For years, Israel pursued a nuclear defense policy that might be described as "intentional ambiguity." It was a position every American president since Dwight Eisenhower accepted. But in a recent decision adopted by the Department of Defense, a top-secret document detailing Israel's nuclear program was declassified.
By publishing the declassified document that specifies Israel's nuclear capabilities, the U.S. breached a silent, but well understood, agreement. Moreover, the document the Pentagon saw fit to declassify redacted sections on Italy, France, West Germany and other NATO nations. The report also notes the existence of research laboratories in Israel which "are the equivalent of our Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge National Laboratories."
It is, of course, quite interesting, perhaps revealing, that the declassification has occurred as the Obama administration has tilted away from Israel in written and spoken words. Some have said they have never seen an American document disclosing such extensive information about an ally's state secrets.
With Iran's nuclear talks soon unfolding into an accord, the declassification will prove to be exceedingly awkward for Israel. It may well be that if the monitoring of Iran's nuclear capability is called for, why not Israel's program? Is the Obama team trying to establish equivalency between Tehran and Jerusalem?
Although there isn't any equivalence between Israel and Iran morally or strategically, this position has gained traction among Obama doctrine adherents; one because it suits U.S. negotiating strategy, and two, because it punishes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for what the administration considers his recalcitrance on the Palestinian question. Yet, remarkably, this moral equivalence argument has received little attention in the press.
In addition, Obama has hinted that he may endorse or have the U.S. abstain from a U.N. Security Council vote creating a Palestinian state. This "hint," along with the declassified document, are serious breaks in what has long been considered a "special relationship" between the U.S. and Israel.
It is instructive that political party positions on Israel have switched. An erstwhile Republican party influenced by former Secretary of State James Baker was equivocal on Israel, although the Democratic Party at the time was unanimously supportive. Today, an Obama-led Democratic Party is increasingly hostile to Israel, while Republicans are uniformly behind it. At the risk of overstatement, it appears that Obama and company believe stability in the Middle East can be achieved through an alliance with Iran. If this means throwing Israel under the proverbial bus, that is a relatively small price to pay.
Believing that Iran will consent and live up to the demands of any agreement, based on past history and recent comments from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, requires a suspension of disbelief. Nonetheless, Israel is in the crosshairs despite the longstanding ties with the United States. As a consequence, the declassification of Israeli nuclear secrets is hardly surprising. But for those who support Israel, this Pentagon act is vindictive and dangerous — part and parcel of a dramatic alteration in U.S. foreign policy.