The Israelis and the Bicyclists

by Clifford D. May

On NRO yesterday, I argue that it’s probably not a good idea for the Senate to ratify New START in a lame-duck session, nor should they ratify without examining the negotiating records (requested by senators but not provided by the administration) in order to resolve whether the treaty does (as the Russians claim) or does not (as the Obama administration claims) limit America’s ability to deploy a comprehensive missile-defense shield.

I’m now hearing from more than one source on the Hill that the Obama administration has just added a new argument in favor of lame-duck ratification: failure to adopt START will “hurt Israel.”

How? Not clear. I’m reminded of an old joke: In a Paris café, a man says: “You know, it was the Jews who caused World War I.” Another man replies: “Yeah, the Jews and the bicyclists.” The first man says: “What did the bicyclists have to do with it?” The second man replies: “About as much as the Jews.”

Seriously, the Israel argument is apparently this: Until and unless we ratify the treaty, we won’t be able to verify whether Russian tactical nuclear weapons are somehow leaking out and getting into the hands of Iran’s bad boys or other terrorists.

But (1) that strikes me as a problem not just for Israel, and (2) it is by no means clear that inspectors would have the ability to determine whether such leakage is taking place under the terms of this treaty.

One more point: As my colleague Rebeccah Heinrichs has pointed out, had the Obama administration extended the old treaty, we’d still have inspectors on duty.

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