Should Israel Come Out Of The Closet?

First, full disclosure: I’ve heard this expression lately – an expression reserved usually to gay people coming out and admitting to being homosexual – being mentioned at a lecture in regard to Israel’s nuclear capability. It was not explored much deeper on that occasion, in a discussion-group — “The Israel Forum,” – I moderate here in the Sacramento Jewish community; but, nonetheless, it stuck in my mind and kept on rolling there, dying to “come out” and express itself at further length in this blog post. And what better time to reflect on such an issue than on the anniversary of the most dangerous “close call” of all times, the Cuban Missile Crisis, which ended on October 28, 1962, 51 years ago

It is an intriguing idea, for Israel to come out of the closet, and a challenging one at that. After all, the world at large knows that Israel possesses a large arsenal of nuclear weapons, with capability of nuclear power that can be launched upon command at an hour of need, or even react to such an attack after it was already had been launched. With that capacity and power, Israel’s strength might be – according to the experts – behind only America, Russia and China. It has been disclosed lately that as far back as the early 60’s, when Israel was developing its nuclear weapons, the Americans – and American Presidents, no less – had tried in vain to stop its progress, and to find out information about its development; very similar, one might surmise, to the current situation with Iran. Yet Israel, a friend and beneficiary of America like no other, had refused to cooperate. It was reported recently in Israel, with the release of documents related to the Yom Kippur War of 1973, that twice Moshe Dayan, the Security Minister at the time, was ready to start preparations for a nuclear launch in the early stages of that war. But PM Golda and her close ministerial advisers had stopped that dead on the tracks. How fortunate we all are for that.

But what does Israel have to lose, come to think of it, by admitting to having nuclear weapons? As if the whole world doesn’t know that already. What does the Israeli government afraid of, or worry about: more pressure to join the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty (as of February 2012, 189 recognized states are party to the treaty), and sign the treaty of nonproliferation? Well, maybe so. But then again, Israel is being pressured to do so no matter what. And in any event, the pressure will grow even stronger if, or once, an agreement had been reached with Iran to halt its own nuclear weapons’ development and ambition. And no one, no force exists – yes, not even dear old USA, as past efforts had proved – that will be able to force Israel to join, or destroy its nuclear arsenal, without its consent and cooperation.

There is a very well received and discussed non-fiction book recently published (and currently on the New York Times bestsellers list): “Command And Control,” by Eric Schlosser, which explores thoroughly the many close calls, small-scale accidents, and large-scale accidents – all those terrifying “almost” situations – particularly here in America (but also in Russia and elsewhere) that had the potential to trigger a major, disastrous, global nuclear war. Reading just excerpts from that book gives one chills of fear, and serve as a warning to us all. We almost forgot how dangerous the world is with those terrible weapons deep in the ground, up in the air and down at sea. And the author warns us emphatically that it is not getting any better any time soon, due to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Think then of Israel, and what would happen if such an accident, or miscalculation would to occur? The end of the world, as we say in Hebrew. Literally! And Israel, West Bank and all, is still such a small country by comparison to America, Russia and China, to possess such a large arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Let’s make a detour here, for entertainment relief, and talk about Anderson Cooper. Yes, he of “CNN 360” and “CBS 60 Minutes,” with the always carefully combed silvery hair and black T-shirt when a suit and a tie are not required. The whole world – well, at least here in America – was talking and rumoring about him as being gay. He kept mum about it for quite a while, pretending not to hear. At the same time continuing with his TV programs, and with segments such as “Keeping Them Honest.” And being overall the “champion of the people;” well, a do-gooder, kind of. Then when he came out, it was not – surprise, surprise – such a big deal after all. It relieved him from that terrible burden of hiding “in the closet,” and of secret that had demanded of him not be “honest.” And then, voila! He came out, and everybody was “cool” about it. Cooper himself even participated in a hilarious skit about it – getting married to Stepon, the “gay poster-child” NY correspondent — on the finale of NBC SNL show last season.

Take example, Israel (said only partly in jest here.) It may release our Jewish State, too, from the burden of keeping mum about its “open secret.” In the short term, it may just help, being open and honest about it, in pushing Iran towards a nuclear deal. And in the long run, will enable Israel – just maybe — to join these and other negotiations on non-proliferation. And if, when all is said and done, it would help create a nuclear free-zone in the Middle East, then what’s so wrong with that? Isn’t that what we all want? What Israel wants and truly needs. No one in the Middle East with nuclear capability, what could be better than that? No threat of accidents or close calls going terribly wrong. With America’s nuclear capability — close by in the Mediterranean Sea or up in the air – always at the ready to protect and intervene, should the worse was to occur. Not such a bad idea for Israel and the Jewish people to contemplate, come to think of it, especially in this light of “keeping them honest,” and of “coming out of the closet.” It may prove very beneficial to us all. Even though, admittedly, I don’t see it becoming a reality anytime soon.

About the Author
Hillel Damron was born in Kibbutz Hephzibah to parents who survived the Holocaust; he was an officer of elite paratroop unit who was wounded in battle; studied film and became a director of TV documentaries, video shorts and a feature film. Damron is the author of three novels, short stories and a political blog; winner of Moment Magazine’s 2011 Memoir Contest and is the past executive director of the Hillel House, at University of Davis, California.