Friday, April 9, 2010

Day 99

Dear Mr. President,

This week, the national conversation about nuclear proliferation has fractured (predictably) along party lines. That there might be reasonable disagreement about an issue as complex as the START treaty and nuclear arms is not surprising; that the criticism from some on the right deviates so sharply from reality is mildly impressive. Your response to Sarah Palin's criticism made me incredibly proud to have voted for you. I trust your judgment and your good intentions when it comes to this kind of arms control; I would like to live in a world where there are no nuclear weapons, but, for now, we have to live in the real world.

The news that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will not be attending next week's summit on nuclear security is disappointing. That he is so afraid of confronting, directly, the criticism from Egypt, Turkey, and other nations, about Israel's unacknowledged nuclear capabilities speaks volumes, both about the courage of his convictions and the hypocrisy of Israel's (and, for that matter, our own) position on Iran. Israel's nuclear program, (which, by the way, poses a legitimate threat to Iran and, might, conceivably, have something to do with Iran's own nuclear ambitions,) their refusal to sign the nonproliferation treaty, and their reluctance (as demonstrated by PM Netanyahu) to have frank discussions about the reality of their status as a nuclear power ought to elicit criticism from the US. That we offer nothing but complicit silence or even support undermines our leadership and credibility when discouraging other states from gaining their own nuclear weapons.

Israel is a country that, at the time of its creation, had legitimate cause to fear for its own survival. This simply is not the political reality of the present. Israel has long exaggerated the threat posed by the Palestinians and hostile neighboring countries; it has an incredibly capable military and weapons unrivaled by any other country in the Middle East, and its existence is, frankly, a forgone conclusion. Even Hamas officials have walked back the rhetoric, indicating that they would acknowledge Israel's right to exist were the sentiment reciprocated for Palestinians. While Israel may have had very real fears driving it to become a nuclear power in years past, we have to live in the real world now; acknowledging the threat that Israel itself poses to its neighbors is an important step in maintaining our credibility on arms control issues. We ought to use our influence with Israel to encourage responsible conduct as a nuclear power, so that we can continue to lead the world toward a nuclear-free future.

Respectfully yours,


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