From Alan Dowty
In some respects, Ari Shavit’s widely-noted interview of Israel’s national security adviser, Uzi Arad, contained no great surprises. Arad’s insistence on “deep” acceptance of Israel (not just de facto acknowledgement of Israel’s existence) by Palestinians; leaving the door open, just by a crack, to a Palestinian state, while dismissing the possibility of any Palestinian leader rising to the occasion; closing the door entirely to a peace treaty with Syria by insisting that Israel remain on the Golan; the preference for the Road Map rather than disengagement and Annapolis—all of this has been in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s hymnal since he took office, and it is clear who is composing the libretto.
Two elements are more striking. First, Arad’s proposal of eventual Israeli membership in NATO adds an oddly chimerical note to what could otherwise be described as an essay in cold-blooded and cynical realism. Arad doubts that the Palestinians will get their act together, or that the international community will act effectively on the Iranian nuclear issue, or that Arabs will ever “internalize” their acceptance of Israel. And he may be right on all counts; pessimists are often mistaken for prophets because they get it right all too often. But to imagine that risk-averse European states, which can barely be persuaded to allow their troops in Afghanistan to go near danger, will commit to meaningful defense of Israel—even in the context of a peace settlement—is fantasy.
The second note of importance is the continued building of infrastructure to prepare the ground for action to prevent Iranian acquisition of the bomb. Arad does not believe that the non-military options will work, and that a maritime blockade might escalate in any event. At the same time, he defines preventing an Iranian bomb as an existential imperative: we cannot live with a nuclear Iran because a nuclear Middle East would not be the same as the Cold War nuclear stalemate. A nuclear Middle East would become a multi-nuclear Middle East, with all that entails.
There is an ironic contradiction here. Arad puts great weight on preventing nuclearization of the region, but at the same time declares himself an acolyte of the late Herman Kahn, the nuclear strategist who rejected the idea of mutual deterrence and insisted on “thinking about the unthinkable,” that is, the actual waging of war with nuclear weapons. Arad even mentions that he once wrote a paper on possible limited nuclear war in Central Europe. If it is so critical to prevent Iran emerging as the first declared nuclear-weapons state in the region, then why is Kahn, of all people, put forward as an icon for the new era?
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