Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert may or may not have admitted today that Israel has nuclear weapons. If this is the case, it would put an end to Israel’s decade’s long policy of nuclear ambiguity, which has kept both friend and foe alike guessing as to Israel’s full military capabilities. Why they would want to be ambiguous is obvious: keeping your enemies in the dark about what your capable of makes them reluctant to attack you for fear of biting off more than they can chew. The real question is: why would he end the policy? Here are several possibilities as to why Olmert may have made this revelation:
1. Olmert is an idiot.
There is precedent for this theory. Olmert’s handling of this summer’s engagement with Hamas in Lebanon was disastrous, despite an excellent showing in the opening stages of the conflict. In fact, the word on the street is that Olmert is an Israeli Bill Clinton, a publicity hound with more interest in his own political fortunes than in the fortunes of his own country.
2. Olmert is trying to scare the Iranians
In which case, see #1. This will do little to discourage the Iranians from developing nukes, as all indications are that the Iranians are prepared to use them regardless of what the consequences are for their own country. Revealing Israel’s true nuclear posture only gives Iran (and other Middle Eastern countries) an excuse to develop their own nukes: “The Israelis have them, so we need them to defend ourselves from the Zionist aggressors”. It’s a load of crap, but there are a lot of international organizations that are also full of crap and will buy into it for no other reason than it will piss off the US. Like the UN, for example.
3. Olmert is trying to rattle the European’s cage.
By revealing that Israel has nukes, Olmert may cause an arms race between Israel and other Middle Eastern countries that feel they need to have them. Or that just want them, and now have an excuse to get them. In other words, he is threatening to start a huge nuclear arms race amongst a bunch of crazy people who happen to be right in Europe’s back yard. He could be hoping to force Europe to become more engaged in the effort to stop Iran from acquiring nukes in the first place. This could work. It could also backfire spectacularly, giving the increasingly anti-Semitic European powers an opportunity to send the IAEA on a nuclear witch hunt all throughout Israel in order to appease their large population of Muslim immigrants.
4. Olmert is trying to rattle the US’s cage.
This is a very real possibility. With the Chamberlainesque Iraq Study Group (also known as the Iraq Surrender Group) attempting to throw our friends in Israel to the alligator in the hope that he’ll eat us last, Israel may be sending us a little reminder that they have the potential to mess up any plans that we might have for the middle East that don’t happen to include Israel’s survival as a key piece of the puzzle. The majority of the world’s oil comes from the ME. It wouldn’t do anyone much good if it was too radioactive for consumers to safely use.
Personally, I think this is a rare case where the answer may actually be appeasement. I believe that as a show of good faith with the Israelis, we should take James Baker, Lee Hamilton, and the rest of the Iraq Surrender Group, and lock them back up in the old folks home where they belong. Maybe then Israel could calm down and get on to the serious business of annihilating Hamas.It is worth noting that the Israeli government stated after Olmert’s comments that the Prime Minister had not made a misstatement, and that this did not signal a change of policy for the Israeli government. Which would seem to be a contradiction, wouldn’t it?