Israel needs nukes as long as its enemies call for destruction

“No nukes!” Remember that slogan? It was right up there with such golden oldies as “Save the whales” and “Meat stinks.” And I shouted it along with the best of them.

Because back when the United States and Russia aimed enough warheads at each other to vaporize the planet, I feared the prospect of a nuclear winter.

No ideology was worth that risk. The only sane policy for humankind was to rid the world of all nukes now and forevermore.

At this Chanukah time, I still think that. Sort of.

There is one little blue-and-white wrinkle in my anti-nuclear views: Israel.

Israel won’t admit it, but it is generally believed that the country possesses nuclear weapons. No one knows how many or whether Israel would ever use them. But like the Maccabees of old, modern Israel probably wields a mighty hammer.

Ask David Akov, Israel’s consul general in San Francisco, and he gives the official Israeli line. “There’s a short and simple position,” he told me. “Israel will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East.”

That is the long and very short of it. He would not elaborate further other than to say, “Our position speaks for itself.”

Such ambiguity means Israel’s hostile neighbors, from Syria to Iran to Saudi Arabia, have had to put their “drive-the-Jews-into-the-sea” plans on hold. Any nation launching a war of annihilation against Israel has to wonder whether it risks annihilation itself.

I don’t want Israel to use its nukes. The region is too small to limit the impact of a nuclear strike to any one locale. All people in the area, Jews and Arabs alike, would suffer incalculable harm for decades to come.

But the world learned something from the Cold War policy of mutually assured destruction. Crazy as it seemed, it proved a remarkably effective way to keep the peace.

Despite the official denials, I hope Israel does have nukes. I hope the country has armaments ferocious enough to intimidate those who would contemplate its destruction.

But what about my belief that these weapons are too dangerous for anyone to possess? How can I make exceptions to my “no nukes” philosophy? Why is it fair for only one country in the region to have these weapons, and no one else?

The honest answer is, I don’t believe Israel would push the nuclear button unless its enemies had already embarked on a war of annihilation, perhaps using nukes or chemical/biological weapons of their own.

Does anyone really think Iran would hesitate one second to obliterate Israel with a first-strike nuclear bomb?

It’s not a pretty picture. In fact, it’s the worst nightmare of the Jewish people. But “never again” means never again.

Never again will any nation, religion or terrorist group inflict mass casualties on Jews without paying a terrible price. Never. Ever. Again.

Oh, but doesn’t the perception of a nuclear Israel destabilize the region? Sorry, but the opposite is true. Imagine how motivated Israel’s enemies would be if they knew the worst they would bring down upon themselves was a volley of conventional arms.

As the maxim goes, militarily, Israel has to get it right every time. Israel’s enemies only have to be lucky once.

I have a theory as to why so many people in Europe and the Muslim world have a problem with Israel. They may spew rhetoric about Israel as an apartheid or neocolonialist state, or rail against Zionist world domination. It’s all baloney.

Actually, the Jew-haters of this world simply can’t stand to see Jews as macho tough guys (and gals). They liked us better when they saw us as nebbishes, meekly trudging off to the ghetto or the gas chamber. All those gorgeous, muscular, sexy Israelis who have guns (and know how to use them) just confound the hell out of the Jew-haters.

But that’s their problem.

So let Israel keep that arsenal of nukes Consul General Akov won’t say it has. Let the tyrants of the region tremble at the thought of a Jewish firestorm should they choose the path of war.

I still think we need to rid the world of nukes. But I also think we first need to rid the world of those bent on Israel’s destruction. Then, and only then, might we lay down our sword and shield.

Happy Chanukah, fellow Maccabees.

Dan Pine lives and kvetches in Albany. He can be reached at [email protected].

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.