Why Israel, and not Arab lands, needs nuclear arms

Does Israel have a problem with nuclear weapons?

At first glance, it would appear to be the case. Libya is willing to disarm itself of its weapons of mass destruction and not manufacture them in the future. Sooner or later, Iran will probably take the same path, and Pakistan may not lag far behind. After all, the Iraqi example is still very fresh in the minds of these countries.

It is only natural for Arab countries — those required to disarm themselves of weapons of mass destruction — to try to direct attention toward Israel. Why just us, they say?

And what about Israel? After all, it’s no secret that Israel’s reactors have not been in the textile-manufacturing business for ages. Everyone knows what and how much Israel has. So if the Arab countries are being required to disarm themselves of these types of weapons, why isn’t Israel required to do the same thing?

There are very few cases in which an argument so logical can also be so wrong. There is nothing more logical that to demand that Israel do exactly what others are required to do. There is nothing more logical than to expect Israel to practice what it preaches to others. There is no more logical argument than to say that it does not make sense that nuclear arms in one country represent a danger to the world, while the same arms in another country are OK.

On the other hand, it is entirely clear that Israel has no intention of disarming itself of its nuclear weapons, even if the entire world does its utmost to force it to. So what should be done? What should Israel tell the world?

First of all, Ariel Sharon and company must not stammer. Israel must not attempt to whitewash the matter or sweep it under the rug. The Jewish state has the most logical counterargument possible, and that’s because it is founded on the truth.

What Israel has to tell the world is that the situation is simply not the same because it is not out to destroy any country. The Israelis have no reason to do so and are not made that way.

The fact is that there have already been existential situations when the employment of nuclear weapons was considered. But it was never done. Israelis don’t have anything equivalent to the Arabic battle cry of itbah al yahud — slaughter the Jews.

From the outset, Israel became involved in the entire matter of nuclear weapons for only one purpose: defense. This includes the balance of terror.

If Israel did not have these weapons at its disposal, the Jewish state might not exist anymore. The Arab countries might have already destroyed all the remaining Jews in the Middle East. The thing that deters them more than anything else is the knowledge of a possible nuclear response.

In fact, all those who seek peace in the Middle East should be supporting the continued possession of nuclear arms by Israel.

Because if Israel did not have these arms, no Arab or Muslim country — Egypt and Jordan included — would have been willing to talk peace. Their willingness to make peace, to the extent that such willingness exists, stems from their acceptance of the existence of the state of Israel, and acceptance of the fact that Israelis cannot be erased from the face of the earth. And this acceptance on the part of the Arabs and Muslim countries is the direct result of their knowledge that Israel has nuclear weapons.

The state, in essence, owes its very existence to a single individual who brought nuclear weapons to Israel, and who did so despite the opposition of almost all his fellow government members. If Israel manages to reach peace with the Arab countries, it will be thanks to that individual, who had a prophetic view and a sober understanding of the reality in this region, a reality that has not and will not change. It is not superfluous to remind ourselves again and again that this man was none other than Shimon Peres.

Those who say that the same rule regarding nuclear weapons should apply to Israel and the Arab and Muslim countries are not looking out for the welfare of the Jewish people. And if asked how Israel can be so confident that these weapons will never be used improperly, Israelis must state frankly: Our confidence stems from the fact that Jews are not them; Jews are not like them, and those who say otherwise are not interested in the truth.

For the Arab countries, nuclear weapons are weapons of destruction. For Israel, they are weapons of defense, which make our continued existence possible. To allow Muslim countries to continue to possess nuclear weapons is tantamount to agreeing to global suicide. To demand that Israel disarm itself of these weapons is like asking it to consent to commit suicide.

Matti Golan is the former editor-in-chief of Ha’aretz and Globes. This column previously appeared in The Jerusalem Post.