Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to accidentally admit his country has nuclear capabilities; with an apparent slip of the tongue on Sunday, January 5.
Netanyahu described his country as a “nuclear power” at a weekly cabinet meeting; before quickly correcting himself with an embarrassed smile.
Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons; but it has never confirmed or denied claims about its atomic arsenal; and has maintained a policy of deliberate ambiguity on the issue for decades.
While reading prepared remarks in Hebrew on a deal with Greece and Cyprus for a subsea gas pipeline; Netanyahu said: “The significance of this project is that we are turning Israel into a nuclear power.”
He immediately corrected himself to say “energy power” and then paused before continuing with his comments.
The apparent blunder comes at a time of heightened tensions between the US, an ally of Israel; and arch-foe Iran after Donald Trump ordered an airstrike which killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Iraq.
Netanyahu has welcomed the killing and praised Trump for ordering the strike; which sparked anger in the Middle East and threats of retaliation from Iran.
The Israeli prime minister is currently fighting for his political survival; after two inconclusive election results in April and September last year and an indictment on corruption charges in November.
He has denied the charges, which include bribery, fraud and breach of trust, and asked to be granted immunity.
The request is expected to delay his trial until after another election in March; which is now likely to focus on whether he should be granted immunity or step down to stand trial.
Despite international pressure, Israel has refused to sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons; which aims to further the goal of nuclear disarmament.
Its nuclear capabilities have been considered an open secret for years after Mordechai Vanunu; a former nuclear technician revealed details of the country’s alleged nuclear weapons programme in 1986.
Vanunu was later kidnapped by the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad and brought back to Israel; where he was sentenced to 18 years in jail for treason and espionage.