Reuven Pedatzur has an interesting article in Haaretz about challenges posed internationally to Israel’s nuclear program. While it doesn’t break much new ground, there is an interesting fear that he warns Israeli policymakers about, which could prove quite fruitful if added to a progressive agenda concerning nuclear weapons in the Middle East:
Israel’s nuclear potential will not disappear from the international agenda. The position of Egypt, which through the years has led the moves to expose Israel’s nuclear capability, is likely only to become more extreme. If there is one issue that all Egyptian parties can unite behind in the election campaign scheduled for the end of the year, it is Israeli nuclear capability. More and more voices are calling for a link between pressure on Iran about its nuclear program and Israel’s nuclear program.
I think this is a brilliant idea. Probably someone’s already thought of, or written about this. But why not approach the problem of nuclear weapons in the Middle East in a comprehensive, rather than country-by-country basis. Instead of singling out Iran, why not say we’ve got to deal with every country in the region which has, or threatens to gain nuclear weapons. This may mean we have to take much more seriously the notion of a nuclear free zone, which currently is something that the nuclear-haves scoff at. Why not tell those nuclear countries that if you want to keep your nukes, then be prepared to admit new members to your club. Members you might prefer to bar, rather than welcome.
On the other hand, if you’re willing to de-nuke along with all other nations in the region, you’ll render the Middle East a lot less volatile place, which will increase your own national security. I don’t think this will work sans peace treaty resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But it’s a target worth aiming for.
If Iran were smart it would make a generous offer to resolve the nuclear impasse, but tie it to restrictions on Israel’s nuclear program as well, including its entrance into NPT and decommissioning a specified number of nuclear warheads, and progress toward a nuclear-free Middle East. This would put Israel in the extremely uncomfortable position of being the impediment to a nuclear deal which the U.S., Israel and the western powers claim to have sought for years. Similarly, if Iran truly seeks a region that is more stable and less militarily volatile, it should welcome the opportunity to reduce the danger posed by one of its enemies to all states in the Middle East.
Returning to Israel, someone needs to tell it in no uncertain terms that if it wants to maintain anywhere from 200-400 (depending on whose counting) nuclear warheads, then it will also encourage nations like Iran to follow suit. If Israel wishes to remain outside the Non Proliferation Treaty, then it will have no right to criticize the actions of a country like Iran which is inside NPT. It’s really an issue of hypocrisy. Israel simply cannot make demands of others which it isn’t willing to respect itself.