Repeatedly, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Chief Mohammed al-Baradei has urged Israel to accept nuclear disarmament and join a Middle East “nuclear-weapon-free zone.” Although this official proposal sounds perfectly reasonable and even-handed in principle, it would, in fact, lead quickly to Israel’s final demise. Still surrounded by states and terror groups openly committed to its annihilation, Israel must soon remind the world, that it has an absolutely fundamental right of self-preservation.
As my readers in The Jewish Press have heard so often, International Law is not a suicide pact. Surprise! Israel has the very same rights of survival as every other state. Nor can Israel be compared to Iran. While President Ahmadinejad in Tehran calls unambiguously for “wiping Israel off the map” – an express call for genocide as defined by International Law – Israel maintains its own nuclear posture silently, unthreateningly. Jerusalem is interested only in preventing existential enemy aggressions.
Starkly unlike Iran, which now taunts the international community with its illegal and headlong development of uranium enrichment facilities, Israel maintains its nuclear options only to compensate for overwhelming and irremediable geographic and demographic limitations. Recognizing the incontestable wisdom of military theorist, Karl von Clausewitz, that ultimately – “mass counts” – Israel knows that it can never hope to achieve national security in a uniformly conventional weapons environment.
This means that even if Iran and various Arab nuclear aspirants were actually willing to honor their obligations under a binding nuclear-weapon- free zone – an inherently preposterous expectation – the result would still leave Israel at an intolerable power and security disadvantage. In such “ideal” circumstances, the Jewish State would have absolutely no compelling capacity for either deterrence (pre-war or intra-war) or for war-fighting.
Of course, even this relatively optimistic assumption about Iranian and/or Arab state compliance with legally-mandated denuclearization is entirely unrealistic. In view of both Arab/Islamic military doctrine, which is animated by non-compromising notions of Jihad, and the long historical record of Arab/Iranian noncompliance with international law in all matters concerning Israel, any nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East would be an evident fiction. As the first obligation of any government must always be to protect its civilian populations, no sane government of Israel could possibly accede to Mr. al-Baradei’s continuously disingenuous proposals.
It may be difficult to imagine any state’s nuclear weapons as innately “good.” Yet, there are certainly circumstances in which possession of such weapons will be all that protects a threatened state from catastrophic war and genocide. Indeed, because such weapons can deter international aggression, their possession may also protect neighboring states, friend and foe alike, from war-related or even nuclear-inflicted harms.
Should a nuclear-weapon-free zone be implemented for the Middle East, even if all parties were to comply fully, and even if the Arab states and Iran were to resist exploiting their resultant and overwhelming conventional force advantage, Israel would still face an existential risk from certain nuclear states outside the affected region. Most obvious, in this connection, is Pakistan. Here, a newly-denuclearized Israel could become especially vulnerable to a remaining Islamic nuclear power, a vulnerability that would surely be exacerbated on several fronts in the wake of any successful Islamist coup d’etat in Islamabad.
With nuclear weapons and a corollary nuclear strategy, Israel could deter a rational enemy’s unconventional attacks as well as most large conventional aggressions. With such nuclear weapons, Israel could also launch non-nuclear preemptive strikes against enemy state hard targets that threaten Israel’s complete destruction. Without these weapons, any such acts of anticipatory self-defense could represent the onset of a much wider war. This is because there would be no sufficient threat of an Israeli counter-retaliation.
In the final analysis, Israel’s nuclear weapons are an indispensable impediment to the actual use of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. It follows that, contrary to Mr. al-Baradei’s seemingly benign recommendations for a so-called “nuclear weapon free-zone,” Israel’s atomic weapons actually represent that volatile region’s first line of defense against nuclear war. With this in mind, authoritative representatives of the “International Community” such as the IAEA chief should immediately cease their grotesquely unfair comparisons between Israel and Iran, and focus instead on their always-binding legal obligations to protect the Jewish State from an openly declared genocide.
We already know how hard the UN worked to protect the victims of an ongoing genocide in Rwanda in 1994. 800,000 civilians were butchered by machete in 90 days. Shall we now place Israel under that very same organizational umbrella of protection?
Copyright, The Jewish Press, June 15, 2007.All right reserved.
LOUIS RENE BERES, Strategic and Military Affairs correspondent for The Jewish Press, is the author of many books and articles dealing with nuclear strategy and nuclear war. Professor of International Law at Purdue, he is also Chair of Project Daniel, a private nuclear advisory group to the former Prime Minister of Israel. He received his Ph.D. at Princeton in 1971.