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Israel, ban the bomb: Updated

By Ariel Natan Pasko
web posted April 26, 2004

Mordechai Vanunu, left, looks out to supporters as his brother Meir stands with him at Shikma Prison following Vanunu's release in the coastal city of Ashkelon, Israel on April 21
Mordechai Vanunu, left, looks out to supporters as his brother Meir stands with him at Shikma Prison following Vanunu's release in the coastal city of Ashkelon, Israel on April 21

Mordechai Vanunu -- the Israeli nuclear whistleblower -- Israel's own Benedict Arnold, has been released after serving 18 years in prison. He was jailed for spilling the beans about Israel's nuclear weapons program back in 1986. He's been lionized as a hero by the usual anti-Israel, anti-America, and anti-west crowd, including British actress Susannah York, who flew into Israel special to greet him upon his release. But Vanunu is hated with all the fury that traitors usually are by "Joe Israeli."

Vanunu, who worked at the Dimona Nuclear Research Facility, left Israel in 1986, converted in Australia to turn-the-other-cheek Anglican Christianity, and flew to Britain to tell the Sunday Times all his secret nuclear knowledge. Unrepentant about what he did, since just before his release, he's insisted that Israel is illegitimate, and that Jews don't have a right to a Jewish State. Vanunu has called Judaism and Islam "primitive," and claimed that his version of "kill me please" Christianity is more morally developed.

I guess he hasn't paid much attention to the news in the last few years. "Christian" America hasn't been too willing to "roll over and play dead" since 9/11. American hasn't chosen to give in to terrorism and Israel shouldn't either.

Israel should get rid of its Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) programs -- its alleged nuclear arsenal -- Vanunu and his friends say. Yet, Iran is working as we speak to get the bomb. Syria has lots and lots of chemical weapons (CW) and missiles to attack with. So does Egypt. In fact, Egypt like its Arab brother Iraq used its chemical weapons in the past. Egypt in the 1960s in Yemen; Iraq in the 1980's against the Kurds, Iraqi Shiites, and Iranians. India and Pakistan have the bomb, so does North Korea. I won't mention the five permanent members of the UN who do too. And Libya?

Libya, that on again, off again sponsor of international terrorism since the 1970s, has plenty of chemical weapons -- about 100 tons of mustard gas and nerve agents, according to the CIA -- and missiles that could hit Israel and most of Europe. The Germans sold the missiles to them in the 1980s. They also have Scuds from North Korea. Libya also has sought dual-use capabilities that could be used to develop and produce biological warfare (BW) agents. But now Libya's leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi -- or is that gadfly? -- has announced that he will scrap Libya's WMD programs. He promised to put his nuclear facilities under greater international inspection. Sounds like, Iran, huh?

So what do all these Middle Eastern "Ban the Bomb" advocates start to do?

Commenting on Gaddafi's actions, Libya's state-run press made clear that Israel would have to follow suit with its weaponry. The Al-Jamahiriya newspaper said Libya's decision had reversed the "race" to produce weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East and placed "exceptional pressure on Israel" to come clean on its own nuclear weapons, which it has neither admitted to nor denied possessing.

Following Gaddafi's announcement not long ago, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher called on Israel to follow Libya's example and get rid of its nuclear weapons program. Maher said, "I hope that other countries in the region...would follow such an example...get rid of and put an end to any nuclear weapons production program," Maher said. Maher did not specifically name Israel, but said, "You know, of course, who I mean." When asked if the international community should start looking at Israel's nuclear capabilities, Maher said: "I said that the steps which Libya took should be a model to follow. This is clear. I won't add anything."

The same day, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, joined in saying, "The Libyan position confirms the importance of pressuring Israel to comply with all laws banning nuclear proliferation and joining the NPT" [nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty]. Moussa added, "It is not logical to make an exception or to be tolerant of Israel on this issue." The Arab states have spoken.

Then, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak called on Israel to eliminate its WMD. "We welcome the Libyan decision," Mubarak told journalists during a visit to Sadat City, in southern Cairo. "Israel must also eliminate its weapons of mass destruction." Egypt has for some time called on the Israel to ratify the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and make the Middle East a region free of WMD. Mubarak said that in the mid-1990s he discussed with former Israeli prime minister and current opposition leader Shimon Peres (Labor) the matter of Israel dismantling its nuclear arsenal. Mubarak claimed that Peres -- father of the Israeli nuclear program -- told him that the issue would be resolved following a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

That's Egypt; former user of chemical weapons itself. That's Egypt, who according to the Monterey Institute of International Studies -- which tracks weapons issues -- has its own stockpile of deadly Sarin and VX nerve agents, and is believed to working on an offensive BW program as well.

Iran also praised Libya's decision to abandon its WMD program, calling for pressure against Israel to do the same. Iranian officials released a statement that the time has come for the international community to exert pressure on Israel to abandon its nuclear program, referring to Israel as the main threat to the region. That's Iran, the country that not long ago was parading around its new Shahab 3 that could hit Israel -- allegedly -- with markings on them for "Tel-Aviv" and "Jerusalem."

What's with all this concern about Israeli WMD all of a sudden?

The answer is that with the fall of Saddam's regime and American occupation, Iraq has been temporarily taken out of the WMD loop, or so it seems. With the Libyan declarations and Iran's recent signing of the additional protocol of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which opens the way for unannounced UN inspections of suspect sites, the door has been opened for increased pressure on Israel. Iran and Syria know there's still a lot of focus on their own weapons programs -- US President Bush just signed the Syrian Accountability Act which puts a spotlight on Syrian WMD -- so why not try to divert attention toward Israel. Notice the Syrian moves at the UN not long ago calling on Israel to disarm and make the Middle East a "nuke-free zone."

Israel has had a frosty "peace" with Egypt since 1979, and a not much warmer "peace" with Jordan since 1994. Israel has been in a "peace process" for the last ten years with the Palestinians. That "peace process" has cost Israel over 1,300 lives from Palestinian warfare. Although the military balance vis-a-vis the Arab-Islamic world has shifted further toward Israel's favor in the last couple of decades -- do to its growing technological edge -- Israel's "will to fight" or "staying power" has slowly been eaten away in the last decade. Continuous guerilla war and terrorism from the Palestinians, combined with a world-wide propaganda campaign, has put Israel into a defensive posture, and caused it's leadership to refrain from using its substantial firepower. Now, the Arab-Islamic world is trying to pressure Israel to give up its strategic arsenal as well.

According to the latest accounting -- September 2003 -- of the Jaffe Center's "Middle East Military Balance," the Arab League states and Iran -- minus Iraq -- vastly outnumber Israel in conventional forces; men under arms, tanks, artillery, combat aircraft, transport aircraft, and helicopters. Let's ignore their naval advantage for purposes of this discussion. Take a look at soldiers -- both regular and reserves -- Israel has about 650,000 troops vs. 2,750,000 for the Arab League/Iran. Israel has 3,675 tanks and 3,900 artillery pieces, against 15,075 tanks and 17,400 artillery pieces for the Arab League/Iran. Despite Israel's highly touted air force, in numbers it's vastly outnumbered. Israel has 537 combat aircraft, 64 transport aircraft, and 239 helicopters. The Arab League/Iran combo has 4534 combat aircraft, 558 transport aircraft, and 1897 helicopters.

In conventional terms, Israel is outgunned, period. And I haven't even taken into account the greater Islamic world beyond Iran, or the threat of terrorism. Israel's last line of defense is its non-conventional deterrent. Now it becomes clear why those who would threaten Israel most, have joined the "Ban the Bomb" parade.

Israeli policy has always been that it will, "Never be the first state to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East," a policy of ambiguity. But from Vanunu in the 1980s on, cracks have opened in the Israeli "plausible denial" routine. Even Shimon Peres some years back, slipped, and implied that Israel does have the bomb. Most estimates place it more precisely at about 200 bombs on the low end, up to as many as 500-600.

In the last few years, Israel took charge of three German built submarines. They liked them so much, that they requested Germany to sell them some more. But due to reports that Israel had modified cruise missiles with nuclear warheads to be launched from the subs, Germany declined. I don't have any "inside" info on that, but I sure hope it's true. That would give Israel the "strategic triad" of land, air, and sea launched nukes. Just what Israel's "friends" need to keep them at bay.

As long as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah elements, al-Qaeda, and whoever else wants to destroy Israel; as long as Iran, Syria, Egypt, Libya, and whoever, continue their own WMD programs; as long as the balance of forces favors Israel's enemies; Israel needs to continue to build up its own non-conventional weapons capabilities, and be prepared to use them. Israel has a moral obligation; in fact, it was created to make sure, a second Holocaust never happens.

Ariel Natan Pasko is an independent analyst & consultant. He has a Master's Degree in International Relations & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites, in newspapers, and can be read at: www.geocities.com/ariel_natan_pasko. (c) 2004/5764 Pasko

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