Jimmy Carter, in violation of a decades-old U.S. policy, publicly acknowledged that Israel has nuclear weapons.
The former U.S. president, asked during an appearance at a British literary festival Sunday about Western efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear program, listed existing atomic arsenals.
“The U.S. has more than 12,000 nuclear weapons, the Soviet Union has about the same, Great Britain and France have several hundred, and Israel has 150 or more,” he told the audience, according to a transcript of the event.
The comments raised eyebrows in Israel, which since the Nixon administration has enjoyed “don’t ask, don’t tell” understandings in Washington regarding its non-conventional military capabilities.
Jerusalem officials, having largely shunned Carter during a recent visit in which he tried to broker talks between Israel and Hamas, declined comment on his new statements.
Aharon Zeevi-Farkash, former chief of Israel’s military intelligence, suggested Carter may have spoken in response to feeling “offended” at the cold shoulder he got from the Olmert government.
“The problem is that there are those who can use these statements when it comes to discussing the
international effort to prevent Iran getting nuclear weapons,” Zeevi-Farkash told Israel Radio.