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The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel's Bargain with the Bomb Hardcover – October 6, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0231136983 ISBN-10: 0231136986

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (October 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231136986
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231136983
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,322,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


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.

(Samuel Lewis, U.S. Ambassador to Israel, 1977-1985)

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.

(Morton H. Halperin, senior advisor, Open Society Institute)

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.

(Seymour M. Hersh, author of The Samson Option: Israel's Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy)

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.

(Aluf Benn, editor-at-large, Haaretz)

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

(Ethan Bronner New York Times)

A brave, provocative, and very important book.

(Bruce Riedel Haaretz)

(Vanity Fair)


Cohen reveals himself once again to be the reigning authority on the history of the Israeli bomb. Brilliant, compelling, and definitive

(Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb)

More About the Author

I am a Senior Fellow at the Washington Office of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) of the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Prior to that appointment I was a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (2009-10). Since 2000 I have been also affiliated with the Center for International and Security Studies (CISSM) at the University of Maryland. I am on J-street Advisory Board and a board member of Daisy Alliance, an NGO based in Atlanta GA.

After undergraduate study at Tel Aviv University in Philosophy and History (1975), I earned his M.A. in Philosophy at York University (1977) and Ph.D. from the Committee on History of Culture of the University of Chicago (1981). I was a member of the philosophy department at Tel Aviv University from 1983 to 1991 and have held various visiting academic positions at a number of American universities. In 2005 I was the Forchheimer Visiting Professor at the Hebrew University. I am now an adjunct professor at the Monterey Institute of International Studies which has become in 2010 the graduate school of Middlebury College,

I was awarded twice the research and writing award of the MacArthur Foundation (1990, 2004). In 2007-08 and 1997-98 I was a Senior Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). I was was co-director of the Project on Nuclear Arms Control in the Middle East at the Security Studies Program at MIT for five years (1990-95).

I am the co-editor (with Stephen Lee) of Nuclear Weapons and the Future of Humanity (Rowman & Allanheld, 1986), The Institution of Philosophy (Open Court, 1989), and the author of The Nuclear Age as Moral History (in Hebrew, 1989. My most recognized book, Israel and the Bomb, was published in 1998 in its English version and in 2000 in its Hebrew version. The Worst Kept Secret: Israel's Bargain with the Bomb, which came out this month by Columbia University Press is my most recent book

I have published dozens of articles and chapters in academic journals and books, as well as over a hundred of op-ed pieces in major newspapers in the United States and Israel.

Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Peter Ramming on June 30, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book by Avner Cohen is as good an account of Israel's nuclear arsenal as is likely to be written for a good while, and is a must-read for anyone interested in Israel's development of nuclear weapons and in its official policy of "nuclear opacity" ("amimut" in Hebrew), by which Israel neither confirms nor denies that it possesses nuclear weapons. Cohen, who has researched Israeli nuclear issues for over 25 years, is probably more knowledgeable about this subject than any person outside the circle of state actors, scientists, and bureaucrats who have had firsthand roles in Israel's nuclear program from its inception under David Ben-Gurion to its contemporary stewards such as Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu.
Cohen has interviewed many of the principal actors (several of whom have died in the meantime) over the years, as well as pursuing as much documentary evidence as is available from Israeli or foreign sources. The problem is that Israeli authorities have been remarkably effective over the last sixty years in keeping most aspects of their nuclear weapons program secret, so that Cohen has to couch his assertions of "facts" in language that makes clear he is often speculating, however highly informed these speculations may be.
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By ken krasner on December 2, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
good: lots of information i didn't know about.
bad: written more like a report than a book
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11 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Lecteur on November 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Avner Cohen has excellently researched the subject and exposes it clearly and interestingly.
The book contains various chapters and insights and is a must read for those interested in the Middle East.
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1 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A. Fornos on March 2, 2012
Format: Paperback
The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel's Bargain with the Bomb
This promises to be a fascinating book but for the first time ever, I must protest a product description. Who wrote the product description for this book? Iranian Ayatollahs perhaps? The description is unacceptable and must be changed. Criticisms about Israel, its national choices and political priorities should be limited to contents of REVIEWS, where they can be safely ignored. Product description of a book should be limited to its CONTENTS, and avoid condescension towards prospective readers, as to what they should think.
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