Martin Sherwin at the nuclear panel puts forward the provocative idea that Israel ought to call for the creation of a conference on “First Steps to a Nuclear-Free Middle East.” The problems here are obvious, but I do think this points to an important point. Obviously, a nuclear Israel plus verifiably non-nuclear neighbors, is ideal from Israel’s point of view. But a nuclear balance of terror where Israel has nukes, but so do Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey with programs under way in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria doesn’t sound very good for Israel. They could probably count on deterrence to see them through there, but it would be a risky situation.
Alternatively, a world in which Iran and other Middle Eastern states are verifiably disarmed and Israel is disarmed as well would be pretty safe for Israel. They might or might not be threatened by katyushas and stuff, but we’ve seen that Israeli society and the Israeli economy can withstand that. And at the end of the day I do think we’re either going to shift to a region (and at a slower pace, toward a world) where nobody has nuclear weapons or else to one where everyone of consequence has them.