Saturday 24 Feb 2018 | 20:56 | SYDNEY
Saturday 24 Feb 2018 | 20:56 | SYDNEY

The question of Israel's nukes



26 August 2008 10:50

I'm pleased to see that The Age's Diplomatic Editor, Dan Flitton, has gone into print recommending Israel abandon its nuclear deterrent. Dan says an Israeli offer of disarmament 'could forge a deal to rid the region of nuclear ambitions', though he notes that 'Israel would not trust other countries in the region to stick to any bargain for a nuclear-free Middle East.'

But here's the thing — it doesn't have to.

Israel could renounce its nuclear weapons tomorrow and join the NPT as a non-nuclear weapons state, civilianising its nuclear facilities at Dimona and bringing them under IAEA supervision. That would still leave Israel with a vastly more advanced nuclear infrastructure than any other state in its region. Israel could use this infrastructure to manufacture crude nuclear weapons in a matter of months. That's much faster than Iran or any other regional state could do it, and thus would give Israel a virtual deterrent that could be transformed into an actual one.

Admittedly, this is not a clean break with nuclear deterrence, but surely better than what the Middle East faces now.

The one serious objection I can see to this idea is in the conventional military threat to Israel. Given its small landmass, Israel could be overwhelmed in a matter of days, which would justify an extant nuclear force on high alert to deter such threats. But Israel already has peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, and enjoys substantial conventional military superiority over all its neighbours. That should surely be enough.

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