Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Israeli President: Nuclear Iran would be 'nightmare'; Israel must remain sole Mideast nuclear power

"The Israeli President, Shimon Peres, stated Monday that "Iran is a danger not only for Israel but also for the rest of the world", adding that if Iran were to get a nuclear weapon, it would be a "nightmare".

In his talk, he tacitly acknowledged that Israel is a nuclear power - something that was long denied by the Israeli state, but has recently been discreetly mentioned by Israeli leaders on a number of occasions.

Peres has long been called the 'father of Israel's bomb', having obtained help from the French government in the 1950s to build Israel's nuclear reactor at Dimona. Since building the reactor, the Israeli government has maintained a policy of "nuclear ambiguity" and has never signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Most estimates put the number of nuclear bombs in Israel's arsenal at about 100, which would make it the sixth-largest nuclear power in the world, if it were to come out of the closet and openly admit that it has nuclear weapons.

The nuclear reactor at Dimona was called a "textile factory" by the Israeli government, even after Israeli engineer Mordechai Vanunu was imprisoned for eighteen years in solidarity confinement for exposing the nuclear production facility to a British newspaper. Said Peres in 2004, "Well, textiles are out of business, people are going for high-tech today. But the textile business achieved its basic aim as a deterrent."

On Monday, he said, "Nobody is threatening Iran," he said. "On the other hand, Iran is threatening to wipe Israel off the map." Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, has never actually threatened Israel, but has stated that Israel, through its own actions, is destined to disappear.

Disarmament advocates say that it is past time for Israel to stop hiding its nuclear capability, because Israel is not uder threat, and the presence of an Israeli nuclear stockpile, real or perceived, is destabilizing because it promotes an arms race among Arab nations.

"For us it really is a matter of to be or not to be. It is not a simple scope. And everyone that knows Israel knows that Israel is so far from being aggressive," said Peres in 2004.

Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace says, "All nations that have nuclear weapons think that they are responsible and it is the other guys who are irresponsible." Cirincione advocates a "nuclear free Middle East", in which Israel would disarm, and countries like Iran and Syria would thus be discouraged from obtaining nuclear weapons."

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