In the late 1970s, Iraq purchased an “Osiris class” nuclear reactor from France. Israeli military intelligence assumed this was for the purpose of plutonium production to further an Iraqi nuclear weapons program. Israeli intelligence also believed that the summer of 1981 would be the last chance to destroy the reactor without exposing the Iraqi civilian population to nuclear fallout. After that point, the reactor would be loaded with nuclear fuel. Iraq protested that its interest in nuclear energy was peaceful, and at the time Iraq was a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), placing its reactors under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. Some experts remained unconvinced that the IAEA monitoring program was sufficient to guarantee that weapon research was not being conducted. They also claimed that an Osiris class reactor was not particularly useful to countries which have no established reactor programs, but that it was capable of producing plutonium. Israel first pursued a diplomatic solution to the situation. Israel’s foreign minister Moshe Dayan went to the United States. However, Israel failed to obtain assurances that the reactor program would be halted, and was not able to convince the French governments of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and François Mitterrand to cease aiding the Iraqi nuclear program (again no surprise).On June 7th 1981 Israel destroyed Iraq’s Nuclear facility, At the time, the attack was widely criticized. Israel responded that its actions were self-defensive and thus justifiable under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. Critics rejected the idea of “pre-emptive self-defense”. France, in particular (again no surprise), was outraged over the loss of a French national as a result of the attack, and since the raid diplomatic ties between France and Israel have remained strained. The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 487, calling upon Israel “to place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards”, and stated that Iraq was “entitled to appropriate redress for the destruction it suffered”. Israel has not complied with these requests. The United States supported the resolution condemning the Israeli action. The US course of action was to withhold a contingent of aircraft already promised to Israel.
Over twenty years later when facing a world-wide terrorist threat as never before, the world began to realize the service performed by Israel, the IAF and Menachem Begin. Just imagine a world with an Iraq or, G0d Forbid, an Osama bin Laden with their hands on a nuclear weapon. If it wasn’t for Menachem Begin, a Prime Minister with guts to give the orders to protect Israel, knowing that a world would absolutely freak, and the heroes of the IDF who flawlessly performed their mission, this scary world would be a lot scarier.Now its be time for Israel to do it again–because in the end Israel can never rely on anyone else for protection but herself:
THE failure of diplomacy to stop Iran’s nuclear program became obvious this week, when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad revealed the installation of 6,000 new centrifuges at the country’s main uranium enrichment complex. His announcement was accompanied by the now customary assertion that outsiders can do nothing to stop Iran from fulfilling its nuclear destiny. Once, not so long ago, this kind of boast would elicit clear American declarations that Iran would never be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. Everything, President Bush would say ominously, is on the table. This time he has been quiet. I wish I believed that it is the quiet before a storm of laser-guided action. It seems more likely that it is the abashed silence of an American president whose bluff has been called in front of the entire world. Washington’s performance should concern anyone who cares about long-term American influence in the Islamic world. But for Israel (and Israel’s supporters), this is an urgent problem. It is Israel, after all, that has been set by the Iranian leadership as the target for annihilation. In response to the news from Iran, some supporters of Israel have started to suggest that the failed efforts at prevention be replaced by assured American deterrence: any Iranian nuclear attack on Israel would be treated as an attack on the United States. Charles Krauthammer, a Washington Post columnist, recently referred to this as “the Holocaust doctrine.” From Israel’s perspective, the thought is tempting — but it’s not realistic. In 1981, Israeli planes destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak. The world’s reaction was harshly critical. Even the Reagan administration, usually a close ally, denounced the operation. Prime Minister Menachem Begin was undaunted by the fury. At a press conference in Jerusalem he announced that he felt obligated to do anything in his power to stop Israel’s enemies from getting their hands on means of mass killing. Begin mentioned the Holocaust; it was never far from his mind. But his primary focus was strategic, not historical. Israel was no different from any other country. It would bear the ultimate responsibility for its own security. Begin was right. Here’s why: First, in exchange for assistance, Washington would naturally (and rightly) demand a very strong say in Israeli policies. A misstep, after all, could embroil it in a nuclear exchange. Within a very short time, Israel’s sovereignty and autonomy would come to resemble Minnesota’s. This is not a bad thing if your country happens to border Iowa. It works less well in Israel’s neighborhood. I’m not questioning American friendship. But even friendship has practical limits. Presidents change and policies change. George W. Bush, the greatest friend Israel has had in the White House, hasn’t been able to keep a (relatively easier) commitment to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It is a good thing that Israel didn’t build its deterrence on that commitment. What’s more, it is fair to say that Israel is not a weak country. It has developed a powerful set of strategic options. In the best case, it would be able to act on its own to degrade and retard the Iranian nuclear program as it did in Iraq (and, more recently, Syria). In a worse case, if the Iranians do get the bomb, Iranian leaders might be deterred by rational considerations. If so, Israel’s own arsenal — and its manifest willingness to respond to a nuclear attack — ought to suffice. If, on the other hand, the Iranian leadership simply can’t resist the itch to “wipe Israel off the map” — or to make such a thing appear imminent — then it would be up to Israel to make its own calculations. What is the price of 100,000 dead in Tel Aviv? Or twice that? The cost to Iran would certainly be ghastly. It would be wrong for Israel to expect other nations to shoulder this moral and geopolitical responsibility. Don’t misunderstand. It would be a noble thing for the United States to support Israel’s efforts to stop an Iranian bomb or, if it comes to that, to back Israel’s response to an attack. But no country can rely on the kindness of others. Next month Israel celebrates its 60th Independence Day. Sovereignty comes with a price. Israel’s willingness to pay it is the only Holocaust doctrine that it can really rely on.