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    'Israel's Nuclear Weapons Have a Stabilizing Effect on the Region' - Scholar

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    The US administration has said Israel should not be forced to abandon its nuclear weapons until Middle Eastern nations recognize its right to exist. The remark came after Israel accused Iran of forcing other states to seek a nuclear arsenal. Radio Sputnik talked to Professor Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies.

    Sputnik: What's your take on this latest US statement?

    Efraim Inbar: Well, there is no novelty in it because this is position of all US presidents in the past. The new twist to it is that it was made public. It shouldn't really surprise us because President Trump is not bound by diplomatic precedent, so he said what all other American presidents said in a closed room. This is probably the first issue revealed between Israeli Prime Minister and a new US president.

    Sputnik: What exactly is known about Israel's nuclear arsenal? It hasn't confirmed or denied whether it possesses nuclear weapons but what information is out there?

    Efraim Inbar: I think there are lot of reports about the great number of Israeli nuclear weapons and means for delivery, be it airplanes or missiles. Again, this is not news.

    Sputnik: How does the fact that Israel may own nuclear weapons really affect the balance of power in the region?

    Efraim Inbar: I think that this has a stabilizing effect on the region, particularly, since many countries have entertained in the past the ambition to destroy the Jewish state. Iran is only a recent phenomenon of such a state in the Middle East. And it serves as a deterring force against such hostile plans.

    Sputnik: Is it difficult to maintain that all other countries in the region are not allowed to develop any kind of nuclear program when Israel may in fact have one?

    Efraim Inbar: Well, I think that the Israeli position has been clear that "we prefer to keep the bomb in the basement just in a very extreme case," and in the past we've seen a country like Egypt when it signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1972, two years later it joined the NPT — the Non-Proliferation Treaty — basically signaling that it accepts the Israeli position because there are other actors in the Middle East that entertain hopes of destroying the Jewish state.

    Sputnik: Who does Israel particularly feel threatened by, other than Iran?

    Efraim Inbar: I think the main source of threat perception for Israel is, of course, Iran. Iran has been engaged in a nuclear weapon program, as was shown by the Prime Minister just a few days ago.

    READ MORE: Saudi Arabia 'May Hope Israel Will Do the Job for Them and Fight Iran' — Analyst

    And we are very suspicious of the current agreement between the international community and Iran, which allows Iran to continue research on nuclear technology, centrifuges, for example. It allows it to continue to develop its means of delivery of nuclear weapons, long-range missiles that make no strategic sense if they are not intended to carry a nuclear warhead. Apart from that, Iran, unfortunately, is a revisionist power in the Middle East, it tries to destabilize other regions and it has its presence in many Middle Eastern countries such as Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria with an intention of trying to build an Old Persian Empire with a new, very radical Islamist message.

    The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the expert and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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