The Israeli nuclear weapons program is clouded in deliberate mystery through a policy they term "strategic ambiguity." The Israelis neither admit nor deny possessing nuclear arms, but since Mordechai Vanunu's 1986 exposure of Israel's program in Dimona, the world has had few doubts. Mohammed al-Baradei, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), visited Israel Tuesday, but this will not prompt the Israelis to come clean on the truth. His trip should, however, push Israel to rethink its attitude on nuclear weapons.

Baradei's aim is to create a nuclear weapons-free Middle East; Israel, as the only country not to have signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty in the Middle East, is the place to start. Israel has made a taboo out of nuclear weapons long after the world realized the importance of talking openly about nukes in order to get rid of them.

Israel is living under the false assumption that possessing weapons of mass destruction ultimately provides security. This is an illusion, as effective security is created only when all parties feel safe, particularly neighboring countries. With Israel possessing as many as 200 nuclear warheads, according to international experts, it is difficult for any country in the region to feel safe, or to embrace Israel as a friendly neighbor.

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