In the Arena

Israel’s Nukes

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Andrew Sullivan has been having a back-and-forth with the neos over at the Commentary blog about Israel’s nukes. Israel has them, obviously. Sullivan believes, rightly, that if Israel has them, its rivals in the region–Iran, for example–might want some nukes of their own as a deterrent. In one of the sillier bits of prose I’ve read in some time, Noah Pollack argues: 

But Israel isn’t Iran’s rival — Iran is Israel’s. Can Andrew name any acts of unprovoked bellicosity Israel has committed against Iran? 

How about Israel’s constant threats of military action against Iran’s nuclear program? How about the disproportionate bellicosity Israel visited upon Iran’s Hizballah surrogate in 2006? Which is not to say that Hizballah is anything other than a group of extremist thugs–but southern Lebanon and, more recently, Gaza are the battlefields where Israel’s rivalry with Iran has been playing out.(Add: Indeed, given the state of hostilities–for which Iran is almost totally responsible–the very existence of Israel’s nuclear arsenal can be seen as an existential threat to Iran.)

For the record, I think 60 years of history make it reasonable for Israel to have a nuclear deterrent. But the reality of Israel’s nuclear arsenal does make it difficult to argue against Iran’s right to have the same. And the constant plumping for war against Iran by Likudniks in Israel and the U.S. makes the case for a nuclear capability dire and immediate from Iran’s point of view. It is time we stopped kidding ourselves about this–and stopped making arguments that the rules should be different, somehow, for Israel than for other countries.