Israeli media are calling it a "nuclear slip" of the tongue. Aides to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert deny any change in policy.See that last line. It's that alone that suggests that Olmert's openness may well have been a slip. Now we have to watch as American politicians justify breaking their own laws to fund a racist war criminal project to impose a segregationist system that America itself ditched in the 1960s.
Either way, Israel's decades-long position of nuclear weapons ambiguity appears to have crumbled after Olmert implied the Jewish state has the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal in an interview broadcast on German television.
It is less than a week since incoming U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, speculating at a Senate confirmation hearing on Iran's possible motives for trying to build nuclear arms, suggested that Israel had the bomb.
Olmert's remarks led Israeli news bulletins on Tuesday.
Both mass circulation Hebrew-language newspapers had front page headlines: "Olmert's nuclear slip of the tongue".
Speaking in English in the interview, Olmert said:
"Iran, openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Can you say that this is the same level, when they are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as America, France, Israel, Russia?"
Arch-foe Iran, whose president has called for the elimination of the "Zionist regime", has denied seeking nuclear arms. It says its nuclear programme is for civilian use.
Israel has long declined to confirm or deny having the bomb as part of a "strategic ambiguity" policy that it says fends off numerically superior Arab enemies.
This reticence is a major irritant for Arabs and Iran, which see a double standard in U.S. policy in the region.
By not declaring itself to be nuclear armed, Israel skirts a U.S. ban on funding countries that proliferate weapons of mass destruction. It can thus enjoy more than $2 billion in annual military and other aid from Washington.
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