Our Nuke Is a Giant Pacifier

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A nuclear facility in Dimona, southern Israel.
A nuclear facility in Dimona, southern Israel.Credit: Tomer Applebaum

Of what use are the nuclear weapons that Israel allegedly possesses? For what purpose does it need them? According to foreign sources, the logic behind Israel’s arming itself with nuclear weapons is as follows: these weapons deter the country’s enemies from attempting to destroy it.

But now Israeli citizens are discovering that the Israel Defense Forces, the Mossad and the government are acting on the assumption that the nuclear weapons attributed to Israel are not sufficient to prevent Iran from attacking it with atomic bombs. Actually, to tell the truth, they were never enough – not even to deter Iran from galloping toward the status of a nuclear threshold state.

And now we are being informed that the IDF is once again working on developing the capability to attack Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, in order to ensure that Iran won’t be able to destroy Israel. That means that our leaders aren’t certain that Israel would respond with a nuclear attack to a nuclear attack in order to prevent a nuclear war in the first place. As though Dimona never existed.

And if we ponder this a little, Israel’s nuclear weapons don’t seem to be deterring Hezbollah either. It is apparently deterred by Israel’s conventional military capabilities. And yet Israel is also deterred by Hezbollah’s missile-related capabilities – so here we have a balance of deterrence without nuclear weapons.

Nor did the Israeli nuke deter Syria and Egypt during the Yom Kippur War. The truth is that the Israeli nuke has never deterred anyone. We naively believed that we possess nuclear weapons precisely so that we won’t have to strike Iran. So that Iran will be deterred from using nuclear weapons against us.

But the reason now being denied – which is why Israel is planning for an attack against Iran – is that our leaders don’t believe that our nuclear weapons will deter Iran from attacking us with an atom bomb. Furthermore, almost all the experts agree that Israel does not have a real military option at its disposal for destroying Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Not now, and not in a few years’ time either.

The truth is that Israel is preparing an unfeasible option for attacking Iran, which costs billions of dollars, for psychological reasons: we aren’t willing to accept the fact that we don’t control our fate alone, and that therefore we are incapable of guaranteeing that there will never be another attempt to destroy Jews in Israel.

The underlying, fundamental post-Holocaust narrative, to the effect that Israel is a safe refuge for Jews – has been cracked. The Iranian nuke is undermining our most basic beliefs. Israel is incapable of acknowledging the fact that it has no military option to wield against Iran, and that even the Mossad is incapable of thwarting that country’s nuclear project. The myth of the “long arm” has been broken. What remains is a game over national honor, a brittle ego.

In general, Israelis refuse to acknowledge a situation in which there is an existential security threat that they are unable to crush with the help of their “hand of God” – the air force, the great soother of nerves. But it’s true of Iran, and it’s true of Hamas’ missiles (due to our reluctance to occupy the Gaza Strip), and it’s also true of Hezbollah’s hundreds of thousands of missiles. And all the media spins crafted by the Kingdom of Judea won’t be able to change this humiliating fact or reassemble the Humpty Dumpty of Israeli’s existential security, which has been shattered.

But really: Are Israel’s citizens really interested in attacking Iran? After all, they’re the ones who will pay the price. They’re the ones who will die by the thousands when, in response, Hezbollah and Tehran will launch missiles against Israel, heavy and precise ones, while Hamas empties its inventory. And all because the amorphous Israeli nuke isn’t really worth anything at the strategic level, and serves only to create a false feeling of existential security – like a giant pacifier.

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