U.S.-Israeli Nuclear Safety Agreement

Israel’s nuclear program remains the pink elephant in the Middle East nuclear room, despite the country’s longstanding policy of “strategic ambiguity.” But as this Yossi Melman article from Ha’Aretz illustrates, the other problematic aspect of the Israeli program is our involvement with it, which just got expanded under the terms of an agreement to ensure the safety of Israel’s aging Dimona facility. The double-bind here is that this kind of cooperation clearly undermines the non-proliferation regime, since Israel is not a signatory to the NPT, and also lends credibility to Iranian claims of a nuclear double standard for the Muslim world. But should Israel abandon “strategic ambiguity” in order to come in from the NPT cold, it could de-stabilize the fragile status quo by which other Arab powers, notably Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have refrained from pursuing a nuclear capacity. As usual, the problem with the Middle East status quo (besides the fact that, post-Iraq, it arguably no longer exists) is that, like democracy, it’s the worst option, except for all the alternatives.