We already had plenty to worry about. The Administration’s manufacture of a crisis with Israel over housing in a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem was a disturbing departure from past US policy. Despite repeated denials and walk-backs, the President’s treatment of Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House had the look and feel of a strange snub of an ally’s elected leader.
Yet last week brought what may well be the most disturbing news of all. The Obama Administration has broken an important policy and psychological barrier. For the first time in my memory, an American administration has officially embraced the goal of eliminating Israel’s nuclear weapons. Last week, the US joined Russia, Britain, France and China in issuing a statement expressing support for making the Middle East a “nuclear free” zone.
Making matters even worse, Secretary of State Clinton announced last week that the US not only supports a nuclear-free Middle East in principle, but is also “prepared to support practical measures that will move us toward achieving that objective.”
Like the Netanyahu snub, the Administration has tried to walk back this provocative new approach. Spokesmen have explained that these statements are intended to secure broader support for sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program. Assurances have been made that there is no intention to pressure Israel to give up its nuclear weapons.
Yet the enormous danger of this position is becoming more obvious by the day. Permitting any kind of equivalency between Israel’s nukes and those of Iran forfeits the moral high ground for a most dubious short term advantage. At a time when Iran’s Ahmadinejad is desperate to divert attention from his nuclear program, we should not be helping to do exactly that.
Let’s be clear. Israel is a democracy surrounded by neighbors that have threatened to destroy her, attempted to destroy her, or both. Israel’s nuclear weapons are purely defensive — their purpose is to deter the very destruction so often plotted and sought. Iran, on the other hand, is one of those neighbors that has threatened to destroy Israel. Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. Iran wants nuclear weapons for offensive purposes. Treating these two nations the same blurs what should be black and white. It erodes borders that should be sharp. It endangers what should be sacrosanct.
The Administration’s policy of accommodation has not worked thus far. Doubling down on this policy by bringing Israel’s nukes into the mix is simply reckless. After all, the President already adopted the tone of moral equivalency between Israel and the Palestinians in his Cairo speech. He already equated apartments in Jerusalem with incitement to terror (truth be told, he’s been tougher on the apartments….). He’s already tried to win over the moderates and the world with an even hand. Yet the only discernible results thus far have been an increase in Palestinian demands and intransigence. The fact that Palestinian consent to indirect talks is now hailed as a victory shows just how far the situation has deteriorated.
Less than a week old, the Administrations new approach to Israel’s nukes appears to have already borne some very bitter fruit. According to the Associated Press, the topic of “Israeli nuclear capabilities” has for the first time been included as an agenda item before the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency. In the past, the US has prevented this body from addressing Israel’s nukes. This meeting is scheduled to take place in early June, and the IAEA Board has the power to refer matters to the UN Security Council. Let’s pray it’s not too late to put the genie back in the bottle.