Some sources claim that the warheads, mounted on long-range Jericho missiles, are intended for deterrence and as weapons of last resort. Evidence for this is French and Russian satellite data revealing that they are not siloed in border regions but instead at the center of Israel–a defensive arrangement.
However, Steinbach’s report draws a rather different conclusion. Deterrence weapons are usually designed to have a very high yield; they are doomsday devices. However, a large fraction of the Israeli arsenal consists of neutron bombs. These produce a relatively small explosion and less radioactive fallout than other designs. Their primary mechanism of destruction is a deadly burst of high-speed neutrons, which destroys all living tissue within miles. Because of this design, Israeli bombs could even be used against their immediate neighbors without Israel suffering much from the radioactive cloud they produce. The US calls such low-yield bombs “theater nuclear weapons” and plans to build more of them for a variety of battlefield and first-strike roles (see Bush’s recent Nuclear Posture Review, analysis). The idea of first-strike nukes is that they should be small enough so as to not deter the country who owns them from launching them. In this way, the Israeli arsenal has the makeup of a first-strike force.
The article goes on to hint that Israel’s neighbors aren’t really much of threat — which is clearly ludicrous. Those neighbors are desperate to get their hands on nuclear weapons and would be delighted to launch a first strike against their sworn enemy.
Although I tend to think that allowing the Soviet Union to acquire nuclear weapons was a bad idea, at least that nation was rational enough to keep the war chilly. There would be no such option in the Middle East if a militant Islamic regime got their hands on nukes. A very hot war would likely erupt immediately.