BigMo’s Blog

Politics and Economics in Israel

Nuclear Tap Dance

When will the other shoe drop?

A piece of Barack Obama’s comprehensive peace plan emerged in the last few days, but was given very little coverage outside of the Middle East. Israeli papers, and their English-language web sites covered it, there were quite a few op-ed pieces, as well as the usual blog traffic. It involved Israel’s well-known, but opaque nuclear capabilities.

On Tuesday, May 5th, the US Assistant Secretary of State Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller urged Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea to sign the non-proliferation treaty. One hundred eighty-nine nations have. This includes Iran, which is flagrant violation; and Libya, which was “scared straight” by former President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003. Speaking of which, Iraq was also a member of that elite club, but simply chose to ignore the rules. So, what value would a signature have?

Bargaining Chips

If Israel were to sign the NPT treaty, it would open the door to IAEA inspections. This means Dimona, the site of most of Israel’s nuclear research activities. The reasoning goes like this: if Israel were to sign and admit inspectors, it would put pressure on Iran to give IAEA inspectors access to Iranian facilities, and also put pressure on them to start abiding by previously agreed upon limitations. However, reason and Iran seldom go together.

If it were reasonable, wouldn’t it have responded to the first round of sanctions? What about the second round of sanctions, which it ignored? Reason would also dictate that with 120,000+ US troops based in countries on its eastern and western borders, Iran would act cautiously. That hasn’t fazed the Iranians, either. America, weary of both wars, their costs and their casualties, would like nothing better than to leave both Iraq and Afghanistan. It knows it cannot do either, as Iran is poised to fill the vacuum should America leave precipitously.

It’s going to drop soon

Uzi Even, a former Knesset member and scientist at the nuclear reactor in Dimona, said the statement by the assistant secretary of state is indicative of a change in the US’ policy towards Israel regarding its nuclear capabilities. “In the past there was an informal agreement between the US and Israel; the Americans knew Israel possessed nuclear arms but looked the other way,” he said, “now the US breaching this agreement.”

Even suggests that Israel must change its deliberately vague nuclear policy and sign the NPT, which would place Dimona under international supervision. This would also allow Israel to develop nuclear weapons, at least theoretically. Even’s thinking is short-sighted.  Because the other shoe that is likely to drop as part of President Obama’s comprehensive plan is likely to be some sort of “strategic arms limitation treaty” for the Middle East. Everybody gets nukes and missiles, just not a lot of them.

Prime Minister Netanyahu better start polishing his own tap shoes before he goes to Washington: he just might need them.

May 15, 2009 - Posted by | Middle East | , , , ,

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