The Nature of the Nuclear Threat to Israel

(Foreign Affairs) Ariel Ilan Roth - Most Israelis believe the key to enduring peace in the Middle East is convincing Israel's adversaries that ejecting Israel through force is an impossible task not worth pursuing. As the Palestinian-American political scientist Hilal Khashan's work on Arab attitudes toward peace has shown, the willingness of Arabs to make peace with Israel is a direct function of their perception of Israel's invincibility. The Iranian nuclear program threatens this perception. An additional threat posed by Iran's nuclear program is its potential to unleash a cascade of proliferation in the Middle East, beginning with Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The development of nuclear weapons by these countries would pose a grave danger to the Jewish state, despite the fact that Egypt has signed a peace treaty with Israel. This is because leaders who have reconciled themselves to Israel's existence have done so because they believed Israel was strong but unlikely to endure in the long term. Just as an Iranian nuclear capability would imply a nuclear guarantee for anti-Zionist proxies, an Egyptian or Saudi nuclear capability would reduce incentives for other Arab states to make peace with Israel because, shielded under an Arab nuclear umbrella, they would no longer fear catastrophic defeat or further loss of territory. The writer is associate director of National Security Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

2009-11-24 08:17:01

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