A lot has been said and written that the growing sourness in Israel-US relations—the main cause of which is the dispute on the matter of settlement in Judea and Samaria and in East Jerusalem—is liable to erode vital areas of Israel’s security.The bumpy road that the US administration was forced to walk to bring about the beginning of any sort of peace process focused entirely on the issue of freezing construction and settlement. The somewhat mocking consent to “proximity talks” may fall apart even before the talks begin because of the matter of settlement. This insistence on settlement caused Israel, precisely at a time of being tested, to face an angry and bitter administration.
When running a country, a government must distinguish between the main issue and the secondary issues, between the important and the less important. The current US administration never downplayed, from the moment of its establishment, its intent to reexamine subjects that for many years had been perceived as fundamental values in US domestic and foreign policy. It does this both in domestic American matters as well as matters of foreign policy and regional and international security.
The US administration almost goes out of its way to appease the Muslim and Arab world, less than 10 years after the Twin Towers tragedy and the warfare against fanatic Islamist forces. It is reexamining American nuclear and military policy, both in the US and in western Europe — which has always and forever been perceived as a part of the world whose security the US guarantees. It is also examining the American security arrangements vis-à-vis Russia, which at the time, in its relationship with the US, reached the brink of a third world war.
Such an administration is not to be “annoyed” unnecessarily. And since it appears that in the near future the administration may focus its attention to fundamental questions regarding Israel’s security — such as the continuation of nuclear ambiguity— you do not provoke it, not even for settlement matters.
The interest that the Obama administration has begun to show in a Middle East that is “clean” of nuclear weapons imposes on the Israeli government a supreme obligation to ensure a considerate and supportive administration, as much as possible. A “clean” Middle East should hardly trouble the Arab states, since there is no danger to their existence. It should not trouble Iran, which ignores the current administration, but it should greatly trouble Israel, for whom nuclear ambiguity is one of the most important components of its ability to deter those who seek to destroy it, and a basic condition for its security in an animosity-filled region.
The review committee of the member states of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty — a treaty that Israel, as long as the region around it does not recognize its existence, must not join — is a suitable opportunity for the administration to begin to wonder aloud—with varying degrees of intent to act—about rethinking traditional US policy toward Israeli ambiguity. Obliging Israel to joint the treaty and to accept international supervision would prevent ambiguity and ensure certainty that Israel indeed will not have the nuclear military means that are necessary for its self defense, those means whose existence we don’t know of, but as residents of the wild Middle East, we hope and pray that we do have, and a lot of them, in our warehouses.
It was recently reported that the matter was examined by the US administration together with the Egyptians. If there is anything — even a little — to these reports, Israel should be very worried. When such a vital Israeli security interest is liable to soon be placed on the American discussion table, it would be a terrible mistake to continue to quarrel with an already angry administration on settlement matters — weighty as they may be.