Should Israel accept a nuclear ban? The strained relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu over Israel’s threats of unilateral action against Iran has focused the world’s attention on the sensitive issue of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. Would Israel be safer if Netanyahu agreed to a regional nonproliferation treaty, as will be discussed at a conference in Finland later this year? Or would giving up nuclear weapons be suicidal for Israel?
This question was debated in the pages of The New York Times (March 8).
One argument in favour of Israel participating in the conference was advanced by Micah Zenko, Fellow for Conflict Prevention at the Council for Foreign Relations: “It is time for Israel to come out of the nuclear closet. By maintaining this fiction, Israel has pigeonholed itself as an international pariah, allowing adversaries and the nonaligned movement to use Israeli intransigence as an excuse to slow progress on nuclear nonproliferation objectives, including preventing a nuclear Iran.”
Menachem Klein, of Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Isreal, took a similar view: “Zionism is…about leaving behind old concepts as it brings the Jewish state into the family of nations as an equal member. It’s about time for Israeli leaders to understand that Israel’s economic, physical and technological superiority and its political exclusivity cannot assure the state’s long-term existence. They need to consider regional security and peace agreements so that Israel no longer remains outside the international supervision of nuclear weapons.”
Another view was put forward by Daniel Gordis, President of the Shalem Foundation: “If Iran is a rational actor, the only factor preventing its attacking Israel is Israel’s second-strike capacity. And if it is not rational, all the more reason Israel should not bear sole responsibility for ensuring that Iran not acquire such a weapon of mass destruction.
“Every reasonable observer of the Middle East knows which country might use such a weapon, and which would not. Can anyone, no matter how critical of Israel on the Palestinian front, even imagine a scenario in which Israel would use a nuclear weapon pre-emptively against an enemy? Has the international conversation become so corrupted we now compare Israel’s moral compass to Ahmadinejad’s?
“Had Israel’s neighbors ever accepted its right to exist, a level nuclear playing field might be fair. But they never have, and after Hosni Mubarak and Bashar al-Assad, Israel will face more enemies, not less.”