The truth is that very few specifics are known about Israel’s nuclear weapons. This lack of information is due to the immense secrecy that surrounds the program: few Israelis and Americans have substantial details, and there have been almost no leaks. Over the years estimates have ranged between 10 and 400 missiles, but most guesses hover between 100 and 200 missiles.
A little more is known about the background of the situation. The Israeli nuclear program began in the 1950’s with French assistance. Furthermore, it is widely believed that Israel conducted a zero yield (no resulting explosion) “cold test” in 1966 in order to test the viability of its theoretical research. Israel has signed but not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the Chemical Weapons convention, but is not party to any of the other major nonproliferation treaties, including the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Israel has repeatedly said that they will not be the first nation to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East, but, as I’ve detailed before, its posture of nuclear opacity continues to stymie regional peace efforts. Israel also has the region’s most advanced missile delivery systems, comprised of both ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, as well as extensive missile defense systems. Its delivery options include aircraft, submarines, and land-based systems. These details are known despite the fact that Israel refuses to be straightforward about its missile capabilities.
The inherent irony of national security is that an increase in one nation’s security decreases the security of its neighbors. What Israel fails to see is how its lack of transparency, which it sees as a security measure, actually makes makes
regional rivals less secure and pushes them to attain more sophisticated weapons.