How many nuclear weapons does Israel have in its possession has always been a matter of conjecture; heck, Israel has never even admitted it has nuclear weapons in its arsenal, but now a former American president has spilt the beans on the number.
At a press conference at the annual literary Hay Festival in Wales, former president Jimmy Carter said the Jewish State has at least 150 nuclear weapons in its armoury.
His answer came in response to a question on America's policy towards a nuclear-armed Iran, wherein he argued that any newly-turned nuclear State faces enormous odds, the BBC reports.
'The US has more than 12,000 nuclear weaons, so does the Soviet Union. Great Britain and France have several hundreds while Israel has 150 or more,' the BBC quotes him as saying. 'We have a phalanx of enormous capabilities, not only of weaponry but also of rockets to deliver every one of those missiles to a pinpoint accuracy target.'
The United States, a key ally of Israel, has been deliberately ambiguous about the latter's nuclear weapons, and most experts go by the information leaked in the 1980s by a former employee at Dimona nuclear reactor that Israel has between 100 and 200 nuclear weapons. Carter's estimate falls within this range.
But his statement has set off protests from the Israeli establishment. Aharon Zeevi-Farkash, Israel's former chief of military intelligence, dubbed Carter's statement 'irresponsible.' 'There are those who can use these statements when it comes to discussing the international effort to prevent Iran getting nuclear weapons,' he said.
What he overlooked was that, in December 2006, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had himself included Israel among a list of nuclear states, and just a week prior to that US Defence Secretary Robert Gates did something similar.