NY Times correspondent attacks Israel's ultimate existential deterrent

Leo Rennert
In a review of Avner Cohen's "The Worst Kept Secret," Ethan Bronner, the Times' Jerusalem bureau chief, joins a growing tide of pressures on Israel -- from the Arab League, the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference, and even the Obama administration -- to come clean and open its nuclear program to global scrutiny.

Israel's half-century-old policy of nuclear ambiguity -- "don't ask, don't tell" whether it has a nuclear arsenal -- has served it well as its ultimate deterrent.  Today, it keeps Iranian leaders, in their vow to destroy the Jewish state, guessing whether an all-out missile attack on Israel from their proxy Hezb'allah in Lebanon might prompt nuclear retaliation that would incinerate Tehran.  And with Iran hell-bent to develop a nuclear arsenal, the Iranian threat to expunge Israel would rise exponentially.

Even without an Iranian nuclear capability, It doesn't take much imagination to visualize a scenario of Israel being on the ropes if Hezb'allah fired its 40,000 Iranian-supplied rockets against Israel's major population centers.  In such an eventuality, Israel might not be able to mount an adequate, commensurate conventional response and, as a last resort, might well have no choice but to go nuclear.

This was exactly the military posture of NATO during the darkest days of the Cold War when U.S. strategic thinkers wondered how the West could stand up to a massive Soviet tank attack across Germany with merely conventional weapons.  NATO then might indeed have been forced to stem such an offensive with atomic weapons.

Avner Cohen and Ethan Bronner, however, are oblivious to current existential threats to Israel emanating from Iran's theocracy.  In his review, Bronner showers praise on Cohen's 1998 book, "Israel and the Bomb," for "exposing the history of Israel's nuclear program" and he's equally generous in his assessment of Cohen's new tome, "The Worst Kept Secret."

Bronner's target is Israel's refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty because it leaves Israel as the "world's only unacknowledged nuclear power."  What he fails to grasp is that signing the NPT would open the way for massive intrusion by UN inspectors into every nook and cranny of Israel's nuclear program -- the size of its arsenal, means of delivery, range of penetration, time needed to mount payloads on missiles, readiness protocols.

It was one thing for the United States during the Cold War to sign on to the NPT and allow verification without undue harm to deterrence.  It would be quite a different thing for UN inspectors -- goaded by global pressures to lift more and more Israeli nuclear secrecy veils -- to use verification as a tool to convert Israel's program into nuclear impotence.

Bronner, however, shrugs off such concerns.  In a mind-boggling comment, he argues that nuclear weaponry plays "not a big role in Israel's strategic thinking" and that today, its "military doctrine essentially ignores Dimona (site of Israel's nuclear reactor)."  At a time when Iranian President Ahmadinejad visits Lebanon and steps close to Israel's border to assert a vision of Israel's total elimination, this existential threat definitely requires some nuclear strategic thinking and Israeli leaders would be remiss if they didn't include it in their military doctrine.

Actually, to keep this option open, Israel's civilian and military leaders have good reason in today's hostile environment to conclude that the state is served best by a continuing policy of ambiguity, which keeps Ahmadinejad guessing what would await Iran if he dared to unleash Hezb'allah's arsenal of tens of thousands of missiles, while fending off calls by the likes of Cohen, Bronner, the Arab League and the Obama White House for Israel to sign on to the NPT.  To abandon this posture would be an act of strategic, head-in-the-sand folly.

Bronner, however, in a display of utter naiveté, is less interested in Israel's survival than in its failure to live up to its "democratic values."  To him, transparency trumps Israel's ultimate security.-- "Israel's honesty and reliability should not be open to question."

But what definitely can be left open to question are negligible matters like Israel's security and survival, which don't get high-priority marks from the Jerusalem bureau chief of the New York Times.
In a review of Avner Cohen's "The Worst Kept Secret," Ethan Bronner, the Times' Jerusalem bureau chief, joins a growing tide of pressures on Israel -- from the Arab League, the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference, and even the Obama administration -- to come clean and open its nuclear program to global scrutiny.

Israel's half-century-old policy of nuclear ambiguity -- "don't ask, don't tell" whether it has a nuclear arsenal -- has served it well as its ultimate deterrent.  Today, it keeps Iranian leaders, in their vow to destroy the Jewish state, guessing whether an all-out missile attack on Israel from their proxy Hezb'allah in Lebanon might prompt nuclear retaliation that would incinerate Tehran.  And with Iran hell-bent to develop a nuclear arsenal, the Iranian threat to expunge Israel would rise exponentially.

Even without an Iranian nuclear capability, It doesn't take much imagination to visualize a scenario of Israel being on the ropes if Hezb'allah fired its 40,000 Iranian-supplied rockets against Israel's major population centers.  In such an eventuality, Israel might not be able to mount an adequate, commensurate conventional response and, as a last resort, might well have no choice but to go nuclear.

This was exactly the military posture of NATO during the darkest days of the Cold War when U.S. strategic thinkers wondered how the West could stand up to a massive Soviet tank attack across Germany with merely conventional weapons.  NATO then might indeed have been forced to stem such an offensive with atomic weapons.

Avner Cohen and Ethan Bronner, however, are oblivious to current existential threats to Israel emanating from Iran's theocracy.  In his review, Bronner showers praise on Cohen's 1998 book, "Israel and the Bomb," for "exposing the history of Israel's nuclear program" and he's equally generous in his assessment of Cohen's new tome, "The Worst Kept Secret."

Bronner's target is Israel's refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty because it leaves Israel as the "world's only unacknowledged nuclear power."  What he fails to grasp is that signing the NPT would open the way for massive intrusion by UN inspectors into every nook and cranny of Israel's nuclear program -- the size of its arsenal, means of delivery, range of penetration, time needed to mount payloads on missiles, readiness protocols.

It was one thing for the United States during the Cold War to sign on to the NPT and allow verification without undue harm to deterrence.  It would be quite a different thing for UN inspectors -- goaded by global pressures to lift more and more Israeli nuclear secrecy veils -- to use verification as a tool to convert Israel's program into nuclear impotence.

Bronner, however, shrugs off such concerns.  In a mind-boggling comment, he argues that nuclear weaponry plays "not a big role in Israel's strategic thinking" and that today, its "military doctrine essentially ignores Dimona (site of Israel's nuclear reactor)."  At a time when Iranian President Ahmadinejad visits Lebanon and steps close to Israel's border to assert a vision of Israel's total elimination, this existential threat definitely requires some nuclear strategic thinking and Israeli leaders would be remiss if they didn't include it in their military doctrine.

Actually, to keep this option open, Israel's civilian and military leaders have good reason in today's hostile environment to conclude that the state is served best by a continuing policy of ambiguity, which keeps Ahmadinejad guessing what would await Iran if he dared to unleash Hezb'allah's arsenal of tens of thousands of missiles, while fending off calls by the likes of Cohen, Bronner, the Arab League and the Obama White House for Israel to sign on to the NPT.  To abandon this posture would be an act of strategic, head-in-the-sand folly.

Bronner, however, in a display of utter naiveté, is less interested in Israel's survival than in its failure to live up to its "democratic values."  To him, transparency trumps Israel's ultimate security.-- "Israel's honesty and reliability should not be open to question."

But what definitely can be left open to question are negligible matters like Israel's security and survival, which don't get high-priority marks from the Jerusalem bureau chief of the New York Times.