IN HER March 12 Op-ed column “Tough poses in a political theater,’’ Juliette Kayyem aptly observes that the American Jewish community “is much more diverse in its opinions than [the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee’s] vociferous leaders would suggest.’’ She also remarks that the same can be said of Israelis. Indeed, in the face of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s saber-rattling toward Iran, a recent University of Maryland poll of Israeli public opinion shows that when faced with the prospect of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, nearly two-thirds of Israelis favor the establishment of a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East.
A conference in Helsinki this year will take up that very challenge: Middle Eastern disarmament from weapons of mass destruction. In 1983, Robert McNamara remarked that nuclear weapons “are totally useless - except only to deter one’s opponent from using them.’’ That principle suggests that as long as any country in the region - in this case, Israel - remains a nuclear state, other players, Iran included, will strive to become one too. It suggests further that regional disarmament, with a robust and reliable monitoring system, is the only durable solution to what otherwise looks like a perilous arms race without end.
Helsinki offers at least the possibility of the best answer to the Iranian nuclear conundrum. The United States and Israel should be booking their flights.