Israel’s Nuclear Menacing of the Middle East

A country with such hyped sensitivity about imagined “existential threats” should not be allowed to acquire the kind of weapons that could destroy the entire region, several times over, writes Ramzy Baroud.

The Israeli IDF headquarters in the Kirya compound in Tel Aviv, in 2014, during an honor ceremony for U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. (DoD)

By Ramzy Baroud
Common Dreams

As Western countries are floating the theory that Russia could escalate its conflict with Ukraine to a nuclear war, many Western governments continue to turn a blind eye to Israel’s own nuclear weapons capabilities. Luckily, many countries around the world do not subscribe to this endemic Western hypocrisy. 

“The Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction” was held between Nov. 14-18, with the sole purpose of creating new standards of accountability that, as should have always been the case, be applied equally to all Middle Eastern countries.

The debate regarding nuclear weapons in the Middle East could not possibly be any more pertinent or urgent. International observers rightly note that the period following the Russia-Ukraine war is likely to accelerate the quest for nuclear weapons throughout the world. Considering the seemingly perpetual state of conflict in the Middle East, the region is likely to witness nuclear rivalry as well.

For years, Arab and other countries attempted to raise the issue that accountability regarding the development and acquisition of nuclear weapons cannot be confined to states that are perceived to be enemies of Israel and the West. 

The latest of these efforts was a United Nations resolution that called on Israel to dispose of its nuclear weapons, and to place its nuclear facilities under the monitoring of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Resolution number A/C.1/77/L.2, which was drafted by Egypt with the support of other Arab countries, passed with an initial vote of 152-5. Unsurprisingly, among the five countries that voted against the draft were the United States, Canada and, of course, Israel itself.

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U.S. and Canadian blind support of Tel Aviv notwithstanding, what compels Washington and Ottawa to vote against a draft entitled: “The risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East?” Keeping in mind the successive right-wing extremist governments that have ruled over Israel for many years, Washington must understand that the risk of using nuclear weapons under the guise of fending off an ‘existential threat’ is a real possibility.

Since its inception, Israel has resorted to, and utilized the phrase “existential threat” countless times. Various Arab governments, later Iran and even individual Palestinian resistance movements were accused of endangering Israel’s very existence. Even the non-violent Palestinian civil society-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement was accused by then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2015 of being an existential threat to Israel. Netanyahu claimed that the boycott movement was “not connected to our actions; it is connected to our very existence.”

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu during a Pentagon press briefing in 2021. (DoD, Jack Sanders)

This should worry everyone, not just in the Middle East, but the whole world. A country with such hyped sensitivity about imagined “existential threats” should not be allowed to acquire the kind of weapons that could destroy the entire Middle East, several times over.

Some may argue that Israel’s nuclear arsenal was intrinsically linked to real fears resulting from its historical conflict with the Arabs. However, this is not the case. As soon as Israel finalized its ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their historic homeland, and long before any serious Arab or Palestinian resistance was carried out in response, Israel was already on the lookout for nuclear weapons.

As early as 1949, the Israeli army had found uranium deposits in the Negev Desert, leading to the establishment, in 1952, of the very secretive Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC).

In 1955, the U.S. government sold Israel a nuclear research reactor.  But that was not enough. Eager to become a full nuclear power, Tel Aviv resorted to Paris in 1957. The latter became a major partner in Israel’s sinister nuclear activities when it helped the Israeli government construct a clandestine nuclear reactor near Dimona in the Negev Desert.

The father of the Israeli nuclear program at the time was none other than Shimon Peres who, ironically, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. The Dimona Nuclear Reactor is now named “Shimon Peres Nuclear Research Center-Negev.”

Dec. 10, 1994: From left; PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize following the Oslo Accords. (Israeli Government Press Office, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

With no international monitoring whatsoever, thus with zero legal accountability, Israel’s nuclear quest continues until this day. In 1963, Israel purchased 100 tons of uranium ore from Argentina, and it is strongly believed that during the October 1973 Israel-Arab war, Israel “came close to making a nuclear preemptive strike”, according to Richard Sale, writing in United Press International (UPI).

Currently, Israel is believed to have “enough fissionable material to fabricate 60-300 nuclear weapons,” according to former U.S. Army Officer Edwin S. Cochran.

Estimates vary, but the facts about Israel’s weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) are hardly contested. Israel itself practices what is known as “deliberate ambiguity,” as to send a message to its enemies of its lethal power, without revealing anything that may hold it accountable to international inspection.

What we know about Israel’s nuclear weapons has been made possible partly because of the bravery of a former Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, a whistleblower who was held in solitary confinement for a decade due to his courage in exposing Israel’s darkest secrets.

Still, Israel refuses to sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), endorsed by 191 countries.

Israeli leaders adhere to what is known as the ‘Begin Doctrine’, in reference to Menachem Begin, the rightwing Israeli prime minister who invaded Lebanon in 1982, resulting in the killing of thousands. The doctrine is formulated around the idea that, while Israel gives itself the right to own nuclear weapons, its enemies in the Middle East must not. This belief continues to direct Israeli actions to this day.

The U.S. support for Israel is not confined to ensuring the latter has “military edge” over its neighbors in terms of traditional weapons, but to also ensure Israel remains the region’s only superpower, even if that entails escaping international accountability for the development of WMDs.

The collective efforts by Arab and other countries at the UNGA to create a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons are welcomed initiatives. It behooves everyone, Washington included, to join the rest of the world in finally forcing Israel to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty, a first but critical step towards long-delayed accountability.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of the Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books including: These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons (2019), My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (2010) and The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (2006). Dr. Baroud is a non-resident senior research fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is

This article is from  Common Dreams.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.



10 comments for “Israel’s Nuclear Menacing of the Middle East

  1. Andrew Nichols
    December 6, 2022 at 01:40

    Unsurprisingly, among the five countries that voted against the draft were the United States, Canada and, of course, Israel itself.

    Trudeau, the fake progressive like Australia’s Albanese leading a US colony. Lot of phoneys about in the progressive sphere. Trudeau, Ardern, Sanna Marin…Neoliberalisms next generation destroying another decades hopes for a fairer world smiling as they do it.

  2. ray Peterson
    December 5, 2022 at 18:44

    What trust that even if Israel did sign a nonproliferation
    agreement, that it would keep to its terms any more than
    Hitler kept to the terms of the Munich “peace in our
    time” agreement. It being, “Just a piece of paper.”

  3. X Fretensis
    December 5, 2022 at 14:49

    I remember a middle east joke on Israel becoming a state. “We have the Palestinians. Why do we need Jews as well?”
    Israel is seeking to rewrite that joke. By eliminating Palestinians. They, the Palestinians, are a constant reminder that Israel is Palestine.
    When younger I was an adherent of the Leon Uris fictional account of Israel. I once asked an Israeli friend where were the ‘Arab’ Leon Uris’s. His reply was enlightening. “They are out there.. but we own the publishing houses.. you won’t be reading them”.
    There is great injustice being carried out by the west in Palestine. Increasingly, every day it seems, that a Palestinian is shot by Israeli forces and half a dozen wounded. We, in the west support this through inaction and our votes or abstentions in the UN.
    I find it beyond belief that given Israel’s determination to rid themselves of Palestine, that they are allowed nuclear weapons – for any reason.

  4. rgl
    December 5, 2022 at 12:06

    “A country with such hyped sensitivity about imagined “existential threats” should not be allowed to acquire [these] kinds of weapons …”

    First, are we talking about Israel or the US? I think it is safe to say that the above is applicable to both these nations. Lastly, why confine that statement to these two miscreants only? These weapons are extinction level constructs. No nation should possess these things.

    Yes, I know, dreaming …

  5. Drew Hunkins
    December 5, 2022 at 10:55

    Of course Israhell developed its nukes surrepetitously and behind the back of JFK who was desperately trying to shut its program down at Dimona.

    • Helga I. Fellay
      December 5, 2022 at 13:54

      and probably paid with his life for it.

  6. Dr. Hujjatullah M.H.B. Sahib
    December 5, 2022 at 05:58

    The Begin Doctrine germinated and grew out of a traditional bed of Western hypocrisy well nurtured under their crusading hangover. While it is true that many countries do not identify with this blatamt Western hypocrisy in any formal way for various reasons the powerful “Western” elements within the Rest in fact strongly support it if only informally. So, even the idea of creating a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East will only end up serving the longer term security of Israel and help perpetuate the longevity of that illegitimate entity. While we talk about the Western hypocrisy we must not miss out the Arab, or rather the Egyptian, hypocrisy of going to peace with an illegitimate entity and then working to strengthen that illegitimate entity by denying it that which it perceives to ensure its survival and regional stremgth and help starve off its alleged “existential” threat !

  7. Henry Smith
    December 5, 2022 at 05:19

    It seems apparent that the West has conspired to allow Israel to obtain nuclear weapons. Contrast this with the west’s objections to Iran and North Korea having nuclear weapons – more open hypocrisy.
    It obviously suits the west’s agenda to have a lethal armed mad dog running around the middle East thus ensuring Arab countries cannot progress to a level where they are a threat to the USA.

  8. John K Leslie
    December 4, 2022 at 19:49

    Good, accurate article and certainly one that could never be published in weeny Canada. The mere mention of the word “Palestine” will get you a ‘content disabled’ on CBC’s news web page. Thanks, Ramzy. [knock, knock! Who’s there? It’s CSIS, May we have a moment?]

  9. robert e williamson jr
    December 4, 2022 at 14:14

    Someone needs to talk to all those mostly , white, bi-partisan, right-wing to extreme right wing very wealthy evangelical Christians who are lobbying the SCOTUS and congress for blind support of their agenda. Another official group already exists to do the same regarding lobbying the US congress et al for favorable treatment of anything Israel.

    Regardless Ramzy Baroud has this right.

    The Israeli government never lets rests in it’s efforts to brow beat it’s own citizens while constantly applying excruciating pressure on all Palestinian. The entire time holding the threat of nuclear annihilation over the entire region.

    As an American I see this as Israel’s government being totally unreasonable, as in insane. Ever hear of a guy name “Ye” little difference in my opinion between his lunatic ravings and Israels new border boss.

    The fact that I must moderate my own opinion here I take very personal and it pisses me off. I cannot imagine the emotions the hapless Palestinians.

    Same as we all know Trump was full of S%#$, we also know our governments position with regards to Israel is unreasonably biased in favor of the Israelis and undermines American values because of the outrageous actions of various Israeli government officials.

    I know I sure as hell would never agree to the antics the U.S. government allows Israeli officials to get away with.

    In my humble opinion our government has allowed a very risky dynamic to develop by treating Israel as spoiled child.

    Thanks CN

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