November 21, 2017

Israeli nuclear opacity and oversight: yes or no?

“We never had, don’t have and will never have nuclear weapons. This doesn’t mean that if someone decided to use such weapons against us, we wouldn’t use them first.”

Reportedly by Moshe Dayan*.

The above is an elegant (in an uncouth military way) prelude to the subject raised twice in three consecutive days by a Jerusalem Post writer:

JPOST EXCLUSIVE: ISRAEL NUCLEAR PROGRAM HAS LESS OVERSIGHT THAN OTHER DEMOCRACIES

IS IT TIME TO REGULATE ISRAEL’S ATOMIC AGENCY?

First of all, the bomb (no pun intended, it is only in the sense of a scoop here):

Israel has less oversight of its nuclear program than other Western democracies, a study by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, which was obtained exclusively by The Jerusalem Post, concludes.

A summary of decades of work on the issue by Avner Cohen, a Professor of nonproliferation studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and a Senior Fellow at CNS, and CNS Davis fellow Brandon Mok, but updated with recent developments, the study is being publicized just days before the issue of oversight goes before the High Court of Justice on Wednesday.

…the study shows comprehensively for the first time that the three Western democracies with nuclear weapons, the US, Britain and France, all manage to maintain a high level of secrecy while providing for comprehensive legislation and robust oversight that Israel does not have.

That it took decades of work to reach this earth-shattering conclusion is a sure pointer to the permissiveness of some institutions of higher learning (in this case Middlebury Institute of International Studies, which is an “American graduate school within Middlebury College, a private university located in Middlebury, Vermont“. Since Vermont parents apparently invest a lot in the college, they might want to finance a study that will research a difference between Israel and the three Western democracies as well. Maybe it will take less than several decades, who knows?

Professor Cohen doesn’t want his research to end up as a purely academic exercise, he and quite a few allies are going further:

Still, the High Court’s September 6 hearing will be the first time in history that a judicial body will exercise broad oversight over the IAEC, with Cohen being one of leaders of the charge.

You will notice that professor Cohen, in his magnanimity, doesn’t disallow us to keep the (alleged, of course) nuclear weapons (“the issue for me is not disarmament“). He has even changed his mind on opacity:

His original battle to get Israel to phase out its opacity, to openly acknowledge its nuclear status, Cohen has stopped fighting.

Of course, it is easy to notice the neat trick: forcing the HCJ (High Court of Justice) to discuss the issue of oversight, which is what professor Cohen fights for, immediately makes the opacity issue a thing of the past. But whatever…

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Surely the expert on nonproliferation, professor Cohen has only pure and noble goals in mind. He even assures us that:

I wanted to also have people behind it who would be apolitical and support the petition regardless and independently of the issue of disarmament.

Sure, and this is why between the petitioners, only from mentioned in the article, appear the Israeli Disarmament Movement, led by Sharon Dolev, who initiated the petition; Moshe “Mossi” Raz, a former Meretz MK; and the attorney who filed the petition, Itay Mack. You can look up on the net the opinions of the former MK and of the attorney. The Israeli Disarmament Movement, bless their simple and stupid little brains, doesn’t require a lookup, does it? Surely as apolitical as they come. Now pull the other leg, professor.

Well, I didn’t want to get personal in that post, and professor Cohen deserves all possible benefit of the doubt. I certainly hate to use terms like “traitor” some less moderate folks throw around, but he made not a small misstep here:

We live in a different world with different questions.

We? Be interesting whom exactly Professor Cohen means by that “we”, since he couldn’t possibly mean “we” as in “Israelis”, could he now? Not to mention that, even if we discard the thorny issue of that “we” as a moot point, looking around from our small hillock in our small swamp, the “different world” mentioned looks somewhat worse than it used to be.

But no matter. I hope the HCJ will boot the petition out quickly enough.

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As for my personal opinion on the whole brouhaha, which you undoubtedly crave for: I can tell you with full confidence that Windows 10 in its 64 bit version is an extremely stable and reliable OS for my desktop. Really – imagine two weeks in a row without a single reboot!

***

Yonah Jeremy Bob, the author of the two above articles, did his best not to infuse them with his (or his editors’) personal or editorial opinions. However, one passage in the second article filled me with wonder:

This issue has become all the more poignant with an ongoing public debate about the “Submarine Affair” plaguing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and multiple cases by IAEC employees hitting the labor courts this week and last week.

How exactly does the nuclear opacity/oversight case connect to the submarine affair mentioned will remain an open question for me. Why don’t issues like Brexit, global warming or POTUS’ recent shenanigans make that opacity more poignant will never be explained to me, I feel. More’s the pity.

(*) It is not a verbatim quote, and attribution is somewhat difficult too. I have heard it several times, but couldn’t find a source. Any contribution will be welcome.

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Snoopy the Goon grew up in the Soviet Union, and now lives in Israel. He blogs at Simply Jews