Two peas in a nuclear pod

Iran is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Article IV of the treaty refers to the ‘inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.’

As Roger Cohen pointed out in the New York Times this week, “Many non-nuclear countries, including Germany and Japan and Brazil, have interpreted this as a right to enrich uranium — and they have done so with the agreement of the international community.”

Israel is not a signatory to the treaty and it does not open its facilities to inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Besides which, Israel’s so-called policy of ambiguity regarding its possession of nuclear weapons is farcical. Everyone knows that it has weapons – and that’s exactly what Israel wants. Deterrence through ambiguity.

It seems very strange, then, that Iran is the country under sanction and enormous pressure to come clean on its nuclear capabilities, while Israel not only escapes the flack – it’s the kibitzer in the back seat; urging on the six powers negotiating with Iran to take even tougher measures against the regime of the ayatollahs. Israel, a non-signatory, is demanding of a signatory what the treaty itself doesn’t demand.

As far as Netanyahu is concerned, Israel will not be bound by any agreement that doesn’t include the dismantling of all centrifuges (i.e. the total halt of enrichment, not only to weapons grade,) the removal from Iran of all 20% enriched uranium, the shutting of a heavy water reactor that is still under construction and stringent international supervision.

Israel itself, it hardly needs saying, is non-compliant on all those issues. Israel, to put it very bluntly, is holding another nation to a standard that it itself doesn’t meet. Not by a very long shot.

Israel’s hypocrisy is not surprising to any anyone who has even a cursory understanding of the psychology  of the place. Israel does not answer to the same rules as other countries. Israeli exceptionalism (the Chosen People) and sense of entitlement (the Holocaust and pogroms) raise it above the pack. Israel allows itself to act in ways that are forbidden to other countries – not only in the eyes of Israel but by international convention.

That is certainly not new. It has been the guiding spirit behind Israel’s behavior towards the Palestinians for generations. Anyone who thinks that there’s even a chance of Israel accepting a balanced and equal peace agreement with the Palestinians is living in cloud cuckoo land. Equal sovereignty is the last thing that Israel has in mind – and that’s not only true of the current expansionary government. Even centrist and left-wing thinking on the issue posits a strategically dominant Israel and a crippled Palestine – in the best of cases.

Most Israelis are unable to envisage themselves living side-by-side with Palestinians, whether in a binational state or two separate states. Israelis deserve more.  That’s just the way it is; God and Hitler took care of it.

More unfathomable is the fact that the international community by an large goes along with the concept of Israeli superiority – certainly the U.S. and Europe do. The reasons are complex, as always – Holocaust guilt (on the part of Europe) and inbred colonialism being just two of them. Israelis are regarded as “white,” even if it’s subconscious, while the Arabs are part of the brown and black races that knew their place in the good old days when Europe was plundering them.

Israel is allowed to get away with murder, literally, while Iran is forced to comply with a different set of rules.

I’m certainly not saying that Iran is either blameless or pure. By all accounts, the regime of the ayatollahs is a human rights nightmare and their influence on Shiites around the world is pernicious. It’s a dreadful regime –but then any Palestinian will tell you that Israel is, too. Just because a county’s prime minister speaks English with an American accent and its high-tech entrepreneurs are legendary, it doesn’t follow  that the country is either civilized or well-intentioned. Israel is neither.

International diplomacy, to be effective, must be fair and proportional. Countries can’t be held to different standards. That is true even in the cozy old-boys club of the nuclear nations. If the Middle East is to be a nuclear-free zone, that applies to Israel as much as it does to Iran and Saudi Arabia.

By singling out Israel for preferential treatment, the U.S. and Europe have allowed the Israel-Palestine conflict to become the unsolvable morass that it is today – and they won’t do much better on the nuclear front.

For every step that Iran takes away from military nuclear capability, Israel should have to do the same. It’s only fair, it’s only right and it’s the only way of avoiding a nuclear arms-race in the region.