For decades, military censors have struggled to defend Israel's worst-kept secret -- that the country possesses atomic weapons.
Even as its nuclear history has leaked into declassified documents, articles and books, an official policy of "ambiguity" has endured: By refusing to confirm or deny that it has the bomb, and refraining from testing one, Israel has lived up to a quiet understanding with the United States to avoid fueling a Middle East arms race.
So why does it appear that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert finally spilled the beans?
In an interview on German television late Monday, the Israeli leader seemed to list Israel among the world's nuclear club, raising an outcry across the political spectrum here and questions about whether the long-standing policy had been abandoned.
Asked by the interviewer about Iran's calls for the destruction of Israel, Olmert replied that Israel had never threatened to annihilate anyone.
"Iran openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map," Olmert said. "Can you say that this is the same level, when you are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as America, France, Israel, Russia?"
Israel's newspapers reported the remark Tuesday under front-page headlines, one calling it a "nuclear slip of the lip."
Olmert's office said the quote was taken out of context and that he had been listing "responsible nations," not nuclear states. Aides also noted that the prime minister had refused several times during the interview to confirm that Israel has nuclear weapons and that he had spoken in English, not his native language.