Peace Security and Deterrence in the Middle East: The Obstacles To a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone

Prepared for presentation at the workshop on Nuclear- Weapons-Free Zones, Australian National University Peace Research Centre, December 1996. The research for this paper was funded by a grant from the Ihel Foundation.
The views expressed in this paper are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the Israeli government or any other entity.
Draft: November 28 1996


It is increasingly clear that the progress towards the goal of creating a "nuclear free world", as outlined in the Canberra Commission report, will require a series of regional agreements and frameworks that go beyond the scope of existing frameworks. The nuclear weapons free zones (NWFZ) that have been negotiated and implemented in Latin America, the South Pacific, Africa, and most recently, the Asia Pacific region, provide examples. Other areas in which multifaceted regional approaches will be req uired include South Asia, the Korean Peninsula, and the Middle East.

The examination and analysis of the requirements and conditions for the creation of a functioning NWFZ in these conflictual regions reveal that this will require the settlement of intense and ongoing conflicts. In cases in which nuclear deterrence, in some form (deployed or virtual), is viewed as essential for national security, without the settlement of these conflicts, this requirement will remain. In addition, the nuclear deterrent capability is seen as a response or deterrent to non-nuclear thr eats, both conventional and non-conventional. Thus, in reality, in such cases, a NWFZ must also be linked to a wider set of agreements and limitations, encompassing chemical and biological weapons, ballistic missiles and other long-range delivery systems , and massive conventional forces. These requirements are far more complex and demanding than those for a simple NWFZ. Finally, a regional arms control system, including a NWFZ, must include stringent and reliable verification systems, in order to meet the concerns of all the parties regarding possible cheating, undetected preparations for "breakout" (in which one party secretly creates the basis for a rapid development of prohibited weapons, and when the "breakout" occurs, this does not leave sufficien t time for a response). Together, these three sets of requirements present a major challenge, or, until these challenges can be met, obstacles, to the creation of zones free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

The case of the Middle East: Background

Since 1980, the United Nations General Assembly has supported, by consensus, annual resolutions calling for the creation of a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East. All the states in the region have supported this consensus, including E gypt, Israel, and Iran. In addition, the leaders of these states have consistently voiced support for a MENWFZ in public statements.

However, this consensus has masked a number of fundamental differences in approach and substance. Initially, and throughout the 1980s, Israel and the Arab states were divided on major issues of process. While Israel insisted that the negotiations ta ke place through direct face-to-face talks as part of a regional peace process, the continuing refusal of the Arab states (with the notable very important exception of Egypt) to end the state of war with Israel created an impasse. This basic obstacle was reduced, to some degree, in 1991, following the Middle East Peace Conference in Madrid, in which many of the parties participated (with the exception of Iraq, Iran, and Libya). The conference led to the establishment of a number of multilateral working groups, including one on Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) which, for the first time, provided a format for direct negotiations on such issues. However, the refusal of Syria to participate, as well as the absence of Iran, Iraq, and Libya (which r eject the peace process, and, in the case of Iran, actively support rejectionist terror groups such as Hamas and Hizbollah) limit the ability of ACRS to consider regional security issues such as the MENWFZ in any detail. Without the active participation of all of these states in this or a similar forum, it is difficult to proceed towards any significant regional agreements.

Beyond the procedural issues, there are a number of substantive differences and conflicts that will be difficult to resolve. The first issue in the consideration of a NWFZ in any region is the scope of the region to be included. In conflictual regio ns, such as the Middle East, the core region is defined in terms of potential or actual states that might be involved in military confrontation in which nuclear weapons or threats could play a role. In comparison with the other areas in which regional N WFZs have been created, the Middle East is particularly complex.1 In an area plagued by a long and history of intense and overlapping ethno-national and religious conflict, there are many obstacles and difficulties to reaching agreement on a MENWFZ. To be effective, a Zone would have to include the 22 member states of the Arab League, as well as Iran and Israel, and stretch from Algeria in North Africa to Iran and the Persian Gulf.2 There are specific issues regarding some peripheral states, such as Tu rkey, which is a member of the NATO alliance, and as part of an organization that has a nuclear component (through its nuclear weapons state members), is an exception that must, at some point, be considered. The large number and diversity of necessary pa rticipants, in itself, is a significant obstacle to agreement.

In addition, there are wide differences between the various conceptions and mechanisms that have been proposed. These primary differences result from conflicting perceptions of the security requirements and threats posed to the states in the region , and the link between the establishment of a NWFZ and the regional peace process in the region. There are also related disagreements on the implementation of a wide network of confidence and security building measures (CSBMs) the link between changes in the status of Israel's ambiguous nuclear deterrence option and limitations on conventional as well as other military-strategic capabilities, the relation of a MENWFZ to the global NPT/IAEA regime, and the nature of verification.

Nevertheless, in terms of long-term goals, the concept of a MENWFZ, as part of a wider zone free of weapons of mass destruction, is the best option for creating and maintaining long term stability, and for progressing towards the goals of the Canberra Commission. Despite the opposing interests and positions on other issues, all the states in the region, including Israel and Egypt, have signed the CTBT, and this could serve as a basis for gaining experience in regional cooperation. As will be demonst rated in this paper, efforts to find "short cuts" that fail to meet the essential security requirements of the key states in the region, including Israel, in the attempt to create a MENWFZ, and that do not address the basic factors that are necessary fo r such a zone, are unlikely to succeed. Indeed, such pressures could, in themselves, become sources of additional conflict and will actually set-back the achievement of this goal.

The MENWFZ in the United Nations

The concept of a MENWFZ was introduced in the UNGA in 1974 by Egypt and Iran. Until 1980, Israel abstained in the annual votes on this issue, but since then, Israel has joined the consensus, and has thereby also had a voice in shaping the language an d in determining the fate of various changes that Egypt and other states sought to introduce over the years. 3

The emphasis on this issue increased in the wake of the United Nations Special Session on Disarmament in 1988. A number of leaders in the region, including Israeli Prime Minister Shamir and Egyptian Foreign Minister Abdel Meguid addressed this Specia l Session, and presented their views on disarmament in general, and proposals for the region, in particular.4 Egypt also proposed that the Secretary General create an expert group to consider the "Establishment of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Region of the Middle East", and this group issued its report in 1990. This highly detailed report explicitly examined the terms required for "effective and verifiable measures" which would facilitate the establishment of a MENWFZ, as well as the necessary cond itions and preliminary steps, including CBMs and balanced reductions in conventional arms.5 The authors also noted that even under the most favorable conditions, the process would take several years. The Israel position on this concept has been favorable , and was most recently reiterated by Foreign Minister David Levi in the 1996 United Nations General Assembly. In his statement, Levi declared that "After peaceful relations and reconciliation have been established among all states in the region, Israel i will endeavor to establish in the Middle East a Zone Free of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, as well as ballistic missiles, based on mutual and effective verification. Negotiations to establish such a zone will commence following the signing of bilateral peace accords between Israel and all states in the region."6

Since then, the issue has been discussed and debated annually in the First Committee of the United Nations and discussed in other forums, including the meetings of the IAEA Board of Governors, the meetings of the ACRS multilateral working group, and i n the context of the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference. Examination of the positions taken by the various parties at these meetings and in other settings provide a basis for examining the differing positions in detail, and for analyzing the obstac les to the establishment of a MENWFZ. The intense political conflicts and efforts to obtain minor political and public relations advantages in the wording of declarations and resolutions, particularly in the First Committee of the United Nations and the meetings of the Board of Governors of the IAEA, are indications of the long period which will be necessary to overcome the substantive and political obstacles.7

The Central Issues and Conflicts

1)Links between a MENWFZ and the Global NPT/IAEA Regime

The question of whether and how to link a regional NWFZ to the existing global regime is a central and perhaps the most conflictual issue facing the parties. The global system is based on universality (except for the five recognized nuclear weapons s tates), and differences in geography, demography, and regional threat situations (both conventional and non-conventional) are irrelevant. In contrast, a regional approach emphasizes precisely these specific issues, allowing for the development of a compl ex and tailor-made framework, as seen in the case of Latin America.8

In general, the Arab states, and Egypt, in particular, demand that a regional zone be integrated within the global structure, while, for Israel, this in unacceptable and would defeat the purpose of the NWFZ. The Egyptian position on this issue was cl early stated in the 1990 Mubarak initiative, (formally presented in a letter to the UN Secretary General in July 1991). This proposal emphasized the demand that all states in the region accept the NPT and adopt IAEA safeguards on all nuclear facilities. In his letter, Mubarak also included a broad call for the major powers "to step up their efforts to ensure that all Middle East nations which have not yet done so adhere to the Treaty".9 This position is stressed frequently. For example, the final commu nique of the June 1993 summit meeting of the Arab League in Cairo stated "The Arab leaders stress the need for Israel to join the Nuclear Non proliferation Treaty and to subject all their nuclear facilities to the inspection regime of the International A tomic Energy Agency. They also renew their call for establishing a zone free of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, in the Middle East."10

The institutional question is also link to broader conflicts regarding the role of international organizations, such as the United Nations, in enhancing or guaranteeing regional security. Although the NWFZ concept is ostensibly regional, Cairo's posi tion stresses the centrality of the global regime and role of global institutions such as the UN. In policy statements, the Egyptian leaders demanded that "any regional arrangement or measure of disarmament" be consistent with "the purposes and principle s enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations" and with "the revitalization of the United Nation's role in the fields of disarmament and international security".11 Nabil Fahmy, a prominent official of Egypt's Foreign Ministry, called on the Security C ouncil and General Assembly to take active measures to pressure states to "relinquish and not acquire" nuclear weapons.12 This position was repeated, with some minor variations, in the annual meetings of the UN General Assembly, the sessions of the First Committee, and in the meetings of the Board of Governors of the IAEA.

The problems raised by efforts to incorporate a MENWFZ within the NPT/IAEA also include the fact the security threats that, in the Israeli case, are addressed by the nuclear deterrence option, are multifaceted, while the IAEA deals only with limitati ons on nuclear weapons. Israel's deterrence policy is a response to the threats posed by other weapons systems and technology, including massive conventional forces that threaten national survival, as well as chemical and biological warheads. (These thr eats will be examined in greater detail below).

The ACRS working group, in which Israel, Egypt, and Jordan are active participants, provided a framework that overcame many of these differences. ACRS is not linked to the UN, IAEA, or any international organization. In addition, this mechanism is n ot limited to any specific weapon or technology, and allows for discussion of the links between such capabilities and the threats that they pose. Thus, ACRS can be used for the eventual discussion leading to the establishment of a MENWFZ, in connection w ith widespread peace agreements.

However, the effort to produce an agreed framework or declaration of principles for the next stage of ACRS broke down in 1994 precisely over the differences over the role of the NPT. While Egypt insisted on obtaining explicit Israeli agreement to lan guage linking the NWFZ to the NPT, Israel rejected this linkage. Since then, the ACRS process has been stalled, reflecting both the importance attached to this issue, and the degree to which it constitutes a fundamental obstacle to progress in negotiatin g a MENWFZ. (It should, however, be noted that the 1994 Jordanian-Israeli Peace Treaty calls for a Middle East free from WMD, "both conventional and non-conventional", without specific reference to nuclear weapons or the NPT and IAEA.)13

2)Verification and Safeguards

Any arms limitation regime, whether global, regional, or bilateral, is only as strong as the verification and safeguards systems that are implemented. For example, the 1972 Biological Warfare Convention has been ineffective, reflecting the absence of any verification system. The NPT has failed in areas where verification and safeguards were too weak to deter violations, as in the case of Iraq and North Korea, and, it is increasingly feared, now Iran. The IAEA in general, and the safeguards and veri fication system, in particular, are vulnerable to political influence, allowing states to exclude inspectors from some areas, and to manipulate the system in a way which would prevent or delay the "timely detection of violations" and allow states to produ ce weapons before an international response. The IAEA Board of Governors, which appoints IAEA officials and must consider whether to report cases of suspected safeguards violations for action to the United Nations Security Council, is a political body, w ith representation based on politically defined groups. Some states, such as Israel, are systematically excluded from these groups, and therefore from representation on the Board of Governors.

The Middle East poses some very difficult verification requirements. There are a number of diverse political systems, ranging from open democracies to closed and tightly controlled dictatorships. In the case of closed societies, particularly those w ith relatively large territorial extents, it is possible to hide weapons development and production programs from international inspectors. This has been clearly demonstrated in the case of Iraq, where both IAEA and UNSCOM inspectors have been attempting to determine the extent of the Iraqi capability since 1991. For over five years, the Iraqi government has been able to keep significant capabilities and information hidden from the international inspectors, despite the agreement guaranteeing access and cooperation as specified in UN Security Council 687.

For these reasons, there is a strong argument for creating a system of safeguards based on a dedicated regional system of mutual verification, negotiated and implemented by the parties, without the political aspects of the IAEA or other international body. This is the Israeli position, and was underlined in 1993, when Israel did not send an official participant to the IAEA workshop on "The Modalities for the Application of Safeguards in a future Nuclear- Weapon-Free-Zone in the Middle East". (An uno fficial observer, however, was present).

In contrast, the formal Arab position has consistently stressed placing regional verification under the control of the IAEA. Ambassador Mohammed Shaker placed primary emphasis on adherence to the NPT and to giving the IAEA a "major role" in safeguardi ng nuclear activities in the region and in the verification of a MENWFZ.14 This is also consistent with the overall Egyptian emphasis on linking the MENWFZ to the global structure and subordinating the regional regime to the global framework, as discusse d above.

The development of a regional and mutual inspection system is also dependent on some form of recognition and cooperation among all the parties, including Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Libya. This requirement has two driving factors. First, the failures and lack of reliability of third-party verification on an issue critical to national survival lead individual states that might be threatened by a clandestine nuclear program to have their own sources of information and verification with respect to the other states in the zone. If any one state were able to violate the agreement and suddenly "breakout" from the limitations by producing nuclear weapons, this would pose a grave threat. From this perspective, the best way to reduce and limit this possibility is through mutual verifications.

Secondly, mutual acceptance and recognition of legitimacy is a necessary requirement for peaceful relations on which a NWFZ is predicated, and in the context of which mutual inspection and verification can take place. If some states are not ready for mutual inspection, it can be argued that they are not really ready for regional peace, and the conditions necessary for a regional NWFZ do not yet exist. (See the detailed analysis of the links between the peace process and a MENWFZ below).

The experience in Latin America suggests that a regional monitoring system is feasible. The 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco (which took almost 30 years to become operable) and the Argentinean-Brazilian system known as ABACC provides a model that has been s tudied in the Middle East. There are many differences between the conditions in each of these two regions, and regional verification systems addressed to the needs of the Middle East would be quite different, the concepts are similar.

3)Conflicts, Threats, and Last-resort Deterrence

As widely noted, Israel is not a signatory to the NPT, and operates a nuclear reactor at Dimona which is reportedly capable of producing plutonium for the production of nuclear weapons. Since the 1960s, Israel has followed a policy of deliberate ambi guity, and Israeli leaders have consistently refused to acknowledge or deny the possession of nuclear weapons.15 For many years, they have simply repeated the ambiguous formula that "Israel will not be the first nation in the region to deploy nuclear wea pons" (and sometimes, with the addition that it will also not be the second state.)

Israeli position is primarily based on deterrence considerations. A small state lacking strategic depth and threatened by very large conventional forces, the Israeli leadership views the ambiguous deterrent as provided weapon of last resort against e xistential attacks. The threat of nuclear retaliation has been and continues to be seen as the key to national survival, and the ambiguous capability, option, or potential provided by Dimona has provided this deterrence. This policy is supported by a cons ensus of the Israeli decision makers and by the vast majority of public opinion, and is linked to the perception that this option is necessary to national survival. The late Shalheveth Freier, who served as the head of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commissio n, described the nuclear deterrent option as providing "a sense of reassurance to Israelis in times of gloom" and "as possible caution to states contemplating obliterating Israel by dint of their preponderance of men and material."16 More recently, in Jan uary 1996, former Foreign Minister and IDF Chief of Staff Ehud Barak, declared that in the absence of proven and reliable regional peace agreements, "Israel's nuclear policy, as it is perceived in the eyes of the Arabs, has not changed, will not change a nd cannot change, because it is a fundamental stand on a matter of survival which impacts all the generations to come."17

This policy is widely supported across the Israeli political spectrum, and is based on a national consensus. There are no differences between parties, ideologies, or perspectives on the peace process. On this issue, there is little to distinguish the public statements of late Prime Minister Rabin, former Foreign Ministers Peres and Barak, and leading politicians in the Left such as Yosi Beilin and Yosi Sarid. This position is also supported by a consensus in the Israeli public, and polls showed tha t close to 90% explicitly approve of the continuation of Israeli nuclear policy, and, unless and until there is a fundamental change in the threat environment, this public support is unlikely to change.18

The Israeli position is that any change in the status of Dimona, through international inspection, would reduce or end this ambiguity and thus weaken or destroy the deterrent and thus make the country vulnerable to renewed existential attacks. Israel has consistently rejected pressures that it accede to the NPT and accept inspection. (At the same time, Israel has not tested any weapons or taken any steps that would turn the ambiguous capability into a acknowledged and visible capability.19

The policy of deterrence is inherently not susceptible to empirical testing (except after it has failed), and there is always a great deal of uncertainty in any deterrence situation20. However, Israelis will argue that although deterrence may be flaw ed, no better and realistic alternative is available, short of comprehensive peace agreements and fundamental political changes in the region. This position is also supported by recent examples in which deterrence and the threat of massive retaliation ha s seem to have led to restraint. For example, some analysts argue that the Egyptian decision not to exploit initial breakthroughs in the Sinai in 1973 were due to the Israeli nuclear deterrent. In addition, it can be argued that while Iraq possessed and had tested Scud missiles and chemical warheads prior to the 1991 war, it did not use the chemical weapons against Israel in response to the potential Israeli retaliatory capability. In other words, from the Israeli perspective, this form of ambiguous th reat of massive retaliation against existential threats or the threat to use weapons of mass destruction seems to be effective. Under such conditions, Israeli leaders have declared that they will maintain this capability as long as the threats remain. On the other hand, the Israeli policy also emphasizes the long-term goal of banning all weapons of mass destruction, when this form of deterrence is no longer necessary.

4)Links With Other Forms of Arms Limitation and Regional Security

As noted above, in the Middle East, the development of nuclear weapons or options are not isolated from other security-related factors and sources of military threats and capabilities. When there are fundamental asymmetries in land area and populatio n, large scale conventional capabilities, as continue to exist in many states in the region, as well as chemical and biological agents, the nuclear option designed in response as a deterrent is closed linked to the non-nuclear sources of this perceived d eterrence requirement. In other words, in this particular case, the proposed limitations on nuclear capabilities are inseparable from the development and implementation of limitations on other military capabilities, both conventional and non-conventional . As numerous UN reports and related studies have concluded, a MENWFZ must be linked to or include such broad limitations, each of which, are, in themselves, complex and difficult to implement. The development of an acceptable and stable level of convent ional weapons, limited in terms of both quantity and quality, in order to prevent any state or group of states from threatening the survival of any other state, is a complex process. However, precedents from the CFE agreements in Europe, and from the UN Conventional arms register (with which only Israel has complied, in the Middle East) provide a basis for negotiations, and, indeed, a first step towards a comprehensive weapons limitation agreement in the Middle East.

The threat from wars and attacks involving conventional weapons in the Middle East has always been significant, and in spite of recent progress towards historic peace agreements, this threat remains and in some ways, has even increased. The Israeli st rategic situation is essentially unique. In the Arab-Israeli conflict zone, Israel is a small state, and geographic, demographic, military, and economic asymmetries have played a central role in the development of security policies and strategic culture. In area, Israel consists of less than 21,000 square kilometers (excluding the Judea and Samaria regions of the West Bank, and the Golan Heights), compared to 1 million square kilometers for Egypt and 186,000 square kilometers for Syria. This small size , and the extremely narrow area between the Eastern border and the Mediterranean (15 kilometers in the pre-1967 borders), leave Israel without the strategic depth necessary for absorbing armored and air attacks, and without the ability to recover and resp ond. Israel's vulnerability to conventional attack was made clear in 1948, when forces from a number of Arab states (Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq) advanced rapidly and came close to destroying the nascent state. In May 1967, the preparations for war by the Arab states were seen as threatening national survival, and the combined Egyptian and Syrian attacks in October 1973 (the Yom Kippur War) also highlighted Israel's extreme vulnerability.

The massive conventional forces that can be fielded by Syria, Egypt, and Iraq (after the lifting of the international embargo) are seen, particularly through the lenses of history, as a continued existential threat to Israel. Although the Soviet Unio n no longer exists to provide low-cost and technologically advanced weapons, Syrian ground forces are continuing to grow, and include 4800 main battle tanks (1400 of which were acquired in the past four years). The Syrian standing army is twice as large as Israel's, and a surprise attack, based on forces in place, and supported by combat aircraft and SSMs with chemical warheads, could prevent mobilization of Israeli reserves. Three-quarters of the Israeli ground forces are in the reserves, and unhampered mobilization takes from 48 to 96 hours.

Although Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, the Egyptian military has continued to devote billions of dollars in American military aid to the purchase of modern M-1 A-1 main battle tanks and F-16 aircraft, as well as tactical mi ssiles and related systems. In September 1996, Egyptian forces held their largest combined exercises (Badr 96) since the 1973 war, in an area near the Sinai desert. Egyptian officials announced that these exercises included simulated canal crossings. F rom an Israeli perspective, these exercises served as a reminder of the continued potential for an Egyptian surprise attack.21

Similarly, it has become increasingly recognized that nuclear weapons limitations must be linked to limits on other forms of weapons of mass destruction (chemical and biological warheads). Indeed, in his 1990/1 initiative, President Mubarak included all forms of WMD, and Israeli Foreign Minister Levi also stressed the link between a ban on nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction as well as ballistic missiles. (Israel was among the first signatories of the Chemical Weapons Convention, and has p articipated actively in the prepcoms towards the implementation of the CWC.)

5)The Relationship To The Peace Process

In any region of the world, arms control agreements and regional limitation zones are dependent on the resolution and amelioration of existing conflicts. In the case of Europe, the success of the Helsinki process that contributed to the Stockholm agr eement and the development of the OSCE resulted from the end of the Cold War and the break-up of the Soviet Union. In Latin America, the Entry into Force of the Treaty of Tlatelolco was delayed for thirty years, due to a series of low-level of conflicts involving Argentina, Brazil, and, to a lesser degree, Chile. In the case of the treaty of Rarotonga, the absence of significant conflict was also a major factor in allowing the process to go forward.

In the Middle East, security, arms control, and the peace process are closely interrelated, and progress towards a MENWFZ is dependent on the establishment and implementation of peace agreements with all states in the region, from Algeria to Iran. In his address to the UN in 1996, Israeli Foreign Minster reiterated the long-standing Israeli position that the establishment of peaceful relations and reconciliation, and bilateral peace agreements with all of the states, including Iran and Iraq, is a fun damental condition for beginning negotiations.

In contrast, the Egyptian and Syrian position is that the sequence should be reversed, with the negotiation of a MENWFZ, and/or Israeli accession to the NPT and the ending of the Israeli nuclear option or potential coming before major new steps toward s a regional peace agreement.

After over 70 years of violence, in the form of both full scale war and continued terrorism, it is unrealistic to expect that the establishment of a stable Middle East peace can be accomplished in the span of a few years. Realistically, to have any c hance of success, this process must take years and even decades. The process began with the historic visit of President Sadat to Jerusalem in 1977, and continued with the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty, the 1991 Madrid Conference, the 1993 Oslo Agree ment, the 1994 Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty, and the 1995 Oslo II agreement.

However, it is also important to recognize that this is only the beginning of the process. No agreement has been reached between Israel and Syria, and war is still considered to be a serious possibility. A war of attrition and terrorism continue in the areas of Northern Israel and Southern Lebanon, and included Iranian forces working with Hizbollah to attack Israeli positions, settlements, and forces. Tensions continue between Israel and Egypt, and while these can be explained in terms of jockeying for position, and playing to domestic audiences, particularly in Egypt, in the Middle East, events can often assume an independent path, pushing decision makers to take action over which they lose control (as occurred in 1967). The series of brutal terr orist attacks and suicide bombings in Israel during February and March 1996, in which over 100 were killed, brought the Israeli-Palestinian process to a halt, and it has not yet recovered. The violence that took place in September 1996, and the threats o f another round of terrorism and mass bombings against Israeli civilians, and directed from Damascus and Teheran, further emphasized the fragility of that peace. In summary, as Leonard and Prawitz note, "There is .. a great deal of skepticism in Israel about the ultimate intentions of others with regard to a true peace."22

As noted, the essential factor in the establishment of a MENWFZ is the progress towards comprehensive regional peace and security. In the absence of peace and an alternative security framework, the obstacles to a NWFZ will remain. Failure of the pea ce process will mean an end to any possibility of a regional zone. With continued progress, the process must be extended with the participation of Syria, Iran, and Iraq. A new structure for regional security will have to be established to replace the ex isting conventional and non-conventional forces, on all sides. This will require time and the development of a series of increasingly substantive confidence-and-security-building measures (CSBMs), including steps to prevent surprise attack, thinning out zones for conventional weapons, the exchange of information, and, most importantly, continuous exchanges of views, ideas and perceptions. Efforts to rush this process by pressing for the establishment of a NWFZ in the Middle East in the absence of these necessary conditions will be self-defeating.


1See, for example, Jan Prawitz and James F. Leonard, A Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East, United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, Geneva, 1996
2 Ibid., pp. 63-65
3 For a detailed history of the role of the United Nations in this issue, see Mahmoud Karem, A Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Middle East: Problems and Prospects (New York: Greenwood Press, 1988); Avi Beker, Disarmament Without Order: The Politics o f Disarmament in the United Nations (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1985); and Avi Beker, "A Regional Non-Proliferation Treaty for the Middle East", Security or Armageddon: Israel's Nuclear Strategy, Louis Rene Beres, editor, (Lexington, Ma.: Lexington Books, 1985)
4 Address of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, UN General Assembly, June 7, 1988, and Address of Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismat Abdel Meguid, June 13, 1988, reprinted in Arms Control in the Middle East, Dore Gold, editor, Jaffee Center for Strat egic Studies, Tel Aviv, 1990
5 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, Uni ted Nations General Assembly, A/45/435, 10 October 1990. This report was the result of a study by James Leonard, Ben Sanders, and Jan Prawitz.
6 Statement of Foreign Minister David Levi, United Nations General Assembly, October 3 1996
7 The political conflicts in these international organizations in the effort to obtain support from other participants are similar to the type of activity that took place in the UN during the 1950s and 1960s, between the US and the USSR.
8 Gerald M. Steinberg, "Non-Proliferation: Time for Regional Approaches?", Orbis 38:3 (Summer 1994) pp. 409-424
9 UN document A/46/329,5/22855,30 July 1991, Letter from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt to the Secretary General of the United Nations.
10 Text of "Final Communique" issued by the Arab Summit Conference in Cairo on June 23; red by Egyptian Foreign Minister 'Amr Musa, FBIS-NES-96-122 23 June 1996
11 Statement by Dr. Mounir Zahran, Permanent Representative of Egypt to the United Nations Office and Other International Organizations in Geneva on Regional Disarmament, at the UNIDIR Regional Conference of Research Institutes in the Middle East, Cai ro, April 18, 1993, p.1, 6.
12 Mohamed Nabil Fahmy, "Egypt's disarmament initiative", The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November 1990, p.10.
13 Bruce Jentleson, "The Middle East Arms Control and regional Security (ACRS) Talks: Progress, Problems, and Prospects", IGCC, University of California, Policy Paper 26, September 1996
14 Mohamed Shaker, "Prospects for Establishing a Zone free of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East", Director's Series on Proliferation, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Vol. 6, 1994, p.22
15 Although a flood of books and articles, both journalistic and academic, have been published on the Israeli nuclear option or potential, the technical nature of the capability is highly ambiguous. Estimates of this capability range from 50 weapons to over 200, and these are all based on guesses (some more educated than others) regarding the capacity and operations of Dimona, and efforts to sift fact from fiction in the claims of Mordechai Vanunnu. In comparison, India had detonated a nuclear devic e, making it a defacto nuclear power, (although India claimed this to be a "peaceful nuclear explosive" and not a test of a weapon.
16 Shalheveth Freier, "A Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East and its Ambiance", unpublished manuscript (1992)
17 Aluf Benn, "Barak: Nuclear Policy has not and will not change" Haaretz 31 December, 1995, p.10a A recent advisory ruling by the International Court of Justice on the legality of nuclear weapons, stated that while in most cases, the threat or use of such weapons would be illegal, this would not necessarily be the case when the deterrent threat was in a situation of use as a weapon of last resort.
18 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
19 For analyses of the NPT-issue in Israeli-Egyptian relations, see Gerald M. Steinberg, "The 1995 NPT Extension and Review Conference and the Arab-Israeli Peace Process", NonProliferation Review, Spring 1997; and Fawaz A. Gerges, "Egyptian-Israeli R elations Turn Sour", Foreign Affairs, (May/June 1995) 74, pp. 69-78
20 There is a vast literature debating the role of deterrence, particularly during the Cold War. For one of the most comprehensive critiques, see R.N. Lebow and J. G. Stein, We All Lost the Cold War, Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J., 1994
21 In the past, Iraqi forces have joined in attacks on Israel, and despite the reduction of the Iraqi military capability, the capability to intervene in the Arab-Israeli theater continues and may grew following the end of the embargo against Saddam H ussein.
22 Leonard and Prawitz, p.78.