How The Sausages Get Made
Jeff Goldberg did a great interview with President Israeli Shimon Peres. One take-away: while we often talk about Israel's policies in terms of long-term strategy, political philosophy, and ideology, some of the most important decisions are basically snap decisions. (Incidentally, that was one of the main criticisms of Netanyahu in the new Lindenstrauss report on the flotilla incident: he made decisions haphazardly and ignored the more studied results of the bureaucracy below him.) Here's Peres on how in the early sixties he created Israel's policy of denying its nuclear program:
I came in and Kennedy started to ask me questions like a machine gun…All of a sudden he said, 'Do you have a nuclear bomb?' I said, 'Mr. President, I assure you, Israel will not be the first country to introduce a nuclear weapon into the Middle East.' I didn't have a better answer. When I left the room our ambassador said, ‘How dare you say that. You can't make government policy’… Then I got a cable from the Prime Minister, saying, ‘How dare you say that. You can't make government policy’… Then I got a cable from the Prime Minister, saying, ‘How dare you?' And then of course, it [denying Israel’s nuclear arms] became official policy. This has been the official policy answer of Israel for half a century.