Commentary Magazine


Contentions

What Disarmament Means for Israel

What Anne Appelbaum calls Obama’s Odd Obsession with Universal Nuclear Disarmament holds a special meaning for Israel. As I wrote a couple of months ago, Israeli officials have long realized this could mean trouble — especially because Obama’s plan might focus on a treaty Israel became familiar with during the Clinton years, banning the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for nuclear explosives (the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, FMCT).

That would be a rollback in U.S. policy and a move toward the approach of President Bill Clinton, who called in 1993 for such a production ban. Two years later, the U.N. Conference on Disarmament took up discussions of a treaty to accomplish that — in part to try to halt weapons-enrichment programs in India, Pakistan and Israel, which had not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty and thus were not subject to any international inspection regimen. In 2000, those three countries, the Clinton administration and the Conference on Disarmament agreed to pursue negotiations toward a Fissile Materials Cut-Off Treaty.

Israel wasn’t happy with this initiative ten years ago, and I don’t think its position has changed much since:

Ten years ago, Bill Clinton’s administration demanded that Israel not raise any obstacles with respect to this treaty. The prime minister at the time, Benjamin Netanyahu, acquiesced unenthusiastically to the pressures. A few months later, when he signed the Wye agreement with the Palestinians, Netanyahu asked for and received from Clinton a written commitment that American moves toward weapons control would not harm Israel’s deterrent capability. In the summer of 1999, then-prime minister Ehud Barak received a similar letter.

As things turn out, we might be approaching a new round of Clinton (this time Hillary) vs. Netanyahu. In 1999, Professor Shai Feldman (today at Brandeis University) wrote a paper for the Institute for National Security Studies, outlining Israel’s point of view toward the FMCT:

[T]he objectives of the proposed treaty to ban the production of fissile material – plutonium and enriched uranium – would serve Israel’s national security interests by freezing the present distribution of nuclear capabilities in the Middle East. Yet to secure these interests, certain conditions related to the treaty text, the associated verification procedures, and U.S.-Israeli defense relations would have to be met. Meeting these imperatives would be necessary to ensure that Israeli deterrence remain intact until political and strategic conditions in the region allow progress in arms control in Middle East, beyond the capping of nuclear programs.

What has changed since 1999 may have an impact on Israel’s thinking: with Iran advancing uninterrupted toward its goal of obtaining nuclear capabilities, Israel will now be even more suspicious toward the FMCT.


Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.