SCOTT RITTER: The 2-State Solution’s Nuclear Option

A new Palestinian state could never be free as long as its neighbor, Israel, possesses  nuclear weapons.

Palestine solidarity march in London on Oct. 9. (Alisdare Hickson, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

By Scott Ritter
Special to Consortium News

U.S. President Joe Biden declared in a televised address on Oct. 25 that, when it came to relations between Palestine and Israel, “There’s no going back to the status quo as it stood on October 6,” the day before Hamas launched its surprise attack on Israel, triggering Israel’s ongoing attack on Gaza.  

Biden’s words echoed those of his secretary of state, Antony Blinken, who the day before told the United Nations Security Council there could be no peace in the Middle East without the Palestinian people “realizing their legitimate right to self-determination and a state of their own.” 

Blinken followed up this pronouncement on Nov. 3, declaring in a press conference that the U.S. was committed to a two-state solution for Israeli and Palestinian states. “The best viable path, indeed the only path, is through a two-state solution,” Blinken said. “The only way to end the cycle of violence once and for all.”

This White House has been expressing support for a two-state solution ever since Biden took office. Blinken had a hard time getting traction on this policy, however, while Israel struggled with forming a government after an extended period of political deadlock that witnessed four inconclusive elections (April 2019, September 2019, March 2020 and March 2021) in three years.

In November 2022 the Israelis went to the polls for a fifth time, and this time the veteran former-prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was able to secure enough votes and political support to assemble a far-right governing coalition. 

Israeli President Herzog assigning task of forming a new government to Netanyahu, Nov. 13, 2022. (Kobi Gideon / Government Press Office, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Wikimedia Commons)

While Netanyahu’s victory ended Israel’s electoral nightmare, it also proved to be the death knell for the Biden administration’s aspirations for a Palestinian-Israeli peace process premised on a two-state solution. 

The governing coalition Netanyahu had cobbled together was more inclined toward the eradication of the existing Palestinian Authority than resurrecting a vision which, from the perspective of Israel’s radical right, had died with Yitzhak Rabin on Nov. 4, 1995. 

For the Biden administration to speak of pushing a two-state solution in any post-conflict negotiation would require that Netanyahu jettison his governing coalition, an act that would be terminal to his political future. This is widely known within the U.S. government. 

Post-Conflict Israel 

As such, for Biden and Blinken to posture in favor of a two-state solution so aggressively, it must be done with the working assumption that a post-conflict Israel will be governed by a political leader capable of supporting an idea which had been extinguished, in so far as Israeli politics is concerned, nearly three decades ago.

Even if such a governing coalition could be crafted together to politically sustain the idea of a two-state solution that fails to resonate with Israelis and Palestinians alike, there remains the ultimate hurdle that needs to be cleared before any notion of a lasting peace between Israeli and Palestinian states premised on the notion of equality — Israel’s nuclear weapons program.

Israel’s representative addressing meeting on the NPT Safeguards Agreement with Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna, March 4, 2021. (Dean Calma / IAEA, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0)

The question of Israeli nuclear weapons has befuddled every American president since John F. Kennedy. The issue came to a head in 1968, after the U.S. signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). The treaty was signed by President Lyndon Johnson on July 1, 1968. Issues of implementation, however, fell to his successor, Richard Nixon. 

One of the major policy issues facing the Nixon administration was the status of Israel’s nuclear weapons program. The Nixon administration was firmly committed to the NPT, and as such was obligated to adhere to U.S. laws prohibiting the sale of military technology to a nation operating in violation of the NPT or, as in the case of Israel, possessed nuclear weapons capability outside of the framework of the NPT.

Nixon was advised by his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, to pressure Israel into signing the NPT and being disarmed of its nuclear arsenal. Nixon, however, balked at the notion of being seen as pressuring Israel on an issue of national security, and instead opted to embark on a policy of nuclear ambiguity, where Israel promised not to be the first nation to “introduce” nuclear weapons to the Middle East, so long as it was understood that “introduce” did not equate to “possession.”

US Diplomatic Cover 

Blinken boarding plane in Israel heading to Jordan, Nov. 3. (State Department, Chuck Kennedy)

Some five and a half decades later, the United States continues to provide diplomatic cover for Israel’s nuclear weapons, maintaining the fiction of ambiguity despite knowing full well Israel possesses a very robust nuclear arsenal. This posture is becoming more difficult to sustain, given the increasingly aggressive posture assumed by the Israeli government regarding its own policy of ambiguity. 

In 2022, during a periodic review by the United Nations of the NPT, then-Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid addressed the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission about Israel’s “defensive and offensive capabilities, and what is referred to in the foreign media as other capabilities. These other capabilities,” Lapid said, clearly alluding to Israel’s nuclear weapons, “keep us alive and will keep us alive as long as we and our children are here.”

As things stand, the threat posed by Israeli nuclear weapons to both regional and global security is as great today as at any time in Israeli history. With the potential of the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict expanding to include Hezbollah and perhaps Iran, Israel for the first time since 1973 faces a genuine existential threat — the kind of threat Israel’s nuclear weapons were built to deter. 

An Israeli minister has already alluded to the attractiveness of using nuclear weapons against Hamas in Gaza. But the real threat comes from what happens if Iran is dragged into the war. Here, Israel’s much rumored “Samson Option” could come into play, where Israel uses its nuclear arsenal to destroy as many enemies as possible once the continued survival of Israel is at risk.

The Death of Samson, 1866, by Gustave Doré. (English Bible, Public domain)

Given the present risk posed by Israel’s nuclear arsenal, it is essential that the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict be prevented from expanding. Once the conflict can be ended, the process must begin for a long-term solution that includes a free and independent Palestine. However, a new Palestinian state can never be free if its neighbor, Israel possesses nuclear weapons. 

Operating with the understanding that the creation of a Palestinian state would coincide with a renewed push for normalization of relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors, the result vis-à-vis the security of Israel would be a much-improved situation that made Israel’s need for nuclear weapons moot. 

South African Example

UNESCO Peace Prize award ceremony in Paris on Feb. 3, 1992. Seated from left are the two recipients — South African President de Klerk and African National Congress President Nelson Mandela — and Henry Kissinger, a former U.S. secretary of state and chairman of the selection jury. (UN Photo/JP Somme)

The question then becomes how Israel can be persuaded to voluntarily give up its nuclear weapons. Fortunately, there is an example from history. 

Apartheid South Africa had embarked on a nuclear weapons program in the early 1970s. U.S. intelligence reports show that South Africa formally began its nuclear weapons program in 1973.  By 1982, it had developed and built its first nuclear explosive device.

Seven years later, in 1989, South Africa had manufactured six functional nuclear bombs, each capable of delivering an explosive equivalent of 19 kilotons of TNT.

The South African nuclear weapons program mirrored that of the Israeli program in that it was conducted in great secrecy and designed to deter the threat posed by communist-supported black liberation movements operating all along the periphery of the South African nation. 

In 1989, South Africa elected a new president, F. W. de Klerk, who quickly realized that the political winds were changing and that the country could very well, in the span of a few years, fall under the control of black nationalists led by Nelson Mandela.

To prevent that, De Klerk took the unprecedented decision to join the NPT as a non-nuclear state and open its nuclear program for inspection and dismantlement. South Africa joined the NPT in 1991; by 1994, all South Africa’s nuclear weapons had been dismantled under international supervision.

Once the Palestinian-Israeli war comes to an end, and if Israel begins negotiating in good faith about the possibility of a free and independent Palestinian state, the United States should lead an effort to get the Israeli government to follow the path taken by F. W. de Klerk by signing the NPT and working with the International Atomic Energy Agency to dismantle the totality of Israel’s nuclear arsenal. 

Such a move should be non-negotiable — if the United States is serious about creating the conditions of a long and lasting peace between Israel and Palestine, then it should use all the leverage at its disposal to pressure Israel to voluntarily disarm itself of nuclear weapons.

This is the only viable path to peace between Israel and the Arab and Muslim world that surrounds it. 

Scott Ritter is a former U.S. Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD. His most recent book is Disarmament in the Time of Perestroika, published by Clarity Press.

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

35 comments for “SCOTT RITTER: The 2-State Solution’s Nuclear Option

  1. robert e williamson jr
    November 20, 2023 at 14:09

    A great number 0f people would benefit from having a solid grasp on the history of JFK’s time in office.

    The man studied what the presence of nuclear weapons meant to mankind.

    He feared a great of imbalance of military might in the region would cause constant unrest. The Israeli government acting out in a bold manner because of the military might they possessed.

    Turns out he was right, in my opinion.

    Some mat not agree or like what Scott has to say here, which is their prerogative, however Scott most generally simply calls things as he see them, through his clear understanding of power and how it is used.

    Great stuff Scott,.

    Thanks for caring and thanks to CN & Crew. Long live the memory of Robert Parry.

  2. Tony
    November 20, 2023 at 08:21

    Libya under Colonel Gadaffi was persuaded to give up its chemical weapons and I also think there was a nuclear weapons programme. And so, the decision to overthrow him was extremely stupid and dangerous. One of the architects of that act of lunacy, David Cameron, is now back in office as UK foreign secretary.

    This is in addition to the points made recently on this website by Chris Hedges in which he highlights the deception that provided a cover for that attack.

  3. Ghassan Safadi
    November 19, 2023 at 07:45

    People forget that in South Africa’s Anti-Apartheid Act and Sanctions was Vetoed in 1986 by then President Reagan as he called it “economic warfare” that will hurt the black majority. His veto was later overridden by the senate.

    No, Israel will not sit on the table unless Aid is actually cut off

    • LarcoMarco
      November 19, 2023 at 22:11

      Reagan also declared South Africa was our ally and furthermore, we need their minerals.

  4. Jeff Harrison
    November 19, 2023 at 02:04

    Well done, Scott. We both know that one can’t trust Israel nor can we let them run around loose without adult supervision.

  5. Rafael
    November 19, 2023 at 01:31

    As far as I know the US (with the help of apartheid South Africa) aided the Israeli acquisition of nuclear weapons. (I know personally at least one American who worked in Israel on that weapon programme. ) If the US wanted nukes in Israel once, what could make them change their minds now?

  6. November 19, 2023 at 00:59

    This monstrous violence began not in Oct 2023 but in Basel, Switzerland in 1897 when the first World Zionist Organization was formed and set its sights on a “Jewish national home” in Palestine although knowing it was already populated and well-developed. Through a masterful web of lies and international political manipulations before, during and after the 1st and 2nd world wars, including wanton disregard for international laws established by the post-WWII UN, the situation has progressively deteriorated into the tragic circumstances we see today. Israel must be forced by int’l sanctions (e.g., a worldwide BDS movement) to declare and subject its WMD program to IAEA inspection and regulation. Beyond that, only a one-state solution could be trusted to keep the nukes in their silos. Including the right of return for dispossessed Palestinians, this will strip Israel of its Jewish majority and launch massive changes, all for the better. Palestinians are generally very well-educated and together with Jewish Israelis could produce together an exceptional society.

    • Valerie
      November 19, 2023 at 18:12

      Thankyou Dr. Dresser. One of the more comprehensive, compassionate and realistic ideas to solving this problem.

      • SH
        November 20, 2023 at 17:35


  7. Rex Dunn
    November 18, 2023 at 18:58

    1) Zionist Israel will not give up its nuclear weapons voluntarily -2) This is linked to its aim to create a Jewish state within an expanded Israel, based on the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from their ancestral lands, by means of genocide. (Then Israel would no longer have to rely on the imposition of an apartheid state, which is really a stop-gap policy.) 3) So far, the US hegemon has allowed Israel to pursue its overall aim with impunity, as long as the US and the west can maintain the fiction of being in favour of a ‘Two state solution’ to the Palestinian ‘problem’. (N.B. This is an aspect of imperialism; i.e. in a socialist world there would be no Palestinian problem, because people would want to live in a secular Palestine, which grants equal rights for all, regardless of their ethnicity.) 4) Israel will use its nuclear weapons against any moslem state – or coalition of moslem entities – which comes to the aid of the Palestinians, because Israel knows that, today, Turkey + Iran + Hezbollah have the potential to defeat it. (Hence points 1) and 2) are interlinked.) 5) On the other hand, Israel will only give up its nuclear weapons if it is defeated in such a war – which is impossible – OR if the US hegemon decides to force its proxy state in the ME to accept a two-state solution – But that would mean the abandonment of its colonial settler policy – based on violence – whereby Israel would have to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders, and the Jewish settlements would have to be handed over to the Palestinians – which is unlikely OR the US and the west – via the UNO – forces Israel to accept single secular state for all – which is even less likely. 6) But the US hegemon is so corrupted by the Zionist lobby, linked to the MIC, it now allows the Zionist state of Israel to dictate its own foreign policy; so neither of these two things will happen. 7) Thus we have an impasse. Meanwhile the world watches aghast whilst Israel carries out its latest round of ethnic cleansing and genocide in Gaza = the inevitable outcome of imperialism, which Lenin describes as ‘rotting capitalism’. 8) There can only be one solution, which is a socialist revolution. But that is not going to happen in the near future.

  8. mr bog
    November 18, 2023 at 18:37

    The U.S. has been vetoing the 2-state UN resolution for 50 years.
    If biden is for real then is he finally going to let that pass next time it comes up for vote?

  9. Roslyn Ross
    November 18, 2023 at 16:47

    You are being rational when Israel is totally irrational and has allowed to be so for 75 plus years. The South Africans were sane. The Israelis are not. This rogue and maniacal Zionist State is the creation of US support for far too long. The only way to change anything is to cut off the money the US sends to Israel.

    • Charles E. Carroll
      November 19, 2023 at 09:48


  10. Jack
    November 18, 2023 at 14:24

    The people who live in the US should take over their government so as to prevent it from sending weapons to political factions abroad.

    • WWIIDaughter7
      November 19, 2023 at 11:42

      Yup. SR doesn’t factor up the coming Financial Collapse. Get your money out of a Federally backed institution and put it in a small Credit Union. That’s going to change things for sure!

  11. Paul Citro
    November 18, 2023 at 13:27

    An apartheid regime plunked down in the middle of historic Palestine has never been a good idea. A single country where everyone has equal rights regardless of religion and background is the only truly ethical solution.

    • Rafael
      November 20, 2023 at 01:20

      I agree. In the long run this is the only solution (aside from something even more radical like a socialist republic throughout a much greater region than just Palestine.)

      This idea has been part of the zionist movement since at least the 1920’s. It was known by the name “bi-national state”. Unfortunately it lost out to the right wing of the Labour zionists, and subsequently to the fascist wing of zionism, which now domnates Israeli politics.

  12. Stephen Zelnick
    November 18, 2023 at 12:35

    This swords into ploughshares essay proves how far any such settlement is from present realities. Israel in its 75-year aspirations has demolished the hopes of an international order and all peace agreements devised under UN aegis. Israel proudly wears the badge of lawlessness and mocks all efforts to restrict its belligerence.
    The call for the resignation of Secretary General Guterres and the disgraceful appearance at the UN of the Israeli contingent disguised for Halloween as Holocaust victims demonstrated Israeli contempt for international concerns. Israel should have had its membership suspended, but the UN no longer has the strength to support its own power. The slaughter of UN workers and Interntional journalists in the GAZA bombing shows how far we are from Israel reaching the kinds of agreements Ritter imagines.
    None of this would have been possible without US imperial connivance.
    Israel will bow to peaceful coexistence right after the US lifts its blockade of Cuba, Chuck Shumer recognizes Palestinian history before Oct. 7, and the US Congress apologizes for censuring its lone Palestinian member.

  13. Eric Foor
    November 18, 2023 at 12:21

    I fully agree with the comments by ALTRUIST and ANON. The modern state of Israel has blossomed into full blown revival of Old Testament values…fear..bigotry..retribution and genocide. These ethics may be beneficial to the Zionist Jews and the Zionist Christians that that support them but they are an extremely dangerous threat to any non Jews nearby (the Palestinians)…AS WELL AS ALL NON JEWISH HUMANITY! THEY HAVE BECOME AN EXISTENTIAL THREAT TO THE ENTIRE WORLD!

    Not one more penny to Israel!! Outlaw AIPAC!! Get the Zionist influence out of all our government!! I propose a world wide boycott of Israel and sanctions on all Zionist funding until that government allows the native Palestinians access to all the land that Israel now controls… and equal human rights for all. Furthermore the boycott and sanctions should remain in effect until Israel either dismantles it’s nuclear weapons or the nations that they threaten with their “Samson Option” be allowed a parity of arms. This needs to happen NOW!!


  14. Lois Gagnon
    November 18, 2023 at 11:01

    When is the US ever serious about peace? The ruling political/donor class stays rich and untouchable through the use of violence.

    I’m all for pressuring all countries possessing nuclear weapons to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and rid the world of these suicide machines before any of them perceive it is legitimate to use them.

  15. Vera Gottlieb
    November 18, 2023 at 10:04

    And all the ZIONISTS will have abandoned their racists views.

  16. Altruist
    November 18, 2023 at 06:00

    If Scott Ritter seriously thinks that Biden and Blinken have “aspirations for a Palestinian-Israeli peace process premised on a two-state solution” (as he states) I have a bridge to sell him at a very reasonable price. He may contact me regarding the bridge offer by replying to this post.

    Ever since the Oslo accords were signed in 1993 the “peace process” and the “two-state solution” (to be realized at vague point in the indefinite future) were simply a smoke screen to buy time for establishment of an increasingly dense archipelago of Israeli settlements in the West Bank with an aim to eventual integration of this territory into a Greater Israel.

    Given the extent of these settlements and the political impossibility of dismantling them, a two-state solution is now in the realm of fantasy and science fiction. I find it hard to believe that a hard-headed Marine like Ritter considers Biden and Blinken to be sincere when they promote this long-dead “solution”.

    The only possibility open now is a one-state solution. Which will take one of two forms: either (i) an ethnically “pure” state where the Palestinian population has been either deported or physically exterminated or (ii) a democracy, where the Palestinian population is integrated into a state which respects all ethnicities and religions. Sadly we seem to be going in the direction of option (i). We can still hope that sounder minds will prevail and a democratic future for the region will be realized, as was done in South Africa.

    • Horatio
      November 18, 2023 at 10:42

      I’m not sure why you think the two state solution is a fantasy. Have you been told that by the Israels? What has happened is that Jews have marched illegally into Palestinian territory because they doesn’t respect the law. All that’s needed is for them to march in the other direction. A one state solution is unmanageable. Amnesty International did a study some years ago of the educational system in Israel. It found that young Jews are taught to despise Arabs. At the cellular level therefor a one state solution is not possible.

    • BettyK
      November 18, 2023 at 10:48

      Amen! Scott should have put the following in all capitals ” if Israel begins negotiating in good faith”. That possibility will never come to fruition as long as the U.S. continues to support Israel’s “One State Solution” through pouring money into its genocide.

    • Peter Loeb
      November 18, 2023 at 12:39

      Thanks to “Altruist” for his excellent point. I now have insuffcient funds for a bridge even at his ow price.

      Writer James Bamford analyzes how Israel stole uranium from the US at NUMEC in Pennsylvania.
      The Obama administration refused to pursue the documentation for treason. As Bamford noted, Jews are
      3 percent of the electorate and 60% of the big donors to the democratic party. The mechanisms for manipulating
      opinion are also covered (in chapter titled “The Blue Network”. See “Spy/Fail”,( 2023) Many special favors have
      been done for Mr. Netanyahu also detailed in his book.

      The Center for Constitutional Rights has produced a 44-page legal brief on Israel and genocide. —Peter Loeb

    • JonnyJames
      November 18, 2023 at 15:37

      Well put, I fully agree.

    • Roslyn Ross
      November 18, 2023 at 16:49

      Well said. The Israelis are dangerously insane and have been for a very long time. The US has allowed their insanity to grow and deepen. Cut off the money and bring Israel to account. Only the US can do that. Get the illegal settlers out and either Israel goes back to UN Mandated borders or it is one State as you say.

  17. Ace Thelin
    November 17, 2023 at 23:38

    Good point Scott. In addition A Palestinian State can never be free as long as Israel possess Zionism. There is no such thing as a viable Palestinian state alongside a Jewish supremacist state. Only aZ One State Solution addresses the crimes and contradictions of the realities on the ground. A democratic state with desegregation and freedom of religion is the only possible solution. The two state solution is dead. Free Palestine!

  18. anon
    November 17, 2023 at 23:05

    The US does NOT pressure Israel. The US is completely owned and controlled by the Zionist lobby, through outright corruption (AIPAC money) and Epstein/ Maxwell blackmail. This applies to all politicians, media, finance, entertainment, everything. All you can ever expect from these goy whores is non stop grovelling to Israel. The idea they would ever pressure Israel is ludicrous. They are owned, lock, stock and barrel by Israel. They are corrupted, or compromised, or more usually, both.

    • BettyK
      November 18, 2023 at 10:49

      Well said!

    • November 18, 2023 at 22:08

      Four words I thought I’d never say:
      “ Bring back Poppy Bush”

    • Rafael
      November 19, 2023 at 01:26


    • Robert McCurdy
      November 20, 2023 at 11:13

      I’ve read both of Whitney Webb’s exposé on the ubiquity of institutionalized blackmail. It’s become my go to explanation for why people in power do apparently irrational things.

  19. EJH
    November 17, 2023 at 21:50

    When will the United States be pressured to dismantle its nuclear weapons arsenal?

  20. Anon
    November 17, 2023 at 21:12

    Ironic UNESCO photo

Comments are closed.