It won’t be easy, but without Israel, there can be no meaningful talks on creating a WMD-free zone in the Middle East.
Two days before the flotilla fiasco, a UN conference aimed at strengthening the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty endorsed a plan for ridding the Middle East of all nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.
Eliminating all such weapons in the Middle East would seem to be an impossibly ambitious goal. In fact, it is not ambitious enough.
As planning for a 2012 region-wide conference to discuss a WMD-free zone begins, the United States must insist on linking it to a regional peace process.
Why? Because Israel, which is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, will not abandon its most powerful deterrent while some of its neighbors refuse to establish diplomatic relations. And without Israel’s participation, there can be no meaningful talks on creating a WMD-free zone in the Middle East.
Arab States and Israel have tried – and failed – to address these issues in tandem before.
In the 1990s, following the Madrid peace conference, regional arms control and security talks collapsed when Egypt insisted that Israel’s nuclear weapons be placed on the agenda. Israel refused, unwilling to let go of its policy of nuclear ambiguity.
Why should we expect a different outcome this time?