Times of Israel Quotes JINSA Distinguished Fellow IDF MG (ret.) Yaakov Amidror on Saudi Nuclear Plan
If the enemy of my enemy gets the bomb: Saudi nuclear plan gives Israel headache
By Raphael Ahren
It’s obvious why Jerusalem has vowed to do everything in its power to prevent Iran, which continues to threaten the Jewish state with annihilation, from obtaining nuclear weapons. But what if Saudi Arabia — the archenemy of Israel’s archenemy — were also interested in developing a nuclear weapons program?
This is not an entirely hypothetical question. Riyadh is reportedly taking steps to advance its nuclear program in ways experts worry could indicate the future pursuit of uranium enrichment capability — in other words, the kingdom may be inching toward an atomic bomb.
As the saying goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But in the Middle East’s complicated system of strategic alliances, Riyadh’s possible quest for a military nuclear program poses a formidable dilemma for Jerusalem.
On the one hand, Israel no longer considers Saudi Arabia an enemy, but rather a partner in the fight against Shiite Iran and its proxies in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and Gaza. A nuclear-armed Sunni-Arab power could go a significant way toward deterring Iran from further regional aggression.
Moreover, Jerusalem seeks to establish diplomatic ties with Riyadh, which it hopes could convince the Palestinians to make the necessary concessions to reach a peace agreement.
On the other hand, Israel, which is believed to have a nuclear arsenal, has always actively opposed effort by other states in the region to acquire non-conventional weaponry. The Middle East is a volatile place, and the last thing Jerusalem wants is a nuclear arms race that could dramatically tip the balance of power and jeopardize its current military advantage over its neighbors.
“The Israeli policy is clear and consistent: No country in the Middle East should have military nuclear capability,” former Israeli national security adviser Yaakov Amidror told The Times of Israel this week.
“However, as we anticipated, when the bad agreement was signed with Iran, it pushed other countries in the region to acquire these capabilities, and the Middle East is becoming a more dangerous area,” said Amidror, now a Fellow at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America’s Center for Defense and Strategy.
At this particular juncture, it can be safely assumed that a Saudi bomb would not be directed at Israel, but rather serve as a deterrent against Iran. But in the ever-turbulent Middle East, Israel had better be prepared for any eventuality, suggested Dore Gold, a former director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry.
“Nuclear weapons capability is also a function of intentions,” he said. “Right now we have a Saudi leadership that probably shares certain strategic observations about the region with us. Is it always going to be like that? I don’t know. But it’s something we have to watch and think about.”
All indications are that Saudi Arabia, which has been working on a civilian nuclear program for many years, has not yet decided if it wants to strike a path towards nuclear weapons capability. And even if it did, it would take several years before it would be able to produce an atomic bomb.