Trading away Israel’s deterrent

Thanks to prolific commenter Shalom Freedman for calling this current item to my attention:

The Middle East is in danger of accumulating large stocks of nuclear material over the next decade that could be used to produce over 1,700 nuclear bombs, a U.S. research center has projected in a newly released report.

The Institute for Science and International Security [ISIS], headed by David Albright, one the world’s top experts on nuclear weapons and the prevention of nuclear proliferation, recently released its report urging president-elect Barack Obama to take a number of measures to avoid such an outcome, including convincing Israel to halt production of its nuclear weapons.

“The Obama administration should make a key priority of persuading Israel to join the negotiations for a universal, verified treaty that bans the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for nuclear explosives, commonly called the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT),” the institute argued. “As an interim step, the United States should press Israel to suspend any production of fissile material for nuclear weapons…” — Ha’aretz

The UN’s nuclear ‘watchdog’ Mohammed ElBaradei was even more forthright in 2004:

“This is not really sustainable that you have Israel sitting with nuclear weapons capability there while everyone else is part of the non-proliferation regime,” ElBaradei told The Sydney Morning Herald.

ElBaradei said Muslims in the surrounding region resented Israel’s nuclear arsenal and wanted it to be part of the non-proliferation program.

“It is a very emotional issue in the Middle East,” ElBaradei said.  — Ha’aretz

Emotional indeed. ElBaradei went on to say that he was ‘encouraged’ by Iran’s agreement to suspend enrichment (remember that?),

But he warned that getting Tehran to give up any ambition to develop nuclear weapons would depend on whether Israel was brought into the equation…

Commenting on Israel’s stance that a comprehensive peace settlement must be in place before nuclear disarmament could go ahead, ElBaradei recommended a compromise.

“My take on this is that we will probably need to do the two together in tandem,” he said. “You need a security structure to undergird, if you like, protect, that peace process.”

The idea that Iran is building nuclear weapons to protect itself against aggression from Israel is beyond absurd — except perhaps in the halls of the UN. And the suggestion that Israel should give up her last-ditch deterrent against an attack with weapons of mass destruction — which have been stockpiled by her enemies — while she is effectively at war, is nothing less then a demand for national suicide. But ElBaradei is a UN man and an Egyptian to boot, so what else should one expect?

The ISIS report is another matter. There’s no doubt that it will be taken seriously by the incoming administration. Although it does not call for Israel to divest herself of existing weapons now, this is the ultimate goal:

To reduce the risk of proliferation in the Middle East and help lay the basis for a regionwide nuclear weapon free zone (NWFZ), the United States must ensure that plutonium is not separated from irradiated reactor fuel, insist on adequate international inspections of these countries, including the adoption of the Additional Protocol, and develop mechanisms to remove spent fuel from the region.  [my emphasis]

“These countries” include “Iran, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Iraq … Israel [and] Turkey”.  This is another example of the “you guys stop fighting” syndrome, which everyone remembers from his or her schooldays, in which the authority figure makes no attempt to distinguish between the bullies and the bullied.

It’s safe to say that if there is one country in the world which actually needs nuclear weapons it’s ‘the Jew among nations’, Israel. And although it sounds naive in today’s media climate, the truth is that Israel would like nothing more than to live at peace with her neighbors, while they would like nothing more than to destroy her. 

The argument that proliferation would be reduced if Israel gets rid of her capability would only be true if her enemies sought nuclear weapons out of fear that Israel would attack them. But the majority of Israelis and their leadership have made it clear that they do not want to expand the territory under their control.  And Israel has acted in a way consistent with this belief, shedding the Sinai and Gaza and leaving southern Lebanon.

Indeed, if Israel did not have nuclear capability, then it would be advantageous for her enemies to obtain it themselves, since it could then be used against Israel without fear of a counterstrike! Furthermore, if Israel gave up her deterrent it would increase the possibility of a chemical/biological attack, which historically has been deterred by fear of a nuclear response.

The ISIS report, in its narrow focus on the sheer quantity of nuclear material in the region without considering the ramifications of who possesses it and what they might do with it, does not do the cause of peace any favors.  In fact, the argument is so bad that one suspects that it is being made now and in this form to act as support and cover for a deal in which Israel’s deterrent will traded for an Iranian promise.

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One Response to “Trading away Israel’s deterrent”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    David Albright is considered one of the great experts on non- proliferation. But for years now he has consistently underplayed the Iranian nuclear threat, and taken a position quite similar to the IAEA. In any case it seems reprehensible to me that those who failed in properly warning against the Iranian nuclear deception should now try to redefine the rules of the game in order to deal with the problem.
    More importantly the argument here for Israel’s being the country in the world with greatest justification for having its own nuclear capability seems to me incontestably right.