While Israeli officials and politicians try to outdo each other in expressing outrage at Iran’s continued intransigence on its nuclear weapons activities, no one in Israel has yet cared to comment on news reports circulating today that confirmed Britain’s secret role in jump-starting Israel’s own illegal nuclear weapons program more than forty years ago. Placed so close to each other, the two leading stories of the day – the one about Britain’s decades-long complicity in Israel’s “open secret” and the other about Israel’s insistence on Iranian nuclear disarmament -- must prove, to anyone who still doubts it, the hypocrisy and sense of entitlement that characterizes the State of Israel.
Israel’s reaction to Iran’s nuclear activities is galling not because Iran is right in flouting the provisions of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (of which it is a signatory) – clearly it is not – but because Israel itself has refused for decades to admit it possesses an astonishing array of nuclear weapons (which proliferations analysts claim makes it the fifth largest nuclear power in the world), and because it continues to refuse to sign, leave alone comply with, the Non-Proliferation Treaty itself. Worse still, Israel has already shown a willingness to use the “nuclear option” to protect its interests: during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, it threatened nuclear strike against Egypt when faced with early battlefield losses (this prompted the United States to send a massive arms shipment to Israel, which allowed Israel to stem further Egyptian advances without the help of this “option”). There is nothing to suggest that Israel will not use this “option” to protect itself today, despite its continued silence on the subject of its abundant and sophisticated nuclear arsenal.
News reports today confirmed the allegations, first made by the BBC this August, and since denied resolutely by the British government, that Britain helped Israel jump-start its illicit nuclear weapons program as early as in 1959 by selling it 20 tons of heavy water (a key and difficult-to-obtain ingredient in producing weapons grade materials). While the British Foreign Office continues to deny Britain’s involvement, Jeremy Corbyn, a British parliamentarian from the governing Labour Party said to reporters today that “Right back to the late 1950s we were a party to the transfer of nuclear technology to Israel. We were party to the development of a nuclear facility in Israel that could and has been used for the manufacture of nuclear weapons.”
These revelations have only confirmed what has been known for decades: Israel has an aggressively acquisitive nuclear weapons program that is neither controlled nor monitored by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency. Despite the belligerence with which Israeli politicians from across the spectrum have been reacting to the “Iran threat” (and in this there has been no material difference between the statements of Peretz, Netanyahu, and Sharon), there has been no indication thus far from Israel that it will consider submitting itself to the same international monitors and standards that it demands for Iran.
Such hypocrisy on Israel’s part is not only bad for its image; it is also bad politics. It lends credence to the rest of the world’s dim view of Western double standards on the nuclear issue; it provides Iran with plenty excuses to continue ramping up its weapons program (which by all accounts is decades behind Israel’s); it provides a dangerous impetus to other Arab states, who consider Israel’s nuclear capabilities the greatest threat to stability in the region, to embark on similarly illicit programs themselves; and, worst, it contributes to the de-legitimization of the very treaty with which Israel wishes Iran to comply.
The US and the UK have already invaded one country in their joint drive to ensure the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the air is now thick in Washington and London with talk of “what must be done with Iran.” It is time these powers extended their non-proliferation efforts to the country they have actively aided and abetted for decades to achieve the very goal they are now so rightly insistent on retarding: a nuclear, dangerous, Middle East.