Yaron London in Yediot: Time to open Israel’s nuclear debate
An end to the age of ambiguity
Op-ed, Yaron London, Yediot, April 12 2010
Israel ranks sixth in the world in terms of the number of nuclear weapons it has in its arsenal, according to Jane’s Defence Weekly, the British journal on military affairs. Its researchers, in an article written with a view to the nuclear conference now convened in Washington, stated that we now possess somewhere between 100 and 300 destructive warheads, which we continue to amass still. According to Jane’s we possess the capability to drop these as bombs from airplanes, launch them as missiles, and shoot them from submarines. This ability to shoot nuclear weapons from the hull of submarines, an ability indeed attributed to us by Jane’s, provides us with the possibility of a “second strike,” that is to destroy the enemy even if the latter takes action first and wipes us entirely our land. Indeed the submarines will have no shore to which they can return, but they are sure at least to get their revenge.
Reading this, internet commenters were jubilant. News websites were overflowed with calls to bomb Iran immediately. Many were quick to link the doomsday weapon to the Holocaust and demanded that havoc be wrecked as a preventative step before havoc would be wrecked: We’ll destroy them before they destroy us. Also this time around, the Auschwitz reflex operated as it is designed to. When the neurologist tapped on our knee with his small hammer, we delivered a high kick with spiked shoes.
The internet commenters, speakers on behalf of the masses, did not bother asking, following Jane’s publications, whether or not the findings were in fact correct, and why we need hundreds of nuclear bombs, which possess the ability to obliterate all of the cities in the Middle East several times over. They did not wonder how we calculated the precise figure of megatons needed to deter the Ayatollahs. They cast no doubt as to the wisdom of this being a secret and they did not complain that there was no open public debate on the matter.
Neither were they bothered by the issue of the ambiguity policy’s value in a world so extensively covered by the media: the phrase “foreign sources,” echoed in Israeli media outlets is constantly escorted with a wink and a deriding smile. Good old boy Israel is mocking the world. Who are those interested in maintaining the ambiguity? The United States, with which, according to foreign sources, we have reached an agreement that it keep its wide eyes shut, and the Arab countries, which are unenthusiastic about getting drawn into a nuclear arms race.
But the value of ambiguity has long since passed. Iran is certain to become nuclear, or will perhaps be stopped “half an inch before tightening the screws” from actually getting the bomb. The argument that Iran should not be denied a nuclear weapons so long as this is not being denied from Israel — if we are to believe foreign sources — has found a receptive international audience. Syria was not deterred from attempting to develop nuclear weapons. Egypt has been nagging incessantly, demanding that International Atomic Energy Agency take a look at Dimona, and all the while is making nuclear preparations of its own. Ambiguity has outlived whatever usefulness it may have had.
If the publications are correct, it is quite plausible that the government will realize this. Meanwhile, Binyamin Netanyahu avoided attending the nuclear conference. He sent Dan Meridor, in hope that his scaled-down replacement will also scale down the prospects of those assailing Israel. This will be of about as much help as a screen door on a submarine.
The age of nuclear ambiguity is coming to an end and it will be followed by an age of open debate. It is time that more people be allowed to take part in the debate which is most critical to our very existence.