A new Palestinian state could never be free as long as its neighbor, Israel, possesses nuclear weapons.
The 2-State Solution’s Nuclear Option
SCHEERPOST, By Scott Ritter / Consortium News, November 20, 2023
“………………………………………………………………………………………………. the United States continues to provide diplomatic cover for Israel’s nuclear weapons, maintaining the fiction of ambiguity despite knowing full well Israel possesses a very robust nuclear arsenal. This posture is becoming more difficult to sustain, given the increasingly aggressive posture assumed by the Israeli government regarding its own policy of ambiguity.
In 2022, during a periodic review by the United Nations of the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) , then-Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid addressed the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission about Israel’s “defensive and offensive capabilities, and what is referred to in the foreign media as other capabilities. These other capabilities,” Lapid said, clearly alluding to Israel’s nuclear weapons, “keep us alive and will keep us alive as long as we and our children are here.”
As things stand, the threat posed by Israeli nuclear weapons to both regional and global security is as great today as at any time in Israeli history. With the potential of the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict expanding to include Hezbollah and perhaps Iran, Israel for the first time since 1973 faces a genuine existential threat — the kind of threat Israel’s nuclear weapons were built to deter.
An Israeli minister has already alluded to the attractiveness of using nuclear weapons against Hamas in Gaza. But the real threat comes from what happens if Iran is dragged into the war. Here, Israel’s much rumored “Samson Option” could come into play, where Israel uses its nuclear arsenal to destroy as many enemies as possible once the continued survival of Israel is at risk.
Given the present risk posed by Israel’s nuclear arsenal, it is essential that the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict be prevented from expanding. Once the conflict can be ended, the process must begin for a long-term solution that includes a free and independent Palestine. However, a new Palestinian state can never be free if its neighbor, Israel possesses nuclear weapons.
Operating with the understanding that the creation of a Palestinian state would coincide with a renewed push for normalization of relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors, the result vis-à-vis the security of Israel would be a much-improved situation that made Israel’s need for nuclear weapons moot.
South African Example
The question then becomes how Israel can be persuaded to voluntarily give up its nuclear weapons. Fortunately, there is an example from history.
Apartheid South Africa had embarked on a nuclear weapons program in the early 1970s. U.S. intelligence reports show that South Africa formally began its nuclear weapons program in 1973. By 1982, it had developed and built its first nuclear explosive device.
Seven years later, in 1989, South Africa had manufactured six functional nuclear bombs, each capable of delivering an explosive equivalent of 19 kilotons of TNT.
The South African nuclear weapons program mirrored that of the Israeli program in that it was conducted in great secrecy and designed to deter the threat posed by communist-supported black liberation movements operating all along the periphery of the South African nation.
In 1989, South Africa elected a new president, F. W. de Klerk, who quickly realized that the political winds were changing and that the country could very well, in the span of a few years, fall under the control of black nationalists led by Nelson Mandela.
To prevent that, De Klerk took the unprecedented decision to join the NPT as a non-nuclear state and open its nuclear program for inspection and dismantlement. South Africa joined the NPT in 1991; by 1994, all South Africa’s nuclear weapons had been dismantled under international supervision.
Once the Palestinian-Israeli war comes to an end, and if Israel begins negotiating in good faith about the possibility of a free and independent Palestinian state, the United States should lead an effort to get the Israeli government to follow the path taken by F. W. de Klerk by signing the NPT and working with the International Atomic Energy Agency to dismantle the totality of Israel’s nuclear arsenal.
Such a move should be non-negotiable — if the United States is serious about creating the conditions of a long and lasting peace between Israel and Palestine, then it should use all the leverage at its disposal to pressure Israel to voluntarily disarm itself of nuclear weapons.
This is the only viable path to peace between Israel and the Arab and Muslim world that surrounds it.
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