The New Palestinian Statehood Push and the Nuclear Threat to Israel

The West’s ongoing blind eye threatens Israel’s very existence.

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Louis René Beres is a professor of political science at Purdue University and the author of many books and articles dealing with international law, strategic theory, Israeli nuclear policy, and regional nuclear war. In Israel, he served as chair of Project Daniel.

The Palestinian Authority still makes its aggressive intentions plain. On its official emblem, Israel is covered with an Arab Keffiyah headdress, next to a Kalashnikov rifle, and a picture of Yasser Arafat. Fatah's Charter states: "Our struggle will not cease unless the Zionist State is demolished, and Palestine is completely liberated." Terrorist Fatah, of course, controls the Palestinian Authority.

Oddly, Barack Obama continues to support the PA. This includes an independent Palestinian state. Taking advantage of Washington's Road Map, now strengthened by the five-point Mitchell Plan, PA leaders are launching a new campaign. A diplomatic end-run around both Washington and Jerusalem, the plan is to unilaterally announce Palestinian statehood in the West Bank (Judea/Samaria), Gaza, and East Jerusalem.

This PA strategy would mock the international treaty on statehood: the Convention on the Rights and Duties of States (1934). But leaving aside the "Montevideo Convention," the main problem would be Palestinian statehood itself. A Palestinian state would enlarge the risks of worldwide terrorism, and regional nuclear war.

Any state of Palestine would aggressively seek territorial extensions beyond its constituted borders. The world would probably look away.

The official PA map shows Israel as part of Palestine. Ironically, the United States is still accelerating its military training of "Palestinian security forces." As these forces are mainly Fatah fighters, we Americans are now training anti-American terrorists.

Any Palestinian state would have an injurious impact on American strategic interests, and on Israel's survival. After Palestine, Israel would require greater self-reliance. Such self-reliance would demand: (1) a nuclear strategy involving deterrence, preemption, and war-fighting capabilities; and (2) a corollary and interpenetrating conventional war strategy.

As any Palestinian state would make Israel's conventional capabilities more problematic, the national command authority would likely make the country's implicit nuclear deterrent less ambiguous.

Taking the Israeli bomb out of the "basement" could enhance Israel's security for a while, but ending "deliberate ambiguity" could also heighten the chances of nuclear weapons use. If Iran is allowed to "go nuclear," such nuclear violence might not be limited to the immediate areas of Israel and Palestine. It could, therefore, take the form of a nuclear exchange.

Nuclear war could arrive in Israel not only as a "bolt-from-the-blue" surprise missile attack, but also as a result, intended or inadvertent, of escalation. If an enemy state were to begin "only" conventional and/or biological attacks upon Israel, Jerusalem might respond with fully nuclear reprisals. If this enemy state were to begin with solely conventional attacks upon Israel, Jerusalem's conventional reprisals might still be met, in the future, with enemy nuclear counterstrikes.

This would become possible only if a still-nuclearizing Iran were spared any forms of Israeli or American preemptive attack. A persuasive Israeli conventional deterrent, to the extent that it could prevent enemy state conventional and/or biological attacks in the first place, would reduce Israel's risk of exposure to nuclear war.

After Palestine, the regional correlation of forces would be less favorable to Israel. The only credible way for Israel to deter large-scale conventional attacks would be by maintaining visible and large-scale conventional capabilities. Enemy states contemplating first-strike attacks upon Israel using chemical and/or biological weapons are apt to take more seriously Israel's nuclear deterrent. Whether or not this nuclear deterrent had remained undisclosed could affect Israel's credibility.