Israeli Arms Control Policy: Cautious Realism
Appeared in The Journal of Strategic Studies, Summer 1994

In Israel, proposals to limit acquisition or deployment of weapons are filtered through the impact of over 45 years of continuous military threats and warfare, as well as the peace process that began in 1991. The high level of conflict and the danger to national security, particularly given the lack of strategic depth and highly vulnerable population centers, has led to a skeptical attitude towards arms control. Israel has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, in part because of the perceived need to maintain a nuclear deterrent to guarantee the survival of the state, and in part because of the inadequacies in the NPT regime and verification system.

From the Israeli perspective, the Middle East continues to be highly unstable, and the Jewish state has many potential enemies from Algeria to Iran. A significant reduction in the Israeli deterrent could quickly lead to an increase in the military threat and in the probability of a major war in the region. In the Middle East, war is still seen as primary instrument of policy, and for many states, such as Iraq, Libya, or Iran, limitations and global regimes are marginal obstacles to be overcome, or are simply ignored.

However, with the October 1991 Madrid Conference and the beginning of negotiations with some of the Arab states, Israeli policy on arms control is being reappraised. Policy makers examine and compare the potential impacts of specific proposals with respect to political and military requirements. Israel is an active participant in the multinational working group on regional security and arms control, and high level arms control policy units have been created in the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs. Arms limitations are widely understood to be necessary elements in any broader peace agreement with Syria, and will also be necessary as part of a resolution to, or amelioration of, the Arab-Israeli conflict. At the same time, pressures from other sources, including the United States, and the negotiation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, has also contributed to the development of an active Israeli arms control policy.

As a result of these factors, arms control is "on the map", and, in January 1993, after detailed cabinet discussions, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres outlined the government's policy.0 However, many decision makers continue to view this process with skepticism and caution. In the IDF, many see international restraints as potential traps for Israel, and part of Arab efforts to weaken the Jewish state. To the degree that there is support for considering mutual restraints, it is based on a realistic assessment of the impact of such measures on regional stability and Israeli national security.

In assessing the Israeli policy, as it has been developed and presented over the past few years, four requirements can be identified: 1)CSBMs and arms limitations are inextricably linked to peace agreements encompassing all the major states in the region, including Syria, Libya, Iran and Iraq; 2)as long as a threat to national survival exists, the potential benefits of mutual restraints will be balanced against immediate weakening of Israeli deterrence; 3) this process is dependent on the development of regional verification mechanisms based on mutual inspection (without international organizations as intermediaries); and 4) the maintenance of an appropriate response in the event of unilateral abrogation and "breakout".

This framework has produced an Israeli policy based on a number of stages, beginning with CSBMs and conventional arms limitations, including the arsenals and standing armies of Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt. Israeli policy makers view Arab acceptance and implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention as essential for progress, including the development of a framework for mutual verification and inspection.

Restraints on strategic systems, including ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, are longer term goals, dependent on the disappearance of threats to national survival. In addition, given the failures of the NPT and the IAEA with respect to the Iraqi nuclear program, Israel places the development of regional frameworks for mutual inspection and verification before constraints on strategic systems. Under the existing conditions, external pressures for unilateral concessions, particularly in the nuclear realm, will be strongly resisted.

1. Arms Control and the Peace Process

Israel has been in a state of war since it became a state in 1948, and defense and national security have always the dominant concerns of policy makers. From the realist perspective which characterized most Israeli leaders, arms control was seen as a means of weakening Israeli deterrence and military capabilities, and has therefore always been viewed with skepticism. The Tripartite Declaration of the 1950s, involving the US, France, and Britain, did not prevent the Arabs from obtaining weapons, but hampered Israel in this respect.1 The Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and other international conventions have failed in the Middle East, particularly in the case of Iraq. As long as the Arab threat continues, arms control will continue to be viewed as an idealistic irrelevance, at best, to the Middle East.

This view has not changed much, but the conditions, and the peace process, in particular, have. The Israeli government's arms control policies are now closely linked to the peace process, and contingent on full acceptance of the legitimacy of the Jewish state, and an end to the military threat. In outlining the Israeli policy, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres declared that "No nation in the region will enjoy genuine security unless all nations feel secure. Accordingly, we have formulated our policy on regional security and arms control, once peace has been attained."2 In other words, the implementation of significant major arms limitations is conditional upon the implementation and testing of formal peace treaties.3

Israelis note that ambiguous and easily reversible measures, such as an end to the state of belligerency, are insufficient to ally security concerns. Shalheveth Freier, who served as Israel's representative in international arms control conferences and has had a major role in formulating policy, has noted that proposals that call for restraints by Israel, particularly in the nuclear realm, "can only be credible once war against Israel has been renounced as a way of settling differences with it."4 Until that stage, Israel will continue to fear that the purpose of arms control is to deprive it of the ability to deter and respond to attack.

From this perspective, effective arms control in the Middle East must include over 20 states, from North Africa to Iran5. Although the peace process beginning with the 1991 Madrid Conference marked a major change, many important states remain entirely outside and are active opponents of the negotiations. Effective regional agreements on limitations of missiles and nuclear weapons are unimaginable while leaders of states such as Iran are committed to the destruction of Israel. Thus, for many long-range systems, Iran and Libya must be brought into the process before constraints are feasible.

Under these conditions, Israeli policy emphasizes confidence and security building measures (CSBMs) that can be implemented to create the foundation for eventual limitations on strategic systems. CSBMs, such as the establishment of crisis communications centers and "hot lines", pre-notification of military exercises, and additional steps to avoid fear of surprise attack, do not have a significant effect on military capability and deterrence. They can also be developed before full peace agreements have been signed and implemented with all the states in the region. Any arms control process that does not begin with CSBMs and is not linked to gaining peace agreements with all of the states in the region will be strongly resisted by Israel.

2.The Impact of Arms Control on Israeli Deterrence

Israeli national security and arms control policies have always been based on a realist approach to the use of force and threat perception. Even under the most optimistic scenarios, it is hard to imagine a peace agreement that will completely remove the military threat to Israel in the foreseeable future. As in other ethno-national conflicts, the potential for revanchism and renewed efforts to destroy the Jewish state can remain for years and generations. In the absence of democratic regimes throughout the region, the role of the military will continue to be dominant. Governments that sign peace agreements will be vulnerable to radical groups calling for renunciation of the treaties. Therefore, Israeli policy makers seek arms control arrangements that are consistent with these conditions. Indeed, any peace agreements that involve territorial withdrawal, whether on the Golan Heights or the West Bank, could increase the dangers of military attack, requiring expanded Israeli deterrence and defensive capabilities.6 The geographic and demographic asymmetries that have characterized the Arab- Israeli conflict will become even more pronounced. Israel will always be a micro-state without strategic depth, and with a very small population. If there are changes in the defense lines, Israel will again appear be highly vulnerable to large-scale surprise attack. Thus, even with peace treaties, Israeli leaders will insist on maintaining sufficient military capability to deter against and defend all attacks that threaten national survival.

Although some measures, such as early warning, buffer zones, and increased emphasis on defense can reduce the dependence on deterrence, the effectiveness of these measures is problematic. Syrian divisions stationed near Damascus, a short distance from the Golan Heights, will continue to threaten Israeli positions below, with clear access to Tel Aviv. Thousands of the most modern Iraqi tanks and artillery (equipped with chemical shells) survived the Gulf War, and will be able to move through Jordan and within range of Israel in a period of a few days, with or without buffer zones in between. Israel is too small to effectively defend against such large scale conventional attacks, and the need for deterrence and pre-emption will remain long after any peace agreements are reached.

3. Compliance

Israel, like the United States, places major emphasis on the verification of compliance of arms limitation agreements. While Israel is an open and democratic state, in which public access is the norm, the other states in the Middle East, are non-democratic and largely closed societies. In these cases, verification is particularly difficult. As became clear in the case of Iraq, and seems to true for Iran as well, under authoritarian regimes, it is possible to hide major weapons development programs, both internally and from outside inspectors and even overhead reconnaissance. Israel was the first, and for many years, the only government that was concerned about Iraqi efforts to develop and deploy chemical and nuclear weapons, in blatant violation of its international obligations.

Under these circumstances, Israel has rejected the existing IAEA inspection and safeguard systems for verifying compliance with the NPT. (The IAEA employs only 200 inspectors, and most of their time is spent on inspections in countries such as Canada and Sweden.) Shalheveth Freier notes that Israeli concerns with the Iraqi nuclear weapons program "were brushed aside" by the IAEA and the supplier states "on the grounds that Iraq was a signatory to the NPT."7 As long as this situation continues, loose international regimes such as the IAEA/NPT system, that present the illusion, but not the substance of verification, will be rejected by Israel.

From the Israeli perspective, there are also major structural and political flaws in the global regime system. For many years, Iraq was a member of the Board of Governors of the IAEA, and seemed to use this position not only to circumvent the NPT, but also to gain support for annual condemnations of Israeli policy. Israeli officials have long noted that in international organizations such as the UN and IAEA, the Arabs "dispose of majorities" and "majority resolutions take the place of negotiations, envisaged in the multilateral talks." On this basis, Freier concludes that Israel should not allow verification of any arms limitation agreements to be "arrogated by international organizations ..."8

Israeli policy makers favor the creation of dedicated regional institutions, with mutual verification and inspection regimes (including challenge inspections).9 In his January 1993 outline of Israeli policy, Peres emphasized that "Arms control negotiations and arrangements be mutually agreed upon and include all the states of the region. The implementation and verification mechanisms, the establishment of comprehensive and durable peace, should be region-wide in their application."10 In their present form, global institutions and regimes are not acceptable, and the negotiation and implementation of a Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone is seen as a necessary condition prior to Israeli accession to the NPT.

4. The Problem of "Breakout"

No international agreement is guaranteed, and unilateral renunciation of arms limitations is always possible. After World War I, Germany circumvented the restrictions that it had accepted under the peace agreement, giving it a major military advantage. American analysts worried about "breakout" scenarios, in which the Soviet Union would suddenly announce that it had succeeded in developing a capability that had been subject to mutual restraints, (such as ballistic missile defense) or had produced a large number of delivery systems and warheads. In 1993, North Korea withdrew from the NPT, rather than accept the inspections demanded by the IAEA.

In the Middle East, the problem of "breakout" is particularly acute. The sudden acquisition of a nuclear capability by Iraq, Iran, Libya, or Syria would change the balance of power in a fundamental way. If intermediate-range ballistic missiles were banned, but one of these states managed to develop, acquire or upgrade shorter range missiles (as Iraq did with its Scud-Bs) this would immediately threaten Israeli security. The IAEA claims that its verification system provides "timely warning" of a potential breakout, to allow for political and military responses before the state in question succeeded in going nuclear. However, it is now clear that the IAEA's small and timid inspection regime cannot, in fact, provide timely warning.

The problem of "breakout" is particularly acute for Israel, given the very little confidence that the Jewish state has in the UN or other international agencies. Even explicit guarantees from the US have limited credence in this context. Israelis note that it took the US six months before it took action after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, and six months would allow more than enough time for a well-prepared state that had developed its infrastructure carefully to finish work on a nuclear device. Israel can be expected to stress the need for maintenance of an independent capability to respond to unilateral abrogations of any arms control agreements.

Specific Policy Options

Given the existing military and political conditions, and the requirements discussed above, Israeli arms control policy has four facets or stages. The first facet consists of extensive CSBMs to establish a framework for cooperation; the second includes controls on conventional weapons; the third focuses on regional inspection and verification of limits on chemical and biological weapons, and perhaps missiles; and the final and admittedly distant step, after all the other steps have been accomplished and peace agreements are tested, includes limits on nuclear weapons.11

Confidence and Security Building Measures (CSBMs)

In the US-Soviet and CSCE arms control processes, the development of small scale and incremental CSBMs provided a foundation for progress towards more extensive agreements on strategic systems. Such measures, by definition, do not involve significant risks to national security or deterrence, and do not require verification or inspection, and all the complications that are included in these processes.

In the Middle East, with its history of conflict and the absence of cooperation, CSBMs are even more necessary before other limitations can even be considered. This was explicitly recognized by US Secretary of State James Baker in discussing the objectives of the multilateral working group on regional security and arms control. Baker declared that following the first phase of seminars, the process should move to "considering a set of confidence building or transparency measures covering notifications of selected military activities and crisis prevention communications."

For the Israeli military and foreign policy establishment, this phase is critical. In his January 1993 outline of Israeli policy, Shimon Peres gave priority to measures designed "to build and nurture mutual confidence between states" and "to diminish the levels of suspicion, hostility and conflagration", specifically with respect to preventing surprise attacks and in crisis management. Pre-notification agreements regarding large- scale military maneuvers, as well as regular communications between military commanders are considered to be primary areas for CSBMs.

Further development of this framework has led to the proposals for a center to respond to naval incidents in the Red Sea, which would involve Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia (and has the advantage of not requiring the participation of Syria, which has not joined the multilateral talks.) For Israel, the degree of cooperation and direct, frequent and visible contact with the Arab states is critical; unilateral measures will not build confidence that the era in which Israeli legitimacy was denied has finally and irrevocably ended. Ariel Levite, a member of the Israeli delegation in the working group, has noted that from the Israeli perspective, CSBMs are "a symbol of cooperation, sending a broad political message of willingness to move beyond confrontation and competition to cooperation and reconciliation."12 At this stage, the active participation of the Saudis, who have been seen to be a primary source for religious and ethnic rejection of Israel, is essential.

Some progress has been in this direction in the meetings of the multilateral working group. In the May 1993 session, subcommittees were created for cooperative air and sea search and rescue (to meet in Canada), crisis communications (in Holland)and pre-notification (in Turkey). If this process continues, and CSBMs are implemented in the Middle East, and, at the same time, the negotiation of peace agreements that reduce the threat to Israel progresses, Jerusalem will be ready to consider more substantive measures.

Conventional Limitations

Following the CSBM stage, Israeli policy emphasizes the negotiation of limitations on conventional weapons.13 The massive conventional forces in the region continue to present a major threat to Israeli security. The 1948 and 1973 wars (as well as the mobilization of combined Arab armies in 1967) form a central component of Israeli strategic culture, and this scenario continues to be a major factor in military planning. The peace treaty with Egypt, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and the 1991 Gulf war, which lowered the Iraqi military capability by almost 50%, have reduced this threat. However, the possibility of an attack on the Eastern front, involving Syria, with potential support from Iraq, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, remains.14 A surprise attack before Israel could mobilize its reserves would greatly increase the Arab advantage.15

Despite the political changes in the region and the world, Saudi Arabia and Iran have purchased billions of dollars of advanced weapons in the past two years. Syria has used the $2 billion it received for participating in the Gulf War to purchase hundreds of T-72 tanks, combat aircraft, and other systems.16 Advanced weapons technology sold to Saudi Arabia diffuses quickly throughout the Arab world, leading to an erosion of Israel's technological advantage which has been used to offset the quantitative advantage of the Arabs.17 Israeli military planning for "worst case scenarios" includes the offensive potential role of these forces.

Conventional arms control, with respect to both weapons and manpower, is consistent with the requirements listed above. Such measures could be incorporated within the peace process, can be readily verified, and the risks of sudden abrogation are minimal. Major conventional platforms, including tanks, artillery, combat aircraft, and perhaps naval systems, can be limited or even frozen in the major confrontation states (Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Iraq) and small changes in these forces will not effect the military balance significantly.18

Some Israeli analysts have also proposed that Arab states (particularly Syria) move to a force structure similar to the Israeli system, based largely on reserve forces.19 Such a structure is inherently less threatening and its offensive potential is greatly reduced. If Syria and Iraq require 24 to 72 hours for mobilization, Israel would have the equivalent time to call-up its reserve forces, thereby reducing the fear of surprise attack. (The threat from Egypt is reduced by existence of the demilitarized buffer zone in the Sinai Peninsula. Unless Syrian troops are withdrawn far to the north of Damascus, such a buffer zone will be difficult to reproduce on this front.)

Chemical and Biological Weapons

In January 1993, Israel became one of the charter signatories of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). From the Israeli perspective, the CWC contains both potential risks and benefits. The major test of the CWC regime is whether the destruction of the chemical stockpiles and production facilities of Iraq, Libya, Syria and other Arab states can be verified.20 Efforts by some Arab representatives to link acceptance of the CWC with Israeli adherence to the NPT, or other steps to reduce the nuclear deterrent capability are unacceptable to Israel.

From the Israeli perspective, the enforcement of the terms of the CWC will be an important test of the effectiveness of a broader verification system in the region, and of the international community in response to non-compliance. There absence of a significant response to the Iraqi use of chemical weapons, in violation of the 1925 Geneva Convention had a major impact in Israel. In addition, the CWC regime provides an opportunity to demonstrate an end to the anti-Israel bias that has characterized the United Nations, IAEA, and other bodies.21 For the CWC to work in the Middle East, a regional verification system, involving mutual inspection, will have to be negotiated. The CWC is thus a test case, by which the degree with which arms control can be applied to other areas, including nuclear weapons, will be measured.


Many arms control proposals for the Middle East include limits on the acquisition, deployment, and testing of ballistic missiles. From the Israeli perspective, such proposals are problematic. Mutual restraints could increase Israeli security, particularly after the experience of the 1991 Gulf War, in which Israeli cities were shown to be vulnerable to Iraqi missiles. At the same time, the Jericho long-range missile is an important component of the Israeli strategic deterrent and retaliatory capability, which is seen as necessary to guarantee the survival of the state. As the offensive threat has extended as far as Iran and Algeria, the Jericho has provided an assured second strike capability in the event of "a worst case attack". Limits on Israeli missile capabilities would therefore have a major impact on the Israeli deterrent, and the tradeoff between costs and benefits will be difficult.

Given the centrality of this capability to Israeli national security, CSBMs or unilateral and informal restraints, are not applicable to this area. In this area, as in others, effective compliance and verification is difficult. Missile forces based on imports of major components (as in the case of Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Libya), or on a combination of technology imports and local production and upgrading (as in the case of Iraq, Iran, and Egypt) may not require testing or visible deployment before use. Supplier agreements in this area, as in others, have failed in the past, and Israel will also demand much greater evidence that any agreed limits will be implementedand the. The Missile Technology Control Regime, that was established under American leadership in 1987, included the participation of all Western European states. Russia and China agreed to accept the export limitations established in the MTCR.

The performance of this regime in the Middle East has been somewhat problematic. Apparently as a result of US pressure, China has not delivered the M-9 missile to Syria to date, and the Condor project, (involving Argentina, Egypt, and Iraq) seems to have been stopped (although questions remain). However, the MTCR did not prevent Iraq from upgrading its Scud-B missiles, with technology and assistance provided by signatories such as Germany, Britain, and the US.22 Syrian and Iranian missile programs are growing constantly, and the major suppliers are either powerless or unwilling to intervene. In March 1992, North Korean Scud-C missiles, launchers, and equipment to manufacture these missiles, reached Iran and Syria.

The "cat and mouse" game between Saddam Hussein and the UN inspectors after the 1991 Gulf War has also not provided much assurance to Israel in this area. Prior to and during the war, the US asked for Israeli "restraint" in response to the Scud missile attacks. The Bush administration pledged to destroy Iraqi missiles, as well as the chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs. United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 of April 1991 specified a period of 120 days in which all of Iraq's non-conventional weapons, related materials, and production facilities would be destroyed under the verification of the United Nations. However, over two years have passed, and hundreds of Scud missiles, an unknown number of launchers, and large-scale production facilities continue to exist.

As a result of all these factors, Israel can be expected to treat proposals to restrain missile development and deployment with caution. The possibilities for the negotiation of mutual limitations exist, but not in the context of CSBMs or informal agreements, and only after limitations on conventional systems are concluded, and key states, such as Iran and Iraq, agree to participate.

Nuclear Weapons

The Israeli government has endorsed the objective of ridding the Middle East of the threat of nuclear weapons, and this goal has been included in policy statements on regional security and arms control for some time.23 However, the Israeli nuclear capability was developed to deter threats to national survival, and as long as the threats continue, and the legitimacy and permanence of Israel is questioned, nuclear weapons will continue to be seen as the ultimate guarantor against existential threats. Israeli policy places nuclear weapons at the end of the process, and as long as the Arab-Israeli conflict continues, even if the Israeli nuclear monopoly is ended, and other states in the region develop nuclear forces, Israel is likely to maintain its nuclear deterrent.24 Indeed, public opinion polls show major support for maintenance of a nuclear deterrent. In 1991, just after the Gulf War and Iraqi threats to "incinerate half of Israel" with chemical weapons, 88% of Israelis agreed that the use of nuclear weapons (under certain circumstances) was justified in principle".25

Shalheveth Freier, who has served as Israel's representative in international arms control discussions, and has played a major role in policy making for many years, has noted that all of Israel's major wars resulted from challenges to the existence of Israel. He describes the nuclear program as providing "a sense of reassurance to Israelis in times of gloom" and "to serve as possible caution to states contemplating obliterating Israel by dint of their preponderance of men and material."26 The efforts to remove this potential before the establishment of regional peace is interpreted by Freier as evidence that "the Arab states wish to retain the option of waging wars against Israel, with nothing to worry about."27

Furthermore, as noted, the Israeli position is that effective nuclear arms control in the Middle East, when it comes, will require the development of regional institutions and procedures. Iraq provides the clearest case for the inadequacy of the NPT/IAEA regime; Saddam Hussein built an advanced and large-scale weapons program without the knowledge of the IAEA, and in violation of its NPT treaty obligations, and Iraq purchased components despite the formal (but unimplemented) limitations of the supplier states. Similarly, Iran and Algeria are acquiring nuclear materials and technology despite the limitations of the existing international regime.

Although there have been some efforts to strengthen the IAEA system, the continued inability to act resolutely in dismantling the Iraqi nuclear program after the 1991 Gulf War demonstrates its inability detect and respond quickly to a unilateral "breakout".28 As Freier notes, the IAEA and other elements of the existing international regime are also politically biased against Israel. "The Arab states urged resolutions [condemning Israeli nuclear activity]... in every conceivable international forum, and these fora went willingly along with these urgings, singling out Israel and disregarding any other country, similarly presumed to have nuclear capabilities." New institutions, stripped of the political biases, are sought.

Below the threshold of the NPT and the elimination of the Israeli nuclear option, Israel has been pressured to accept a unilateral freeze on production of nuclear materials and a halt to operations at the Dimona reactor.29 Supporters of this policy argue that Israel already has sufficient nuclear weapons to deter any conceivable threat.30 Thus the cost would be low, and if necessary, these steps are reversible. The benefits, proponents claim, would flow from the ability to use this Israeli concession to pressure the other states in the region, including Iran and Egypt, to abstain from obtaining nuclear weapons, and in gaining support for extension of the NPT in 1995. For example, Cohen and Miller argue that "Israel should cap its production of weapons- usable nuclear materials, while the Arab states and Iran should reinforce their declaratory commitment not to produce nuclear weapons by accepting the authority of the IAEA to make special inspections at both declared and suspect nuclear facilities."31

Israeli policy makers have strongly rejected these efforts. "Declaratory commitments" from Iran and Iraq are not given any weight, particularly when verification is vested in the IAEA. Regardless of any Israeli moves, Iran and Algeria are seen as likely to continue to pursue nuclear weapons and a "freeze" at Dimona could even spur these efforts of the other states.

In addition, unilateral concessions are seen as steps "down the slippery slope" which will lead, in the longer term, to the end of the strategic deterrent, thereby reviving the basis for large-scale Arab attacks. Instead of responding with limits on their own programs, Israelis fear that the Arab states will simply demand more limitations. The acceptance of unilateral moves in this area would undermine the emphasis Israel has placed on the development of reliable and regionally based verification regimes. Any incentives that the Arab states have to participate in direct negotiations on such regional regimes would disappear if Israeli were to take major steps on a unilateral basis.

Thus, external pressures to make concessions on these vital points, or to accept ad-hoc and unilateral measures that fail to tangibly and visibly contribute to Israeli security, are likely to be rejected. Few believe that unilateral Israeli restraint will effect Iranian policy, and Teheran is likely to continue to pursue nuclear weapons regardless of the status of the Israeli program. With effective enforcement, the NPT, IAEA, and supplier limits can delay the Iranian nuclear program for a few years, but, as the Iraqi and North Korean cases demonstrate, supplier limitations are of limited effectiveness.

The Israeli position calls for negotiation of Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free-Zone (MEWMDFZ), based on the model provided by the Treaty of Tlatelolco and the proposed African Nuclear Weapons Free Zone. Such a zone, including chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, as well as long-range missiles, would have to be negotiated directly by the states in the region, and include mutual inspection.32 Given the interdependence between these different weapons and technologies, such a multi-dimensional approach to arms control in Middle East may provide the most realistic path to progress.


To be effective, arms control must meet the security requirements of all the states involved. The Israeli nuclear program, which is the major target of most Middle East arms control proposals, was developed to meet specific requirements, and the threat to the survival of the state, in particular. The only way to gain Israeli restraints in this area is to reduce the threat which has made the nuclear capability seem necessary in the first place. This threat includes massive Arab acquisition of conventional forces, with increasing technological sophistication, as well as chemical and biological weapons, long- range missiles, and, of course, nuclear weapons.

Many Israelis, including Prime Minister Rabin, remain skeptical about the degree to which arms control can contribute to Israeli national security in the foreseeable future. There is a broad consensus on this issue, and external pressures for unilateral concessions are unlikely to gain significant support. The most promising path to Middle East arms control is based on the step-by-step development of confidence along with threat reduction. The most promising, and perhaps only means of reducing or ending Israel's nuclear capability is based on the unambiguous end to the threat to Israel's existence. As long as some states and national leaders call for the destruction of the Jewish State, and others continue to hesitate and send mixed signals, Israelis will feel a need to maintain a nuclear deterrent. Formal peace treaties involving all the states in the region (including Iran and Libya), exchange of embassies, tourism, and the full package of normalization are necessary pre- conditions for movement on this issue. CSBMs can start the process moving, and lead to limits on conventional acquisitions and deployments. Regional regimes to verify prohibitions on the acquisition of chemical and biological weapons must also be developed, and adapted to the nuclear context, and this will also take time. Attempts to "jump start" the process, to skip stages, or to focus exclusively on nuclear weapons are likely to fail, and set back the development of arms control in the Middle East. HR


0- Address by the Foreign Minister of Israel, Mr. Shimon Peres at the Signing Ceremony of the Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty, Paris, January 13 1993

1- Michael B. Oren, "The Tripartite System and Arms Control in the Middle East: 1950-1956", in Arms Control in the Middle East, Dore Gold, editor, Boulder, Colo., Westview, 1990

2- Address by the Foreign Minister of Israel, Mr. Shimon Peres at the Signing Ceremony of the Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty, Paris, January 13 1993

3- The centrally of this requirement has been recognized by many American policy makers and analysts. Kemp, for example, states that "Until there is a long period of peace in the Middle East, Israel is unlikely to negotiate away its nuclear force. ... "Pushing Israel too hard on nuclear weapons while demanding that it be more flexible on giving up land for peace would be counterproductive." Geoffrey Kemp, The Control of the Middle East Arms Race Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC 1992 p.180

4- Shalheveth Freier, "A Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East and its Ambience", unpublished manuscript, 1992

5- When missiles and nuclear weapons are considered, Pakistan is generally included in the region as well. See, for example, "Establishment of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Region of the Middle East Study on effective and verifiable measures which would facilitate the establishment of a nuclear-weapon- free zone in the Middle East." Report of the Secretary General, United Nations General Assembly, A/45/435, 10 October 1990

6- For a detailed analysis of the role of territory in Middle Eastern arms control, see Geoffrey Kemp, The Control of the Middle East Arms Race, Carnegie Endowment, Washington DC, 1992 and Alan Platt, editor, Arms Control and Confidence Building in the Middle East United States Institute for Peace, Washington, DC, 1992

7- Freier, ibid

8- Freier, ibid

9- Address by the Foreign Minister of Israel, Mr. Shimon Peres at the Signing Ceremony of the Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty, Paris, January 13 1993

10- Address by the Foreign Minister of Israel, Mr. Shimon Peres at the Signing Ceremony of the Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty, Paris, January 13 1993

11- Many analysts focus exclusively on the Israeli nuclear program, and do not note the degree to which this capability is inseparable from the broader threat environment. See, for example, Avner Cohen and Marvin Miller "How to Think About - and Implement- Nuclear Arms Control in the Middle East", The Washington Quarterly Spring 1993

12- Ariel E. Levite, "Confidence and Security Building Measures in the Middle East", draft of paper presented at the UNIDIR Conference, Cairo April 18-20, 1993.

13- See Shalheveth Freier, "A Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East and its Ambience", unpublished manuscript, 1992; and Address by the Foreign Minister of Israel, Mr. Shimon Peres at the Signing Ceremony of the Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty, Paris, January 13 1993

14- Michael Eisenstadt, "Arming for Peace? Syria's Elusive Quest for 'Strategic Parity", The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Policy Paper No. 31, 1992

15- A worst-case scenario involving full participation of the major confrontation states would leave Israel at a 2.6:1 disadvantage in tanks, 4.6:1 disadvantage in guns and mortars, and 2.2:1 deficit in combat aircraft. See Middle East Military Balance 1990-1, Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Tel Aviv University, 1992, p. 404-5

16- Gerald M. Steinberg, "Opportunities for Conventional Arms Limitations in the Middle East and Persian Gulf", in Andrew Pierre, editor, Conventional Arms Sales in the 1990s, forthcoming

17- Dore Gold, "US Policy Toward Israel's Qualitative Edge" Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Report No. 36, September 1992, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv.

18- For a detailed discussion of this proposal, see Steinberg, "Opportunities for Conventional Arms Limitations in the Middle East and Persian Gulf"

19- Shai Feldman, "Pikuach V'Bakarat Neshek: Seder Yom L'Yisrael", Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, November, 1991

20- Address by the Foreign Minister of Israel, Mr. Shimon Peres at the Signing Ceremony of the Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty, Paris, January 13 1993

21- In his speech at the Signing Ceremony of the Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty, Paris, January 13 1993, Foreign Minister Peres stressed "the principles of universality and equality among nations", and declared that "we expect equal rights of geographic membership in the institutions established by the convention."

22- Mike Eisenstadt, "The sword of the Arabs: Iraq's Strategic Weapons Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Washington DC 1990; Gary Milhollin, "Building Saddam Hussein's Bomb", New York Times Magazine, March 8, 1992

23- Address by the Foreign Minister of Israel, Mr. Shimon Peres at the Signing Ceremony of the Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty, Paris, January 13 1993. This objective was also included in a joint Israeli-Jordanian declaration negotiated in the context of the bilateral talks in 1992.

24- Some analysts claim that, as the case of the superpowers, the development of a regional "balance of terror" can be stabilizing, and Kenneth Waltz argues that the proliferation of nuclear weapons would inhibit conventional as well as nuclear war. According to this view, by greatly increasing deterrence and the risk of total destruction, the spread of weapons of mass destruction will decrease the proclivity towards war in the Third World. Shai Feldman has also argued that a nuclear Middle East would be stabilizing, and Geoffrey Kemp has claimed that "On some occasions, weapons proliferation has led to greater caution between adversaries, and may have strengthened deterrence." He cites the specific example of Saddam Hussein's failure to use chemical weapons against Israel, attributing this caution to the fear of massive retaliation promised by Israel. This view is rejected by Mandelbaum and Evron, among others. See Kenneth Waltz, The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May be Better, Adelphi Paper No. 171, (London, IISS, 1981); Stephen Van Evra, "Primed for Peace", International Security Vol.15. No.3 Winter 1990/1; Shai Feldman, Israeli Nuclear Deterrence, Columbia University Press, 1981; Geoffrey Kemp, The Control of the Middle East Arms Race, Carnegie Endowment, Washington DC, 1992; Michael Mandelbaum "International Stability and Nuclear Order", in Nuclear Weapons and World Politics: Alternatives for the Future edited by David Gompert, New York, McGraw Hill, 1977; Yair Evron, The Israeli Nuclear Dilemma (Hebrew)

25- Asher Arian, "Israel and the Peace Process: Security and Political Attitudes in 1993", Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies Memorandum No. 39, Tel Aviv University, February 1993, p.12

26- Shalheveth Freier, "A Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East and its Ambience", unpublished manuscript (1992)

27- Shalheveth Freier, "A Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East and its Ambience", 1992

28- Gary Milhollin, "The Iraqi Bomb", The New Yorker February 1, 1993

29- This issue is explored in some detail by Shai Feldman "Pikuach V'Bakarat Neshek: Seder Yom L'Yisrael", Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, November, 1991 See also Avner Cohen and Marvin Miller, "How to Think About - and Implement- Nuclear Arms Control in the Middle East", The Washington Quarterly Spring 1993 pp. 101-113

30- In his book, The Samson Option, Seymour Hersh makes an unsubstantiated claim that Israel has from 100 to 200 nuclear weapons. Other estimates, including those of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) place the number of warheads at closer to 50, based on assumptions and calculations regarding the rate of plutonium production of the Dimona reactor.

31- Cohen and Miller, 1992, p.110

32- Shalheveth Freier, above; Address by the Foreign Minister of Israel, Mr. Shimon Peres at the Signing Ceremony of the Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty, Paris, January 13 1993; and Ran Marom, "Israel's position on non-proliferation", Jerusalem Journal of International Relations, 8, No.4 1986, pp.118-123