How to Deter Nuclear War: A Proposal for an Iran-Israel Nuclear Treaty


History remembers the men and women of science and technology, but when it comes to politicians, the number is low in comparison. It is partially an inherent fault of my profession: catering to the short-term with no perspective for the long-term. That’s why our legacy, as politicians and political scientists, can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

Unconditional diplomacy is one of the moments in international relations when the actors go above themselves for the sake of the wider humanity around them. Ironically, there is one condition: no prior conditions to negotiations. This is the kind of leadership we need in respect to Iran’s nuclear program: a leader, willing to commit political suicide for avoiding what could be an irreversible disaster. The legacy of this leader will be a nuclear treaty between Israel and Iran.

The standoff between Israel, the West, and Iran regarding the latter’s nuclear program is becoming a dangerous game of chicken. Nuclear crises in the past – the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, North Korea, and Pakistan becoming nuclear powers in more recent memory, suggest that nuclear weapons are always a game of nerves. It is paradoxical: Nuclear weapons are humanity’s contract with itself to self-annihilation if we ever fail to control them.

We have spent 70 years flirting with the idea. It is time to stop. Below is a draft for the basis of a nuclear treaty between Israel and Iran:

1)      A commitment to unconditional and direct diplomacy from both sides, with full disclosure on nuclear capacities

2)      Teheran must recognize Israel’s right to exist and establish formal diplomatic relations

3)      Israel must end its policy of nuclear ambiguity and clearly state civilian and military nuclear capacities

4)      Tel Aviv must sign and ratify the Non-Proliferation Treaty, as Iran has already done so

5)      Iran and Israel must fully and without reservation commit all civilian nuclear facilities to IAEA standards of monitoring, reporting and control

6)      Military applications of nuclear weapons must be constrained within purely defensive nuclear doctrines

7)      A bilateral treaty must be negotiated that limits the number of warheads to be built, and also imposes equivalent standards for securing, monitoring and reporting nuclear weapons.

8)      A commitment in principle to the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons.

9)      The treaty must be binding and effective immediately with an IAEA-enforced sanctions regime if either party fails to comply at any point.


1)      Chinese nuclear policy based on minimum deterrence can serve as a model for both Israeli and Iranian nuclear doctrines

2)      The nuclear treaty between Washington and New Delhi, signed in 2006, is the precedent that shows the flexibility that is possible when negotiating civilian and military applications of nuclear power

3)      Modelling WMD negotiation on START treaties between Washington and Moscow

It is a highly idealistic proposal that will certainly cause major realignments inside the Middle East; some allies will be lost, new enemies will be made, but also new allies gained. However, such a diplomatic arrangement is in the best interest of both Iran and Israel. Israel will escape its international isolation and be given a new lease on international trust, and ironically, exactly the same would happen to Teheran. A political dimension to the treaty is impossible to escape, as it cannot be entirely technical.

I am under no illusion that this proposal will have marginal influence in the current climate. But, if anyone of consequence reads it, maybe it has a chance of getting through the thick skulls in the State Department and Netanyahu’s government to push things in the right, diplomatic direction. We need leaders with a vision.

Conversely, history won’t care at all whether we live or die in a nuclear holocaust; there might be nobody left to document it.

Photo Credit: MadPole