The Iranian development of a military nuclear capability is the single most
dangerous threat to Israel’s security.
Given Western and especially
American reluctance to impose major sanctions on Iran, specifically regarding
its oil exports, along with the general reluctance to engage Iran militarily, we
can assume that in the years to come, Iran will become a nuclear
Given the positions of the American administration and of our own
military establishment, present and past, as well as the futility of such action
without a broad coalition of forces, an Israeli military “onecountry show” is
most probably out of the question, despite the adventurist appetite of our
defense minister and perhaps even of the prime minister himself.
it is a truism that a fanatic regime such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s should not be
allowed to go nuclear. It would be dangerous not just to Israel but to our whole
region, if not the world.
As everything done in the past decade has
failed to curb the Iranian ambition, we must think about an effective and
innovative diplomatic initiative. The premise should be that Iran will go
nuclear before 2015 and that in the wake of this, other Middle Eastern and
Muslim countries will go nuclear as well, for reasons of deterrence and to
create a new regional balance of power. The candidates to join during this
decade a Middle East nuclear or nonconventional weapons “club” are primarily
Saudi Arabia – which could acquire nuclear weapons with petrol dollars; Egypt,
which in the post-Mubarak era will want to regain its leading role in the Arab
world; a post- Assad Syria that already today most probably has chemical
weaponry; and Turkey, which will feel threatened by Iran, and under Recep Tayyip
Erdogan is seeking regional primacy.
The Middle East would thus become
fertile ground for nonconventional confrontation, a scenario that can not be
The United States under Barack Obama is advocating an
assertive, although not yet successful, global anti-proliferation
policy. Israel needs to think realistically of its national security
interests and engage in a comprehensive strategic dialogue with the US, about a
courageous and creative initiative to prevent doomsday scenarios. The fact that
Israel has the best army in the region is of small solace in a world where even
the successors of Osama bin Laden could eventually acquire nonconventional
weapons. It is therefore proposed that we should at the very least explore with
the United States an international initiative to create in the Middle East a
verifiable nuclear free zone. The basic assumption being that the region will in
the future be either fully nuclear or nuclear-free.
There is a history to
this initiative – in April 1990, then-president Hosni Mubarak of Egypt called at
the UN for a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction. Israel’s approach
to the initiative was not negative. We adopted the central elements of
the initiative, as was expressed by then-foreign minister Shimon Peres in a
speech to the international conference in Paris on the signing of chemical
weapons conventions in 1994, but conditioned it on the prior establishment of
comprehensive regional peace and the application of mutual verification
measures. This approach was reiterated as part of the Israeli official position
in the arms control and regional security committee of the multilateral peace
process. As peace did not materialize, neither did the initiative.
we should revisit this position, in tandem with the United States, yet insist it
depend on rigid conditions:
• A Middle East free of nuclear and nonconventional
arms can only begin to be realized once comprehensive regional peace is
achieved, including diplomatic relations between all Arab countries and
• A regional “free zone” must include Iran and Turkey, and terror
organizations in all of the countries.
• A regional free zone should be
based on a new Regional Nuclear and Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Middle East
Convention, signed and ratified by all countries and implemented within two
years. All countries, including Israel, should then sign the Nuclear
• A regional free zone must be internationally
verifiable not only by the International Atomic Energy Agency but also by the US
• Parallel to such a convention, Israel and the United States
should sign a joint defense pact, safeguarding Israel’s security and
Naturally such an initiative can materialize only if
a regional peace process materializes, beginning with a viable
Israeli-Palestinian peace process, in which our government must finally engage
by agreeing to the 1967 lines as a basis for negotiation (including mutually
agreed land swaps) and a settlement freeze.
If in the background of such
a process there stands an American initiative for a nuclear free Middle East, it
would serve a strong incentive for the Arab nations to move in parallel to the
Israeli-Palestinian process towards regional peace with Israel.
sound far-fetched, yet we must remember that in 1995, before Yitzhak Rabin’s
assassination, we stood at such a point – an agreement and a peace process with
the Palestinians, a peace treaty with Jordan and a multilateral peace process.
In parallel, Israel articulated a positive attitude towards the Egyptian
initiative for a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, conditioned on
regional peace and effective verification.
Many in Israel miss the better
days of the mid-’90 with their hope for peace, strong international stature and
a growing economy. The year 2015 could see a return to this. The
alternative is a 2015 without peace, without international support and a Middle
East and Iran with stockpiles of nuclear weaponry. It is not only for us to
decide, but it is for us to initiate, in full agreement with the American
It is not a coincidence that in perhaps our most
important peace treaty, the one reached with Jordan in 1994, article 4(7)
states: “The Parties, Israel and Jordan, undertake to work as a matter of
priority towards the creation of a Middle East free from weapons of mass
destruction, both conventional and nonconventional, in the context of a
comprehensive, lasting and stable peace.”
As Rabin and King Hussein
understood, peace and a nuclear free zone can go hand in hand in order to
strengthen the moderates and weaken the extremists. This should be our strategic
The writer is president of the Peres Center for Peace and
served as Israel’s chief negotiator for the Oslo Accords.