It’s time for Israel to stop making military threats and to propose an imaginative diplomatic move — risky as it may seem — to help ease nuclear tensions in the Middle East.
It can start by acknowledging its own nuclear-weapons program.
It has accused Iran of seeking the capability to produce nuclear weapons, when for years Israel has been believed to possess hundreds of nuclear bombs and missiles, along with multiple delivery systems. It continues to insist it doesn’t have them.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders continue to accuse Tehran of deceit in describing its nuclear program as peaceful.
Perhaps Netanyahu sees Iran following the path Israel took 50 years ago when it’s known that his country joined the relatively small nuclear weapons club.
Back in the 1960s, Israel apparently hid the nuclear weapons program being carried on at its Negev Nuclear Research Center (NNRC) at Dimona. It deceived not only the international community but also its close U.S. ally. It repeatedly pledged “it would not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the area.”
In early 1966, at the time of a U.S. sale of F-4 fighter-bombers to Israel, the Lyndon B. Johnson administration insisted that Israel reaffirm that pledge. “Foreign Minister Abba Eban told Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara that Israel did not intend to build nuclear weapons, ‘so we will not use your aircraft to carry weapons we haven’t got and hope we will never have,’ “ according to the State Department’s Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, Volume XVIII.
Sound familiar? Maybe that’s why Netanyahu was so tough Tuesday during his U.N. General Assembly speech when attacking Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s statements that Tehran’s nuclear program is peaceful. When the Israeli prime minister asked, “Why would a country that claims to only want peaceful nuclear energy, why would such a country build hidden underground enrichment facilities?” I thought Dimona.
According to the bipartisan, Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative, the Machon 2 facility at Dimona “is reportedly the most sensitive building in the NNRC, with six floors underground dedicated to activities identified as plutonium extraction, production of tritium and lithium-6,” for use in nuclear weapons.
So, along with easing up on the threats, what else could Israel be doing, perhaps with U.S. support? After all, Since the 1960s, Washington has gone along with this idea of never openly acknowledging Israel’s nuclear weapons.
What about following the recent example of Russia and Syria? After Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar Assad both refused to acknowledge Syria having chemical weapons, they did what Americans would call “a flip-flop.” They admitted that such weapons existed and that Damascus would join the Chemical Weapons Convention and destroy the whole program.
Inspection teams from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons are on the ground in Syria. Let’s see how it goes.
It is generally believed that Assad’s father began building Syria’s chemical weapons capability as a less-expensive response to Israel’s nuclear program. He had early help from the then-Soviet Union, but in succeeding years developed a domestic capability, aided from clandestine purchases of chemicals from firms in Germany and other European countries.