How many Australian Jews would support a nuclear-free Middle East?
Meaning what? Well, perhaps this, for starters. A regional agreement to be open to frequent and regular inspection, monitoring and public disclosure of research and development, investments, organizational capacity-building, importation and trade, planning and implementation of nuclear explosive/contamination weaponry ( including depleted uranium) by a peak international organization such as the IAEA (international atomic energy agency).
Given the total absence of any discussion of such matters within the forums and media of the Australian Jewish community – except in regard to the much publicized Israeli fears of a nuclear threat emanating from Iran – it is urgent to argue for a regional strategy which reduces tensions rather than escalates them.
This then raises questions about what is the region? Does it include Turkey, and Georgia and Azerbaijan? Does it extend West of Egypt to Libya? I think we can be confident it should include the entire Arabian Peninsula, the Iranian Plateau, and the South Eastern Mediterranean states and territories.
The current Obama/Medvedev-Putin US/ Russian talks on a re-start of START, the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks involving the two former cold-war antagonists, augurs well for some agreement which binds their two post- imperial armouries to a cut. There are also the complex diplomatic, economic, and political status configurations of the nuclear armed states both ‘old’ and ‘new’ which provide the global context for any consideration of a nuclear-free Middle-East. How might Britain, China, France, see a nuclear-free Middle east as being in their interests? What of India/Pakistan/North Korea?
What quid pro quo would Israel regard as sufficient to move it away from its severe antipathy to coming clean on its possession of nuclear weapons, and actually agreeing to dismantle its nuclear strike capabilities? Could an offer from Iran and Syria (including all the other regional nations and territories) to permit inspections and commit to the removal of all nuclear military capacity (while perhaps retaining non-military nuclear energy R&D for verifiable scientific, medical and civil purposes) be the fulcrum on which a nuclear weapon-free Middle East depends?
And who would or could broker such an agreement? The UN through one of its agencies or a selection of its Security Council or Assembly members?
But before such questions are addressed, it is important from my perspective as an AJDS member to consider the likely views within Australia on such matters, and even more specifically what stomach for such a policy might be found amongst the approximately 1% of Australians who lay claim to some form of Jewish identity.
From my experience whenever I have tried to raise this matter with fellow Australian Jews they seem stunned that anyone could even consider a public discussion on such a matter, and are very quick to say Israel’s defence and security are dependent on its possession of the deterrence capacity which nuclear weapons have hitherto provided.
What if however Israel’s public posture of neither confirming nor denying its possession of nuclear weaponry – a posture which its treatment of Mordechai Vanunu has heavily underscored – raises the regional suspicion and mistrust of its Arab neighbours to the point where they will take whatever opportunities come their way to develop their own capacities for mounting nuclear threats? And they can validly argue that it is a provocation for a non-signatory to non-proliferation such as Israel to amass such destructive capabilities outside of any international legal covenants or treaties.
Do Australian Jews want to see a horrendous de-stabilization of the entire region which would arise from a pre-emptive Israeli attack on Iran (with or without US connivance) or might we rather consider that Israel could negotiate its way to a nuclear-free regional objective which would assist it in gaining international support and regional goodwill?
How will or should a Rudd government which is striving to play a greater international role in nuclear disarmament deal with these issues and what role will Australian Jews play in the inevitable political dilemmas which will follow once the Middle-East is factored in?
These questions must be addressed now within our communities. Silence is no longer an option. It isn’t good for anyone, and certainly not good for Jews.
Les Rosenblatt