It is Time to move from Ambiguity to Transparency: Israel, Iran and Nuclear Weapons, by Irving Louis Horowitz
It is time for Israel to replace ambiguity with transparency. With a new situation in which Iran not only is developing a nuclear capability - without more than a murmur or mumble from the United Nations - for Israel to continue remaining silent about its nuclear facilities is to invite ridicule and disrespect. The danger of course is that the Iranian dictator, Ahmadinejad will use such silence as a demonstrable reason to go on with its aggressive nuclear program, to the disadvantage of Israel, or use the denuclearization efforts on the part of the United States and Europe to declare the Middle East a nuclear free zone.
The arguments for transparency are diplomatic and common sense. " Open secrets " or what the Israeli authorities refer to as " nuclear ambiguity " about the Dimona facilities are more open than secretive. Israel's nuclear capabilities have been known for many years, indeed since Mordechai Vanunu, a former technician at Dimona, in 1986 revealed that Israel had include nuclear devices. At the time of those revelations The New York Times reported Israel had material for approximately 20 hydrogen bombs and 200 fission bombs. The purpose of Dimona is widely held to be the manufacturing of nuclear weapons, and the majority of defense experts, as written in books by Avner Cohen (Israel and the Bom) and Seymour Hersh (The Samson Option) have concluded that Israel does in fact produce weapons capable of mass destruction. An estimate based on the known power of the reactor at the Negev Nuclear Research Center concluded that enough plutonium for 100-200 nuclear bombs could have been produced by the year 2000. That it has a delivery capacity of ten times that figure in 2010 is reasonable.
While there have been justifiable claims to be made for maintaining silence before, the explosion of nuclear weapons technology in Iran now makes that position untenable. It is clear that neither the United Nations as a whole or the United States in particular are prepared to initiate sanctions that would reverse this course of inaction about Iran's nuclear capability. Moreover, it is now apparent, that the effort will be made - is already being made - by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to convert the discussions at the United Nations from sanctions against Iran to a critique of Israeili policy with respect to nuclear weapons. Such an appeal may not save the Iranian dictator, but it will create a conundrum for Barack Obama's proposal for a nuclear-free Middle East. The passive shape of European policy and diplomacy is assuredly going to be support of such a position - one that could threaten Israeli's survival in entirely new dimensions.
The move to frankly acknowledge Israeli nuclear technology is entirely in keeping with the transformation of that nation from a rural social welfare base to an urban technical and scientific base. An open policy could have positive, immediate benefits to the Benjamin Netanyahu government as it embarks on potentially new and volatile diplomatic initiatives over the status of Jerusalem and beyond that an independent Palestinian State. The element of surprise no longer exists. The international community's ability to keep in check a rogue regime like Iran is also not much in evidence. A clear admission by Israel of weapon stockpiling would do the following :
1. Make perfectly clear that the history of Israel is of a peaceful state - one that despite endless
provocations from its rebirth did not threatened its neighbors (or any other nation) with the usage of thermonuclear devices. Israel has only engaged in military action in self defense.
2. Re-affirm its prohibition against a first strike use of nuclear devises, whatever may be the provocations - and they are many and frequent - against the very right of Israel to exist as an independent national entity.
3. Demand that any opening of the Negev Facilities have as its asking price complete review and supervision by the United States and the European Union of all facilities in Iran and every other part of the Middle East, including Pakistan.
It is too often forgotten that admitting to having nuclear capacity has great advantages: Whatever its size or population, Israel can sit at the nuclear table, and discuss options for new and decisive measures for peace in the region - one based on something approximating an entente cordial rather than eternal enmity. The Israel nation must appreciate the fact that should the Iranian regime wish to test the reality or the extent of Israeli nuclear capability; it can do so by dropping the limited arsenal it has as a first strike option. At that point, the Israelis would hardly be able to do other than retaliate in kind, thereby setting in motion an unparalleled nuclear war between nuclear forces - unlike the unilateral advantage of the United States versus Japan at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Were such an outcome to take place, the question of who is at fault, or what nation is most emphatically
excoriated, becomes irrelevant.
Millions of lives and many cultures that date back thousands of years would be erased with total destruction - and that includes a huge portion of my own Jewish heritage and tradition. It is time for some frank "thinking about the unthinkable" as Herman Kahn dared to do in his book On Thermonuclear War. Whether it be the natural tendency of nations to maximum their power, or the madness of rulers who confuse their people with a political elite, the nuclear "game" has changed. If for no other reason, the inability of the West to act decisively on Iran has made that inevitable. It is time for Israel to acknowledge as much, and boldly act as a major nuclear power should: with a sense of survival coupled with an obligation to appreciate the risks and promises of a world of scientific technology not especially touched by moral concerns or political cleverness.
Irving Louis Horowitz is Hannah Arendt Distinguished University Professor Emeritus at the Department of Sociology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Horowitz is also the Chairman of the Board of Transaction Publishers.