-The views expressed are the author’s own-

For the past four decades, there has been an elephant in the room whenever experts and government officials met to discuss nuclear weapons. The elephant is Israel’s sizeable nuclear arsenal, undeclared under a U.S.-blessed policy of “nuclear opacity.”

It means neither confirming nor denying the existence of nuclear weapons. “Deterrence by uncertainty,” as Israeli President Shimon Peres has called it. The United States became a silent partner in Israeli opacity with a one-on-one meeting between President Richard Nixon and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir on Sept. 26, 1969.

That policy made strategic and political sense 40 years ago but it has outlived its usefulness, conflicts with Israel’s democratic values, is counter-productive and should be abandoned. So argues Avner Cohen, one of the world’s leading experts on Israel’s bomb, in a new book “The Worst-Kept Secret”, which delves deeply into the history and strategic and political implications of the policy.

The book’s publication coincided with a rising chorus of warnings by U.S. and Israeli hawks over the dire consequences of Iran obtaining a nuclear bomb, an aim Iran firmly denies. In several essays over the summer, American neo-conservatives pounded the drums of war against Iran. On a visit to the U.S. last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a “credible threat of military action” from the West was necessary to stop Iran from making a nuclear bomb.

In his book, Cohen says it is almost impossible to predict the outcome of the current battle of wills between Iran and the West. But if Iran were willing to negotiate seriously, it might agree to substantial concessions only on a regional basis, as a step towards establishing a nuclear-free zone.