A recent article in Haaretz outlines previous agreements between US Presidents and Israel that sought to protect the Israeli nuclear deterrent from any possible US arms control proposals for the Middle East. Israel is now concerned that President Obama will not honor these informal arrangements, and is looking for reassurance that the supply of military technology will continue. Obama himself has so far shown little sign of any dramatic break from past practices over Israel, though his commitment to talk with Iran and to push forward on the global disarmament agenda is a source of concern for Tel Aviv.
While the policy of ambiguity over Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons may have suited most states, including Arab neighbours, it has presented an important block on any progress in regional arms control, and consideration of the long-term impacts of Israel’s nuclear arsenal for Middle East stability. It is also the source of significant resentment in the region. It may yet be necessary to listen to the boy that points out the Emperor has very dangerous clothes on, if we are serious about moving towards a safer Middle East. The current arrangements are not sustainable, and Iran’s nuclear program is a direct result.