By Reuven Pedatzur
In giving the Nobel Peace Prize to U.S. President Barack Obama, the members of the Nobel committee effectively closed the lid on the American military option in Iran. The prestigious award ties the president’s hands; even if he had planned to order a U.S. military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in the event that diplomatic negotiations failed, now he will have to forsake this option. It is clear that someone who has just been crowned a champion of world peace cannot take military action against a state that did not attack his country. We may also regretfully conclude that the Nobel Peace Prize is Iran’s secure ticket to nuclear arms. If there was still a chance that an American military action could end the Iranian nuclear project, now the members of the Nobel committee have sentenced that project to life.The Norwegian decision should force policy makers in Yerushalayim to acknowledge that the likelihood that Iran will acquire nuclear arms in the near future has grown considerably. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, convinced that he returned from Washington with a U.S. promise to prevent Iran from going nuclear, must now accept the loss of the American military option. And the chances of a successful Israeli strike against the Iranian facilities have always been low. The natural conclusion is that Israel must prepare for a new Middle East in which it is no longer perceived as holding nuclear hegemony.
The first important step is to stop scaremongering. Statements claiming that Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons means Israel’s certain annihilation are damaging and unnecessary; if the true assessment is that Iran will use such weapons against Israel, the best thing Israelis can do is to start packing. Attempts to convince the public that it is necessary, and possible, to defend ourselves against nuclear weapons are tantamount to deception. Nuclear shelters cannot be built for everyone in the country, and the talk about hiding in the tunnels of Haifa’s Carmelit railway or the basements of the New Tel Aviv Central Bus Station are pure fantasy. Relying on an antimissile system such as the Arrow is also wrong, because no such system can provide hermetic defense, and if just two nuclear missiles get through the price would be unbearable.
So what to do? If Israel indeed has nuclear weapons, we should approach the new Nobel laureate and agree on Israel losing its nuclear ambiguity and becoming a full-fledged member of the nuclear club. Obama’s toleration of the end of Israeli ambiguity will spare us international pressure and the sanctions the U.S. administration is legally obliged to apply to a country crossing the nuclear threshold.
An Israeli declaration that it possesses nuclear weapons, if it does, would completely change the regional rules of the game. It would enable the introduction of a reliable early warning system between Israel and Iran, when Iran acquires nuclear weapons of its own. Policy makers in Tehran understand only too well the meaning of Israel realizing its military option, and the meaning of American backup for Israeli warnings.
A clear Iranian recognition that any attempt to attack Israel with nonconventional weapons will lead to the certain demolition of Iran as a modern state should prevent its rulers from even thinking about using their nuclear arms . Rulers, even strict Islamic ones, do not commit suicide with their states. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his followers may not be particularly nice, but they are certainly very rational.