Thomas Friedman of the New York Times has written that “I’d rather live with a nuclear Iran” because it is “the wisest thing under the circumstances.”
Friedman may feel this way and the United States may feel this way, as well. But is it wise for Israel to feel this way, to avert its eyes from a nuclear Iran and to close its ears to Iran’s calls for its destruction?
In October 2005 the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said that the “Zionist regime” must “be wiped off the face of the Earth.” In April 2006 he called Israel a “fake regime” that “cannot logically continue to live.” Since he apparently favors a second Holocaust, even as he denies that the first one occurred, Iran’s development and deployment of nuclear weapons would jeopardize the very existence of Israel.
Thanks to David Ben Gurion, Israel’s founding prime minister and first minister of defense, and Shimon Peres, the last surviving member of the Israeli Old Guard, the Jewish state has possessed a nuclear arsenal for 40 years. In a 1999 paper prepared for the Air War College, U. S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Warner D. Farr labels it the “Third Temple’s Holy of Holies” and he argued that with it Israel has been able to deter its enemies. And Michael Karpin, the author of the 2006 book The Bomb in the Basement, calls Israel’s nuclear arsenal the “absolute deterrent.” But the truth is that Israel can only deter Iran if Iran has the wisdom and the sanity to be deterred.
Another argument one hears is that if Iran can live with an Israeli nuclear bomb, why can't Israel live with an Iranian bomb? The answer is that no Israeli leader threatens to eradicate Iran.
Geography is the greatest reason Israel cannot tolerate an Iranian bomb. Israel is so tiny — smaller than New Jersey — that any nuclear exchange between the two countries may well extinguish the Jewish state.
Since world public opinion will blame the Israelis for whatever they do preemptively to save themselves, they might as well do what’s needed and what works, as soon as it is clear that further nonmilitary pressure upon Iran is useless. Israel must, with or without American help, strike first and strike successfully. It must take out not only Iran’s nuclear weaponry, but its delivery systems and command and control centers as well, because it is always better for Jews to be alive and condemned, than dead and eulogized.
An Israeli attack upon Iran will be condemned by the Arabs, the Muslims, the anti-Semites, the anti-Zionists, the anti-Americans and the appeasers. The United States, the European Union, the United Nations, the Pope, the Quakers, and the “war-can-never-be-an-option-in-the-twenty-first-century” postmodernists in academia and elsewhere may very well condemn Israel’s actions as well.
Much of the criticism will be phony, however. In 1981, when Israel destroyed Saddam Hussein’s French-built Osirak reactor, located 18 miles south of Baghdad, the Saudi students in my Middle East politics class at Temple University condemned Israel roundly. But the next day, they all came to my office and asked me to tell my secretary to leave. They then insisted that I close the door. Only when he was assured of complete privacy, did the leader of the group, whose English was impeccable, said to me: “Thank God that the Israelis bombed Iraq yesterday. For only God knows when that crazy Iraqi would have used a nuclear bomb against Saudi Arabia, with which he contests the leadership of the Arab world?"
When I asked him why he and his compatriots didn’t say so in class, he answered: “We were afraid to. At the least, our fellowships from ARAMCO (the Arab-American Oil Company) would have been revoked. And at the most, we would have been ordered home to be imprisoned or killed.”
At the news conference at which he announced Israel’s destruction of the Iraqi reactor, Prime Minister Menachem Begin said, ‘’despite all the condemnations which were heaped on Israel for the last 24 hours, Israel has nothing to apologize for. In simple logic, we decided to act now, before it is too late. We shall defend our people with all the means at our disposal.” He added that “Israel will not tolerate any nuclear weapons in the region.”
Does Israel's present Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, have the courage to emulate his predecessor? Does the Israel Defense Force have the skill to do to Iran today what it did to Iraq a quarter of a century ago? And are the Israeli political and military establishments willing to use tactical nuclear weapons if they conclude that conventional weapons won't do the job?
If Olmert gives the order, and the IDF has the pluck to pull it off, the mad mullahs of Persia will be gone and the Middle East will be a much less dangerous place. But let no one think that my Saudi students or Israel’s other foes will publicly thank the “Zionist regime” for this.
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