Sunday, December 10, 2006

Israel Has Nukes; Are you shocked?

There's an odd little editorial in Ha'aretz about the testimony of the new US Defence Secretary Robert Gates who said openly last week that Israel has nuclear weapons.

'They [the Iranians] are surrounded by powers with nuclear weapons—Pakistan to their east, the Russians to the north, the Israelis to the west and us [the United States] in the Persian Gulf,'

Raise your hand if that comes as news to you.

Well apparently, Israeli government officials are 'shocked' by this candid revelation.

Israeli officials were shocked by Robert Gates' statement to Congress that Israel has nuclear weapons, and they are worrying over why the U.S. secretary of defense-designate made this statement.

In particular, they want to know two things: First, whether this statement was a private initiative by Gates, or whether he coordinated it with the top levels of the American administration. And second, whether he was implying that since Israel has nuclear weapons, it can deal with any nuclear threat from Iran on its own.

If this was his intention, it would contradict what Prime Minister Ehud Olmert heard from U.S. President George W. Bush at their recent meeting.

It seems to me that Gates simply stated a fact but since it flies in the face of this policy of ambiguity, it now has Israelis worried.

Now, the question is how to respond to Gates' statement. The prevailing view in Jerusalem is that Israel should nevertheless continue its policy of nuclear ambiguity, though in academia and elsewhere there are dissenters who argue that this policy should be discarded. Should Israel publicly confirm Gates' statement, supporters of ambiguity argue, this could send shock waves through the Middle East, and particularly through Sunni Arab states that oppose Iran.

Maybe those 'supporters of ambiguity' should buy a clue: is there anyone in the world who doesn't believe that Israel has nukes?

And, as for why Gates said what he did: 'sometimes a cigar is just a cigar'.

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