The Samson option in Hebrew is pronounced as b’rerat Shimshon. The Samson option has its roots in the biblical philosophy of Israelites. When an Israelite, Judge Samson, was apprehended by the Philistines and tied in chains to the pillars of the Philistine temple. Samson pushed the pillars of the temple, bringing down the roof of the temple and killing himself with hundreds of Philistines who had captured him, yelling out loud, “Let me die with the Philistines.”

Israel has never officially recognized or claimed that it possesses an arsenal of nuclear weapons, but rather, it banks on the policy of nuclear opacity. Analysts and observers of the region refer to Israeli nuclear capability as “Nuclear weapons in the basement.”

Samson’s option is Israel’s D-Day strategy to annihilate the whole region by employing nuclear weapons in case Israel as a state is on the verge of collapse.

To understand Israeli strategic thinking and attitude toward its security, three factors are of critical importance. The first one is the Zionist ethos that led to the establishment of Israel as a state. Second is the historical narrative of the Holocaust. Third is the group of leaders who were committed to the survival of Israel as a state.

Israel’s actual nuclear policy is almost impossible to assess due to the lack of official information and the secrecy they have maintained for years of their nuclear program. The only source through which Israel’s nuclear policy could be possibly assessed is the CIA declassified documents and authors who have worked and written extensively on Israel’s nuclear program.

Martin Van Creveld, in his book “The Culture of War,” wrote that any talk about Israel’s nuclear weapons in Israel could lead to arrest, trial, and imprisonment. Thus, the Israeli authors, when talking about nuclear weapons, use terminologies like doomsday weapons and the Samson option.

In 1991, the American investigative journalist and political writer Seymour Hersh authored a book about Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy. Seymour argues that the top American military and political administration had willfully ignored the information and intelligence they had about Israel’s nuclear weapon program.

Israelis viewed nuclear weapons as the ultimate guarantor for the existence of a Jewish state since the 1960s. However, they continued to catch up in the conventional domain vis-à-vis their Arab neighbors. According to Seymour Hersh and Israeli historian Avner Cohen, Israeli leaders like David Ben Gurion, Shimon Peres, Levi Ashkol, and Moshe Dayan coined the biblical term Samson option in the 1960s.

The Samson option can be employed in case conventional deterrence fails. The CIA believed as early as 1976, the Israelis had stockpiled 10-20 nuclear weapons. By 2002, it was estimated that the stockpiled number had increased to more than 75 thermonuclear weapons. In 2006, George W. Bush’s defense secretary, Robert Gates, admitted in a senate hearing that Israel has nuclear weapons, and two years later, former US President Jimmy Carter also said that the number of Israeli nuclear warheads is more than 150. Those testimonies by senior US officials establish the fact that Israel does possess nuclear weapon capability.

The concept behind Samson’s option is to ensure credible deterrence and massive retaliation. The New York Times published an article titled “Last Secret of the Six-Day War.”

The article states that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) planned to insert a team of paratroopers into the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. The plan was to install a nuclear bomb on one of the mountaintops and detonate it in case the Egyptian army tried to cross the Sinai and warn neighboring belligerent states of the consequences.

The neighboring Arab armies vastly outnumbered Israel, yet they were able to pull out a victory. After the war ended, Israel had decapitated the Egyptian air force and occupied the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt and the Golan Heights from Syria. Retired IDF Brigadier General Itzhak Yakov referred to this operation as the Israel Samson’s option.

Similarly, in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, IDF was again outnumbered by the invading Arab armies. Then Israeli PM Golda Meir authorized a nuclear alert and ordered that nuclear warheads be readied for launch from missiles and aircraft. The Israeli ambassador to the US, Simcha Dinitz, met with Henry Kissinger to inform President Nixon of “Very serious conclusions” if the US did not airlift arms supplies to the IDF. Nixon complied with this demand due to the threat of the use of nuclear forces. This was the first successful use of the Samson option as a threat and tantamount to nuclear blackmail.

Israel enjoys the Nuclear monopoly in the region with the tacit support of the US, although there are many instances where Israelis accepted having nuclear weapons. Yet they fall short of officially recognizing that they possess nuclear weapon capability. This nuclear ambiguity is deliberate by Israeli strategist and aligns with their threat perception. Israel is not a signatory to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), nor does it ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

Israeli politicians and former state representatives sometimes mention having the nuclear capability to communicate with their adversaries; it is deliberate, not a slip of the tongue, as people perceive.

Amid the ongoing Israeli ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, one Israeli cabinet minister suggested dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza in the heat of conflict. Benjamin Netanyahu removed That minister from the cabinet without any legal action. The purpose was to communicate to Iran and other neighbors that Israel has nuclear capability and is willing to use it if required. That’s Israel Samson’s option very ambiguous, complex, and biblical. Israel uses it as the situation demands.

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