The Samson Option

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Date/Time: 10th October, 1973 / 11:00:00 Zulu
Location: Egypt – Sinai Peninsula
Playable Sides: Israel
Duration: 4 Hours

Officially, Israel is not a nuclear power.

During the first days of the Yom Kippur War, with the initial surprise breakthroughs on both the northern and southern borders by the combined Arab armies, Israel’s military was in near-panic. The alarmed Defence Minister Moshe Dayan told Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir that "this is the end of the third temple." He was warning of Israel’s impending total defeat, but "Temple" was also the code word for nuclear weapons.

Dayan again raised the nuclear topic in a cabinet meeting, warning that the country was approaching a point of "last resort". The same night, Meir authorized the assembly of thirteen nuclear ‘physics packages’, to arm Jericho I missiles at Sdot Micha Airbase (aka "Second Wing"), and F-4E aircraft at Tel Nof Airbase (aka "Black Squadron"), for use against Syrian and Egyptian targets. They would be used if absolutely necessary to prevent total collapse at the front lines, or as the final retaliation for Israel’s destruction. However, the preparations were deliberately performed in an easily observable manner, likely as a signal to the US and USSR.

US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger learned of the nuclear alert on the morning of October 9. That day, in keeping with his deal and warning which prevented a pre-emptive Israeli attack on the massing Arab armies, US President Nixon ordered the commencement of Operation Nickel Grass, a massive airlift operation to replace all of Israel’s material losses (especially its aircraft) and provide additional support hardware such as brand-new electronic jammers to defeat Arab SAMs. (According to anecdotal evidence, Kissinger told Sadat that the reason for the US airlift was that the Israelis were very close to "going nuclear".)

In this hypothetical scenario, the US took too long to commit to providing the vital assistance, and Israel’s leadership became desperate enough to step into the nuclear abyss.

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