In an op-ed from yesterday’s New York Times Avner Cohen, author of the forthcoming book The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb, and Marvin Miller argue for Israel to end its policy of opacity regarding its possession of nuclear weapons.
As Cohen and Miller explain, “Israel neither affirms nor denies its possession of nuclear weapons; indeed, the government refuses to say anything factual about its nuclear activities, and Israeli citizens are encouraged, both by law and by custom, to follow suit.” This policy has been in effect since Richard Nixon and Golda Meir brokered a secret pact in which the United States would tolerate and shield Israel’s nuclear program as long as Israel did not advertise possession of nuclear weapons.
However, Cohen and Miller contend this policy jeopardizes the Middle East peace process and Israel’s standing in the international community. Cohen and Miller write:
Israel needs to recognize, moreover, that the Middle East peace process is linked to the issue of nuclear weapons in the region. International support for Israel and its opaque bomb is being increasingly eroded by its continued occupation of Palestinian territory and the policies that support that occupation. Such criticism of these policies might well spill over into the nuclear domain, making Israel vulnerable to the charge that it is a nuclear-armed pariah state, and thus associating it to an uncomfortable degree with today’s rogue Iranian regime.
Moreover, the policy undermine Israel’s democracy:
To the extent that opacity shields Israel’s nuclear capabilities and intentions, it also undercuts the need for its citizens to be informed about issues that are literally matters of life and death, such as: Whose finger is on the nuclear trigger and under what circumstances would nuclear weapons be used?
The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with a Bomb will be available in October.