The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel's Bargain with the Bomb

Hardcover (Print)
Buy Used
Buy Used from
(Save 28%)
Item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging.
Condition: Used – Good details
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $7.45
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 91%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (13) from $7.45   
  • New (5) from $34.76   
  • Used (8) from $7.45   


"Israel has made a unique contribution to the nuclear age. It has created---with the tacit support of the United States---a special "bargain" with the bomb. Israel is the only nuclear-armed state that refuses to acknowledge its possession of the bomb, even though its existence is common knowledge throughout the world. It only says that it will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East." "The bomb is Israel's collective unmentionable---the nation's last great taboo. This bargain has a name: in Hebrew, it is called amimut, or opacity. By adhering to the bargain, which was born in a secret deal between Richard Nixon and Golda Meir, Israel has created a code of nuclear conduct that encompasses both governmental policy and societal behavior. The bargain has deemphasized the salience of nuclear weapons, yet it is incompatible with the norms and values of a liberal democracy. It relies on secrecy, violates the public right to know, and undermines the norm of public accountability and oversight, among other offenses. It is also incompatible with emerging international nuclear norms." Author of the critically acclaimed Israel and the Bomb, Avner Cohen offers a bold and original study of this politically explosive subject. Along with a fair appraisal of the bargain's strategic merits, Cohen critiques its undemocratic flaws. Arguing that the bargain has become increasingly anachronistic, he calls for a reform in line with domestic democratic values as well as current international nuclear norms. Most ironic, he believes Iran is imitating Israeli amimut. Cohen concludes with fresh perspectives on Iran, Israel, and the effort toward global disarmament.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Ethan Bronner
Unlike most critics of Israel's nuclear policy Mr. Cohen supports its decision to build and maintain the bomb. But he says that refusing to acknowledge this arsenal or foster internal discussion about it is now counterproductive…Agree or not—and Mr. Cohen acknowledges that a vast majority in Israel considers opacity a success—this exploration of the issues is thoughtful, measured and deep, and very much worthy of wide consideration.
—The New York Times
New York Times
[Cohen's] exploration of the issues is thoughtful, measured and deep, and very much worthy of wide consideration.

— Ethan Bronner

A brave, provocative, and very important book.

— Bruce Riedel

Samuel Lewis

Cohen's second outstanding book on Israel's nuclear project, and the veil of ambiguity that has swathed it from inception, provides a richly detailed account of its history and a provocative analysis of its future. Cohen shows how Israel's beleaguered national existence and persistent Holocaust memories led to the taboo on any acknowledgment of its nuclear weapons program, which cannot, in his view, any longer serve Israel's interests. This is a splendid work of historical research as well as a thought-provoking challenge for both current and future Israeli and American policymakers.

Morton H. Halperin

This important book should be read by anyone interested in understanding the changes that Israel will need to make in its nuclear program as the world reduces reliance on nuclear weapons. Cohen makes a compelling case for why it is in Israeli's interest to confirm its nuclear weapons program and participate in efforts to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons.

Seymour M. Hersh

Avner Cohen has written the most informed history of Israel's secret drive to get the bomb, and now he has gone further. In The Worst-Kept Secret, he describes and explains Israel's insistence that all talk or writing about its nuclear arsenal be exorcised from public discourse. The nuclear "taboo," as Cohen depicts it, continues unabated today, undermining Israeli democracy at home and its credibility abroad.

Aluf Benn

Cohen's persistent research and numerous books and articles have set the standard in the field and serve as an unrivaled source for anyone interested in Israel's biggest taboo. The Worst-Kept Secret provides a firm factual basis upon which our knowledge about Israel's nuclear program, with its richness of historic detail and personal anecdotes, rests. Moreover, it lays out a wide-ranging theoretical framework for discussing the pros and cons of Israel's amimut policy and its prolonged effect on the country's democracy and governance and its possible future revision. This book will undoubtedly serve as the new benchmark for studying and debating its topic.

New York Times - Ethan Bronner

[Cohen's] exploration of the issues is thoughtful, measured and deep, and very much worthy of wide consideration.

Haaretz - Bruce Riedel

A brave, provocative, and very important book.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231136983
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 11.80 (h) x 1.17 (d)

Meet the Author

Avner Cohen is a senior fellow at the Washington Office of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies. He has published on subjects as varied as nuclear proliferation and nuclear history, political theory, skepticism, and Israeli history. He is the author of Israel and the Bomb and the coeditor of Nuclear Weapons and the Future of Humanity and The Institution of Philosophy.

Columbia University Press

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents



Introduction: Amimut as a National Nuclear Bargain


1 The Birth of Amimut 1

2 The Case for Amimut 34

3 Israel's Nuclear Path: The Key Decisions 56

4 The Infrastructure of Amimut 88

5 The Citizenry: The Taboo Keepers 121

6 The Democratic Cost of Amimut: The Impact on the Citizenry 147

7 The Democratic Cost of Amimut: Governance 171

8 Domestic Reforms 203

9 Iran, the Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty (FMCT), and Beyond 214

10 Toward a New Bargain 241

Epilogue 259

Notes 265

Bibliography 333

Index 357

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)