Should Israeli nuclear bombs be inspected?

Israel is a nuclear power was the conclusion of a Department of Defense report prepared in 1987 and kept secret until its release this past March. It was brought to light through a Freedom of Information lawsuit by Grant Smith, an investigative reporter and author affiliated with the Institute for Research: Middle East Policy, who forced the release of the report, which confirms the existence of Israel’s nuclear program. The actual report was prepared by the Institute for Defense Analysis, a Pentagon-funded research unit, and provides U.S.-based evidence to the advanced nature of Israel’s nuclear program. According to Smith, this is the first time the U.S. government has ever provided official documentation that recognizes long-standing knowledge of the existence and extent of such a program.

It is no secret that Israel stole the uranium from the U.S. to build and produce its own nuclear bomb, and the Pentagon-released study indicates that the country has hundreds of nuclear warheads. Jeff Stein in a May 6, 2014, Newsweek article, quotes Paul Pillar, the CIA’s former national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, stating, “Old habits are hard to break: Zionists were dispatching spies to America before there even was an Israel to gather money and materials for the cause and later the fledgling state.” Key components for Israel’s nuclear bombs were clandestinely obtained here. “They’ve found creative and inventive ways,” Pillar said, to get what they want.

After the release of the Pentagon’s classified study, U.S. Republican leaders and rightwing media outlets blamed President Obama for allowing the circulation of the document and viewed it an attempt to get back at Netanyahu for his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. As Netanyahu and America’s neoconservatives call for rejecting the recently signed U.S.-Iranian nuclear deal, we must ask if sanctions, inspections and a monitoring regime will be ever set-up to deal with Israel’s nuclear bombs. Why should Israel have veto power on a U.S.-Iranian deal, while its own nuclear program is not subject to any monitoring!

The question of Israel’s nuclear program is not a topic entertained by anyone in Western political circles or by the mainstream media. Furthermore, few, if any, would raise the real question of the obvious double standards on the nuclear front. Why is it that Iran and other “non-Western” countries are subject to intense global campaigns, while Israel is never questioned on its nuclear program? Why is Israel allowed to have a say on Iran’s nuclear program, while the country itself has managed to steal, develop and share nuclear technologies in violations of the NPT as well as not being a signatory to it? Is Israel an exception due it being “Western” in its epistemic formation thus is rational, civilized and trustworthy opposite the non-Western other?

Certainly, Israel has been at the center of nuclear proliferation by working diligently over the years to undermine the NPT by assisting both South Africa in the late 1970s and India in the recent past to develop a nuclear capacity. In the case of Apartheid South Africa, Israel worked to assist in the development of a nuclear program for the then racist government and tested a bomb in the Indian Ocean in 1979. Indeed, the nuclear test was detected by the CIA and reported to then President Carter who chose not to act on the intelligence considering the political crisis he was dealing with in Iran at the time.

Fast-forward to the Indian nuclear program where Israel was possibly instrumental in assisting in the development and testing of the bomb and helping bring another country into the nuclear club. One can argue that Israel would not have been able to arrest or stop the Indian nuclear program, but evidence that points to Israeli resistance in offering much needed technical and training help to bring it to successful completion is lacking. Also, one can assert that Israel’s help and support for India was taken within the existing periphery strategy, which views Pakistan as a possible outer layer of support for the Palestinians.

Thus intensifying the rivalry between India and Pakistan serves Israeli strategic national interest regardless of the impact on nuclear proliferation or more conflict between the two historical neighbors that have fought a number of wars in the past. In this context, one can also see that Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons is a major factor contributing to small states both in the region and outside to work towards a similar weapon. Israel’s nuclear role has been detrimental to the effectiveness and viability of the NPT and as such it runs contrary to U.S. strategic and national interest on this front. The ongoing double standard toward Israel’s nuclear program is a nagging problem that undermines the viability and creditability of the NPT. It is time for the U.S. and the global community to take Israel’s nuclear program seriously and brought under the NPT investigative and monitoring arm.