Perhaps They'll Get It Now

Israel must continue to try to convince the international community that a nuclear Iran endangers the entire free world, and to hope that decisive steps will be taken against it.

The conclusion that Israel should draw from the nuclear test carried out by North Korea is that we must prepare as quickly as possible to confront a nuclear Iran - not necessarily because North Korea will send nuclear technology and know-how to Iran, but because if the president of the Untied States does not decide to attack the Korean nuclear installations, Iran will complete the development of the bomb. And since the chances of an American military attack on North Korea are virtually nil, Israel must formulate its future nuclear policy on the basic assumption that in the not-too-distant future, the ayatollahs will be in possession of nuclear arms.

The underground nuclear explosion in North Korea is the last nail in the coffin of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. The failure to prevent North Korea from becoming a nuclear power must be ascribed to Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Clinton failed when he refrained from responding resolutely to the North Korean leader's violation of the agreement in which he promised to stop the development of nuclear weapons. Bush, who included North Korea in the "axis of evil," made do in 2003 with a declaration to the effect that the United States would not "tolerate" a nuclear North Korea, and transferred the handling of attempts to stop its nuclear program to diplomats and useless "six-party talks" (the U.S., North Korea, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea).

The pattern of relations between the U.S. and North Korea is quite similar to that of the relations between the U.S. and Iran. Just as diplomatic talks did not lead to a cessation of the North Korean nuclear program, they will not lead to a cessation of the Iranian program. Just as North Korea exploited the legitimacy granted to it by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) until it decided to pull out, the Iranians are also acting under the sponsorship of this treaty.

It has once again become clear that a country that is determined to attain nuclear weapons will succeed in doing so, and its membership in the NPT will have no effect. It makes no difference whether sanctions are imposed on North Korea, or whether there are negotiations with it about limiting the development of its nuclear power; the message has already been conveyed to Iran: It is possible to complete the development of the bomb and to pay a small price for that, if any.

Therefore, the quicker the policy-makers in Jerusalem accept the fact of a nuclear Iran, the better. Because formulating a policy vis-a-vis a nuclear rival requires not only equipping ourselves with the necessary fighting systems, but also the designing of new ways of thinking, a total change of strategy, and the inclusion of the public in the process.

One of the concerns is that North Korea's nuclear test and its implications are liable to lead to pressure on Israel's leaders to approve a military attack on nuclear sites in Iran, in order to stop the Iranian program. Such a move would be a serious strategic mistake, since there is insufficient intelligence about Iran's nuclear sites, most of which are buried deep underground. The consequence of an Israeli attack is liable to be the cessation of the program for a few months only.

Israel must continue to try to convince the international community that a nuclear Iran endangers the entire free world, and to hope that decisive steps will be taken against it. The only effective way is an American military operation. American air power is capable of attacking targets in Iran repeatedly, and over a long period, thus exhausting Iran and bringing about a prolonged cessation of its nuclear program.

Unfortunately, however, the chances of an American military attack on Iran are not great, and thus we return once again to the need to prepare to confront a nuclear Iran. This preparation must include a substantial change in Israeli nuclear policy - the abandonment of vague deterrence and the transition to open nuclear deterrence. Experience during the Cold War period teaches that only such deterrence is likely to prevent the use of nuclear weapons by the other side.

This is particularly true in light of the fact that it is impossible to develop effective defensive measures against nuclear weapons - neither passive ones (shelters), nor active ones (the Arrow missile).

This change in Israeli nuclear policy must be implemented with advance coordination and with the consent of the Americans. We can assume that Washington is willing to allow Israel to abandon the vagueness if the threat to it is nuclear. Israel must take advantage of the fury that is presently being aroused by North Korea in order to promote the inevitable change in its nuclear policy.