South Africa Can Use its Nuclear Stance to Pressure Israel

Hügo Krüger outlines how Pretoria can use its nuclear-nonproliferation position to pressure and isolate the Netanyahu government internationally for its policy of apartheid and assault on Gaza.  

South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor addressing the U.N. Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East on Oct. 24. (UN Photo/Loey Felipe)

By Hügo Krüger
Hügo’s Newsletter

Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas has not only been disproportionate, but clearly exceeded the basic limits of international law and in particular the Geneva convention.

The assault on Gaza that has seen the death of over 11,000 civilians, of whom almost half are children, also includes using food as a weapon of war, collective punishment and ethnic cleansing with almost half of Gazans having their homes destroyed as they are marched alongside Israeli soldiers from the north to the south of the enclave.

Under the excuse that Hamas is using the population as “human shields,” a claim that has never been verified by independent sources, Israel has bombed universities, hospitals and U.N. refugee camps and continued its annexation of the West Bank by constructing more illegal settlements outside of its 1967 borders.

South Africa’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Naledi Pandor has asked for its ambassador to be withdrawn from Israel, in the hope of sending the message that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government will be increasingly isolated internationally if it continues the assault on Gaza and the policy of apartheid. 

In addition to triggering the Genocide Convention, there is an additional approach that South Africa can use to put diplomatic pressure on Israel by exposing the Israeli nuclear weapon arsenal that the Federation of American Scientists estimates to consist of more than 90 nuclear weapons.

As South Africa transitioned to majority rule in the early 1990s, it became the first country to voluntarily dismantle its nuclear weapons and it helped establish many of the protocols of international law on nuclear nonproliferation.

[Related: SCOTT RITTER: The 2-State Solution’s Nuclear Option and When Israel Would Give Up Its Nukes]

South Africa furthermore expanded its stance by establishing the African Nuclear Weapons Free Zone through the Treaty of Pelindaba. Today all African countries have signed the treaty, but not everyone, notably Egypt, has ratified it. 

Furthermore the United States actively undermines the treaty by stationing nuclear weapons in Diego Garcia and violates fundamental human rights by preventing the right of return of the indigenous Chagossian population to their homeland.

The Treaty of Pelindaba and the stance on nonproliferation gives South Africa the following diplomatic options to assert pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Through the African Union, Egypt can be pressured diplomatically to ratify the treaty of Pelindaba, so that Egypt in turn can be dissuaded from dealing with a nuclear armed neighbour.

To help alleviate load shedding, a request for information (RFI) for a nuclear new build can be launched with South Africa insisting that the vendor is a country that respects the nonproliferation treaty and doesn’t sell nuclear weapons to Israel.

Such a policy would lock out the vendors that don’t respect the treaty (the U.S., India, China, Russia, and France) and lock in those who do (South Korea and Canada). By locking out the great powers the civilian nuclear industry will be incentivised to pressure the U.S. government to move towards nonproliferation, because civilian nuclear power is critical to achieving the world’s net-zero climate ambitions.

The policy might even put pressure on China to extend the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone, and potentially on France to continue its commitment to disarmament as its civilian industry will be at risk of dying if other countries in the Global South follow South Africa’s lead.

Pelindaba Nuclear Research Centre in South Africa, former location of atomic bomb work, in 2006.  (NJR ZA, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

South Africa and the African Union can approach the International Atomic Energy Agency directly to ask for inspections of Israel’s nuclear facilities such as The Negev Nuclear Research Reactor that was first revealed by the dissident Israeli scientist Mordechai Vanunu, who is still under house arrest in Israel.

Potentially, Netanyahu’s links to the nuclear smuggling Mafia can be used to build up the case, as well as the diplomatic documents between Israel’s defense minister at the time, Shimon Perez, and his counterpart P.W. Botha that link the Israelis in approaching the apartheid government in South Africa for help in obtaining nuclear weapons.

Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the IAEA, briefing reporters on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Aug. 2, 2022. (UN Photo/Mark Garten)

The last option is to use the BRICS forum to encourage Saudi Arabia and the other Arab states to include establishing a Palestinian State and the signing of the Middle Eastern nuclear free zone as a prerequisite for the Abrahamic Accords. Israel would be incentivised to support such a policy as it would come with guaranteed diplomatic recognition.

Establishing a Middle Eastern nuclear free zone on the same principles as The Treaty of Pelindaba will also settle the debate regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons and the Iran deal.

If Israel is found to have violated the nonproliferation treaty, then under existing U.S. federal law, such as the Symington Glen Amendments, all U.S. aid, diplomatic and military will come into question, placing overwhelming diplomatic pressure on the Israeli government.

South Africa’s greatest diplomatic asset is the commitment to nonproliferation and by using the policy wisely, Israel can be forced to comply with the treaty.

The diplomatic approach can help open the path for the liberation of the Palestinians.

Hügo Krüger is a writer, podcaster and a structural engineer specializing in nuclear structures. He writes on geopolitics, contemporary politics, climate science and energy related matters.

This article was first published by Sunday Independent.

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

5 comments for “South Africa Can Use its Nuclear Stance to Pressure Israel

  1. Dr. Hujjathullah M.H.B. Sahib
    November 23, 2023 at 01:29

    Great to read on deep wisdom being proffered under a South “African” intellectual initiative on nuclear non-proliferation and perhaps eventual disarmament and the responsible harnessing of nuclear technology for allegedly universal benefit. But if I got my facts right, then South Africa is just a case of a morphing Aparthaid state that desperately wanted to politico-legally and legislatively deny a potentially hostile Black majority race from having any access to nuclear weapons and similarly Israel a terrorizing Aparthaid state that pro-actively seeks to fortify against an active albeit weakly resisting Palestinian potential majority by crypto-covertly binging itself on UNOVERSEEN nuclear arms. In short, both are, in actuality, just schemeing-minorities earnestly working to outmanouver legitimate majorities by ethically illegitimate means even in their own native regions, respectively !
    In this sense, they can offer very little really benign and pacific lessons to each other, can they ?

  2. Stanley
    November 22, 2023 at 16:12

    For quite sometime, worldwide public opinion survey have come back on the question of ‘who is the biggest threat to world peace?’

    Survey Says “#1 USA”

    Of course, that’s all those non-exceptional people.

  3. Karate Sheep
    November 22, 2023 at 15:48

    The Rules Based Order has been very clear about what happens to rogue nuclear powers. IIRC, it was called “Shock and Awe”. Them’s the Rules. Precedent has been established. CNN reported on the verdict from the Judge, and broadcast the punishment live, with lots of talking heads saying how it was both necessary and proper to handle a rogue nuclear state in such a violent fashion. Even if innocent people had to become ‘collateral damage’, preventing a rogue nuclear state was worth it.

    Doublethink was defined by George Orwell as holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously.

    I am a peaceful person. I don’t believe that any people should be bombed back to the stone age. I’m just pointing out the obvious contradiction. If there is really a Rules Based Order, then the Rules should stay constant. Or there should be a public process by which the Rules change. If we are free and in a democracy, we get a chance to both express our opinion and cast a vote on whether we approve the change. But, if everything about the Rules Based Order is just Doublethink, then that’s good to know.

    Because we are also being told that we must fight World War III to defend this Rules Based Order.

  4. CaseyG
    November 22, 2023 at 14:25

    YES, YES, YES! Let the sanity come first from South Africa! Then—let it spread and flow around the planet.
    We the EARTHLINGS of a United Planet——-music to my ears. : )

  5. robert e williamson jr
    November 21, 2023 at 20:04

    After reading this article and especially hitting all links in it I feel better about my recent rants and references to the Israel Lobby.

    Nothing like a war in Ukraine to wake up sleeping Americans to the fact that nuclear war is a very deadly proposition. I have to agree with Scott Ritter and Mr. Kruger about who is the major nuclear threat in the middle East.

    Thanks CN

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