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Jack Straw Breaks an American Taboo
The American Conservative
June 21, 2013

Iím going become a pest and a bore about linking the Iranian nuclear issue to Israelís nuclear arsenal. Obviously the two are connected, strategically, psychologically, and morally. But we have this weird Emperorís New Clothes thing going in America. We are supposed to be very agitated about Iranís quest for (what seems to me) the ability to construct a nuclear weapon in a pinch, while ignoring Israelís very large and menacing actually existing arsenal. American policy is to support an Israeli nuclear monopoly in the Mideast. But when did it become so, and how? I donít remember any debate about it. Perhaps it was decided by the very smart people, and subsequently there was no need for further debate.

But guess what. The discussion has started. It just hasnít reached these shores yet. Here is Jack Straw (Britainís foreign minister under the Blair government) talking on BBC radio a few days before the Iranian election:

JACK STRAW: Well, hang on a second, Israel has a most extensive nuclear weapons capability, it has no territorial ambitions apart from stealing the land of the Palestinians and itís not going to use nuclear weapons for that but it has (a) very extensive nuclear weapons programme, and along with India and Pakistan are the three countries in the world, plus North Korea more recently, which have refused any kind of International supervision of their nuclear programme.

JOHN HUMPHRYS: Well let me put that to Dr Gold; you canít argue with that Dr Gold?

DORE GOLD: Well we can have a whole debate on Israel in a separate programme.

JOHN HUMPHRYS: Well itís entirely relevant isnít it? The fact is youíre saying they want nuclear weapons; the fact is you have nuclear weapons.

DORE GOLD: Look, Israel has made statements in the past. Israeli ambassadors to the UN like myself have said that Israel wonít be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East.

JACK STRAW: Youíve got nuclear weapons.

JOHN HUMPHRYS: Youíve got them.

JACK STRAW: Youíve got them. Everyone knows that.

DORE GOLD: We have a very clear stand, but weíre not the issue.

JACK STRAW: No, no, come on, you have nuclear weapons, letís be clear about this.

Straw is debating Dore Gold, former Israeli UN ambassador, foreign affairs advisor to Netanyahu. (As it happens, Gold is a college classmate of mine. I remember him pretty well, nice guy, from Scarsdale, used to wear brightly colored polo shirts to class. Slightly odd I must admit suddenly finding him a representative of a foreign country, but that is the modern world.) You might note that Gold, a practiced debater, has virtually nothing to say on this subject. He almost begs the moderator to make it go awayóĒwe can debate Israel on another program.Ē Because one might never think that the Iranian desire to build a bomb, or develop the capacity to do so, might, just maybe, have something to do with the fact that Israel is pointing hundreds of nuclear weapons at it.

Straw is not a marginal figure, even if European politicians never speak this bluntly while they are in office. Nor is the BBC a media outlier. I think one of the most interesting things in America politics over the next few months will be to see whether the Israel lobby can impose a ďNo mention of Israelís nukesĒ rule on the American debate about Iran. Being a somewhat optimistic sort, I donít believe that it can.
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