Analysis: Pressuring Israel to suspend nuclear activity will not 'build confidence'

The authors of a new paper which urges Obama to get tough on Israeli nukes have it wrong.

A world free of nuclear weapons is a desirable thing. A Middle East in which no country will be touting nuclear weapons would also be a positive development, providing the countries involved live generally peacefully and do not try to destroy one another. The Institute for Science and National Security in Washington, which deals with such matters regularly, has a new paper that Israeli media were quoting this week with an enthusiasm reserved for two things only: nuclear doomsday scenarios and major developments in reality-TV shows. (It is even calling the paper a "study," a sure way of making a big deal out of not much.) But the paper, one must admit, does include a controversial recommendation: "The Obama administration should make a key priority of persuading Israel to join the negotiations of a universal, verified treaty that bans the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for nuclear explosives, commonly called the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT). As an interim step, the United States should press Israel to suspend any production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. Toward this goal, the United States should change its relatively new policy of seeking a cutoff treaty that does not include verification." I expect such recommendations to become more frequent in the coming months, and so do some Israeli officials familiar with such matters. There are two reasons for this: 1. Some members of the Obama camp are receptive to such ideas. 2. This is also a sign that the international community has found no way of stopping Iran, and is now looking for new solutions to the problem of a nuclearized Middle East. In fact, the authors of this new paper do understand that the problem starts with Iran: "Because of growing insecurity in the Middle East resulting from Iran's nuclear progress in defiance of United Nations Security Council demands, other countries will likely start to consider their own options, perhaps including the acquisition of nuclear weapons." So, do they go to the source and take care of Iran (thus, maybe avoiding the resulting nuclear race)? Not really. They have no solution for Iran. David Albright, the principal author of this paper, does not believe in the military option and also doesn't have any other brilliant ideas - other than "robust diplomacy," which really means nothing. Don't blame him for that - Albright, a real expert on nuclear issues, no doubt, isn't the only one who didn't yet find a way out of the Iran crisis. And he will not be the only one to find the solution for Iran in Dimona. After all, pressuring Israel will presumably be much easier for the US than pressuring Iran. But here's the problem: Where Albright and co-author Andrea Scheel see a plan that "would establish international confidence in the peaceful nature of Middle Eastern nuclear programs," Israel will see a plan concocted by people who failed to deal with a neighborhood bully and turned their attention to other places as to avoid a necessary confrontation. This is not establishing "confidence in the peaceful nature..." - but, rather, establishing disbelief in the ability of the international community to deal with aggressors. In fact, applying the pressure that the authors seem to want will achieve the exact opposite of their intended outcome, unless a miraculous way will be found with which Iranian plans will be tamed: It will make Israel even more suspicious, and much less prone to give up on whatever capabilities it might have to defend itself. And rightly so. Rosner's Domain appears on-line at