Gadi Eizenkot that pertains to asymmetric warfare in an urban setting, in which the army deliberately targets civilian infrastructure, as a means of inducing suffering for the civilian population, thereby establishing...

  • Suicide attack
    Suicide attack
    A suicide attack is a type of attack in which the attacker expects or intends to die in the process.- Historical :...

  • Samson
    Samson
    Samson, Shimshon ; Shamshoun or Sampson is the third to last of the Judges of the ancient Israelites mentioned in the Tanakh ....


External links