“Deterrence was not attained by other countries – France and Italy – and even the United States. It was attained by the State of Israel and its Prime Minster who decided, acted and created a fact that no one in the world today – with the exception of our enemies – regrets.” – Yitzhak Shamir, on the destruction of Iraq’s Osirak
Israel, a country which does not maintain or deny whether it has nuclear capabilities, has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its leaders have reiterated that they will not be pressured into signing. Last month President Barack Obama urged all nations, including Israel, to sign the treaty. The response of Israel’s Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, was particularly astute.
Speaking at a memorial service for fallen IDF soldiers on April 14, he asserted, that Israel, unlike several of the nations which have signed the treaty, has never threatened to annihilate other nations. “There is no room to pressure Israel to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” Barak noted. “Israel has never threatened to annihilate other nations and peoples, while today Iran, and also Syria, Libya and Iraq in the past, all of whom signed this treaty, systematically breaches it while expressly threatening Israel.”
While Israel is not a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it has arguably done more to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East than any other nation or organization.
Although the actions were unpopular, including with the United States, Israel took out Iraq’s Osirak on June 7, 1981. This decision to bomb the Iraqi reactor was not made lightly, but only after diplomatic talks with France, which financed and supported the Iraqi project, ultimately failed. Italy, a recipient of Iraq’s oil at the time, was also deaf to Israel’s appeals to effectively stop the Iraqis from attaining nuclear weapons. It is particularly important to recognize that the United States would very likely have faced a nuclear-armed Iraq during the Persian Gulf War in 1991 had the Israelis not acted alone to destroy Iraq’s nuclear capabilities.
On September 6, 2007 the Israeli Air Force launched an attack on the al-Kibar nuclear facility in Syria. Israeli officials were relatively quiet about destroying Syria’s nuclear capabilities in the Syrian desert, yet so was Syria. Rather than to call on the United Nation’s Security Council to perfunctorily condemn Israel, Syria’s response was to clean the area of any traces of debris. In the past Syria had denied having a nuclear reactor, therefore suggesting a cover-up when debris was removed and a new building erected on the al-Kibar site. Most evidence points to the fact that the Syrians were building a nuclear reactor with assistance from North Korea.
Israel’s presumed nuclear program and capabilities are under current scrutiny from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which is reportedly planning to discuss Israel’s supposed nuclear programs next month. Although the IAEA was established separate of the United Nations, it reports to both the UN’s General Assembly and Security Council.
The IAEA is the same organization which has been incapable of deterring rogue states from enriching uranium. This list includes existential threats like Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan. The IAEA’s decision to single out Israel, a country which has never resorted to using its nuclear weapons, is curious. There appears to be a conspicuous lack of distinction made between Israel’s alleged nuclear program, which can only be in place for defensive purposes, and Iran’s offensive nuclear program, which, out of the mouths of Iran’s leaders, aims to obliterate Israel and much of the Middle East. Iran’s sponsorship of terrorist organizations which act as its proxies, such as Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas, is no secret.
A popular argument featured in “talkback” sections and plenty of blogs is that Iran should be able to attain nuclear weapons since Israel apparently has them in its possession. One has to wonder if those who argue that Iran should have the ability to attain nukes because Israel might possibly have them would also have us believe that the United States should have shared our nuclear weapons programs and capabilities with Germany and Japan during World War II.
Reut Cohen is a JPC contributor and author of the blog www.reutrcohen.com.