Brain, not brawn

Article Summary
In spite of the belt-tightening policy of the 50s, Israel obtained nuclear-deterrence capabilities. Israel learned from this period that nothing is impossible; it is only a question of willingness. Therefore, writes Eitan Haber, Israel should know that force is useless against Iran. It is time to imagine how to live with a nuclear Iran.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was about five years old at the time, playing in the sand box of the Jerusalem nursery school he was attending, and Ehud Barak was around twelve, running around the citrus groves of Kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon, the collective community that was the birthplace of Israel's current defense minister. David Ben-Gurion (Israel's first prime minister), professor Ernst David Bergman (Israeli nuclear scientist and chemist, the first chairman of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission [IAEC]), Shimon Peres (then-deputy director-general and later on, director-general of the Ministry of Defense and presently, president of Israel) and Emmanuel Manes Pratt (subsequently the founder of the Negev Nuclear Research Center) were there, at the cradle of "Israel's deterrence capability."

These four and many others built, in a collective national endeavor spanning a generation, what foreign sources call "Israel's nuclear facilities." These four and many others saw way ahead of their time. In the 1950s, the first years following the establishment of the State of Israel, when food and other essential commodities were scarce under the austerity regime then in effect, they invested a fortune (relatively speaking, of course) in building the defense force to protect the budding State of Israel, a small island amid the fanatical Islamist Arab ocean threatening to drown it.

The saga of the development of Israel's deterrence capability is a phenomenal story, exceptional in the history of nations. It required a lot of resourcefulness, ingenuity, creativity, "scheming" and "tricks" to pull it off. Only ignorant laymen believe that such deterrence capability can be built within days, weeks or even months. Those familiar with the project can tell of the long road traveled, of the deep crises, the days of despair, the hours of apprehension and the years of hard work that elapsed before the colossal endeavor was brought to fruition.

Netanyahu and Barak were still kids at the inception of it all. However, in the course of their extensive governmental service — notably, as premiers, in the Defense Ministry and the Finance Ministry — they learned two important lessons in this context. The first: where there is a will, there is a way. The second: since Israel has invested hundreds of millions of dollars, and used every tactic and stratagem possible to achieve its aim, why then should the Iranians be expected to act otherwise?

If the Iranians are determined enough, if they are smart and think hard enough, they will find ways to outwit the entire world and sooner or later they will have the nuke. And nothing can stop them from getting it. As far as known at the moment — and the emphasis is on "at the moment" — the Americans would rather not get involved with the Iranians. As to the Israelis who are crying: "Hold us back," they are well aware that without the Americans at their side, they do not stand a chance of dealing the Iranians a crushing blow, if at all.

Hence, for the time being, the conclusion is that whether we like it or not, Iran is bound to go nuclear in the not too distant future and become a threat to world peace — certainly a threat to the very existence of the State of Israel. Rather than considering solution by force, it would maybe, just maybe, be more productive to resort to more subtle, sophisticated methods and contemplate how Israel is to carry on under the shadow of the Iranian bomb. How should it react? What should it do? And how can it keep going inside this seething cauldron?

The author is an Israeli journalist and publicist, a longtime associate of the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and his special adviser and bureau chief.

Found in: nuclear, israel, benjamin netanyahu

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