Israeli Defense Minister Invokes Hiroshima and Nagasaki In Response to Iran Question

by Ali Gharib

Speaking at a conference in Jerusalem nearly two weeks ago, the Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon invoked the American decision to drop nuclear bombs on Japan in World War II in response to a question about “dealing with a threat like Iran.”

At the conference, organized by the right-wing Israeli legal activism group Shurat HaDin, Yaalon defended Israel’s decisions in several of its recent wars that critics have said showed a disregard for civilian life.

Although not addressing Iran specifically, Yaalon suggested that Israel may take extraordinary measures that would endanger civilians if “surgical operations” don’t present a viable alternative for accomplishing military objectives. He then raised U.S. President Harry Truman’s decision to use a nuclear weapon in World War II as an example of such a measure, adding, “We are not there yet.”

The remarks were first noticed by the website Electronic Intifada. Shurat HaDin posted a full video of Yaalon’s remarks on-line Tuesday.

Here’s a transcript of the question — which was asked as part of a bundle of questions after Yaalon’s prepared speech — and the full response, beginning with a reference to the specific question and ending just before Yaalon glances at his notepad and starts addressing a subsequent query:

QUESTION: …[T]o the question of whether democracies are at a strategic disadvantage. Is dealing with a threat like Iran something democracies are not structured well to do?

YAALON: There are those who claim that this battle is not fair because democracy can’t fight back [against a] tyrannical regime — not talking about terror organization. I don’t agree with it. Certain cases, we might take certain steps that we believe that these steps should be taken in order to defend ourselves. I mentioned the discussion about the interception of the rockets positions on civilian houses. We decided to do it.

I can imagine some other steps that should be taken. Of course, we should be sure that we can look at the mirror after the decision or the operation. Of course, we should be sure it is a military necessity. We should consider cost and benefit, of course. But, at the end, we might take certain steps.

I do remember the story of President Truman was asked, How do feel after deciding to launch the nuclear bombs [at] Nagasaki and Hiroshima, causing at the end the fatalities of 200,000 casualties? And he said, When I heard from my officers that the alternative is a long war with Japan, with potential fatalities of a couple of millions, I saw it was a moral decision.

We are not there yet. But that [is] what I’m talking about. Certain steps in cases in which we feel like we don’t have the answer by surgical operations or something like that.

You can watch the video of the question and response.

The response wasn’t quite a threat to use nukes. But perhaps invoking the use of an atomic bomb to end a war isn’t such a wise move for a country with a covert arsenal of nukes seeking to rally the world to its side against Iran’s nuclear program.

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.



  1. I see your Moshe Yaalon and raise Barack Obama, with his continual, oft-repeated, “all options are on the table.” After a million deaths in Iraq, what’s another million in Iran to these goons? And then they will call it a stability operation. This is why there is a world-wide travel caution out for Americans (and possibly Israelis). Nobody likes a thug.

  2. By the time Nixon was in office Israel’s nuclear program was in full bloom. As much as the previous three administrations, including his own (under Eisenhower) pretended they did not want Israel to go nuclear for fear of starting a regional arms race, Nixon was the one who came to an understanding with Israel and set the policy of looking at the other way. It went along with Israel’s oft-repeated mantra of “Israel would not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons”. I don’t know what they meant by introduction because you could argue once you have them you have already introduced them into the region. But let’s go with the assumption that by that statement Israel meant Israel would not be the first to deploy them. I have read in multiple places Israel has already gone against that promise such as in 1973 when it was in danger of losing the war after Egypt and Syria unleashed their surprise attack, and Nixon was willing to let Israel partially lose the war as a way of dislodging Israel from its hard line positions and forcing them to accept to swap land for peace. These stories talk about how Israel fought back Nixon’s strategy and threatened to use nukes unless 1- Egypt stopped its advances and 2- the U.S. airlifted massive amounts of arms. We know both 1 and 2 happened. Israel denies it achieved those goals with that nuclear threat. But this new, more belligerent statement from Yaalon is more evidence that Israel’s statement about “not being the first to introduce” is complete nonsense. In reality, what is the use of nuclear weapons if you can’t use them physically nor can you flash them to scare your enemies? Why go through all that expense and trouble of stealing them from your allies, when you can’t brag you have them and you can’t threaten and bully your neighbors, nor make yourself feel strong and be able to sleep at nights?

    Now, the NPT forbids nuclear powers (explicitly all signatories but implicitly all of them) from threatening non-nuclear signatories of the NPT, because you can’t expect a non-nuclear signatory to commit to not building nukes and at the same time accept to be threatened and blackmailed by another nuclear-armed nation. It undermines the trust that NPT members put into some level of protection the agreement gives them. While Israel may claim it is not a signatory to the NPT and can do whatever the hell it wants, both arming itself and threatening signatory nations, in reality whenever it resorts to using the logic of putting pressure on Iran because Iran is violating the NPT, after you stop laughing at that logic you can pin some level of legal responsibility on Israel for being bound to that agreement by the virtue of repeatedly resorting to the treaty as protection for itself. Israel is trying to benefit from the treaty without subjecting itself to its limitations. It’s having your cake and eating it too. Not that Israel ever wanted to feel bound to any international treaty or laws as it would like to be exempt from all laws and yet benefit from them. This is a bad precedent to set and needs to be addressed. Otherwise, the slippery slope of making a mockery of international law will take a bad situation to even worse.

    There is another side to this. Part of the reason Israel acts so belligerently is the weakness and helplessness it feels, despite all the huffing and puffing. Israel’s recent actions and words reek of desperation and impotence. If anything, the Iranian regime should feel great about how scared her enemies are. It’s actually the greatest soft power anyone could have when your enemy blows you up to be much more than you are. That region of the world is increasingly tumultuous and chaotic. It is in the best interest of all the parties in the Middle East to come to their senses before they engulf that region in a WWI type of disaster. It is in the best interest of the clerical regime in Iran to come to an understanding with Israel and lower the temperature. If that regime had any sense it would realize its main enemies are the Arab monarchies + Sunni extremists and it doesn’t need an additional one with whom it doesn’t even share a border. There is no historical grievance between the two countries. It’s asinine to display all this bravado of each side insinuating the idea of wiping the other one out. Indeed, it is in the best interest of the Iranian regime to recognize Israel conditional upon its entering the NPT and eliminating at least one of the main issues of the region, that of constant nuclear tensions and one of the main excuses Israel uses bullying tactics.

  3. @Ron Hawk

    “it is in the best interest of the Iranian regime to recognize Israel conditional upon its entering the NPT”

    I doubt Israel’s entering the NPT will end the conflict; there are cultural/religious convictions that make recognition of Israel impossible. For example, no western man or woman can tolerate one day living the humiliating torturous life that the Palestinians youth, women and children have been compelled to live in their open concentration camp, with hundreds of checkpoints, arbitrary kidnapping/arrests/torture of Palestinian women and children (as young as 9 years old!) while ‘appropriating’ their lands at gun point day by day in the name of ‘expanding’ settlements and murdering any Palestinian who demands justice, calling them ‘terrorists’, their mass murder a ‘self-defense’ and their morally bankrupt society a ‘democracy’ – definitions widely used not just in Israeli media but in European and American.

    To recognize such Israeli regime is to defy the very principles the Iranian Revolution and Iranian culture are defined by. If this is ‘democracy’ then a country run by Nazis conducting ballot box voting system is also a ‘democracy’; to see Americans and Europeans defend such ‘democracy’, especially praised by zealous defenders of liberty, justice and dignity is beyond our comprehension.

    Iran should seriously consider its options. Yes, certainly the Israelis’ boasting of their unpredictable nuclear attack to annihilate Iran may be a ‘defense-mechanism’ to overcome their inner fear and “impotence”, but the irresponsible violence perpetrated by paranoid patients should not be missed. Some Israeli television programs have been praising arguing that attacking Iran with nuclear bombs is a predestined blessing for God’s chosen people.

    Israel has long influenced the West with its skillful exploitation of Antisemitism; the Holocaust has produced a heartless land-grabbing apparatus that has taken its own traumatized history and paranoia for granted in order to continue to commit crime to dominate while claiming victimhood in need of protection. For the time being Israel is the US and the US is Israel. The West will not wake up until the Zionists threaten her with the very nuclear weapons the West has helped build in Israel! Whether a signatory or not eventually Israel will have to expand its borders, hence its inevitable fateful deployment of its arsenal: it is only a matter of time! Did the West not know about the reality of the Zionist regime’s destructive ‘Paranoia’ – despite the West’s prestigious academies and distinguished psychiatrists with deep knowledge of the mental condition of the Post-Holocaust first and second generations?

    Can Iran rely on the UNSC? Certainly not given the UNSC loss of its moral authority and power – not just in view of the unauthorized US-UK invasion of Iraq, but the pro-Zionist Western Powers’ domination of the UN, and the UN’s history of inaction regarding Israel’s defiance of the UNSC anti-Israeli resolutions. Edward Said was right, Frantz Fanon was right, Paulo Freire was right, Herbert Marcuse was right, Sartre was right: Western rampant militarism, Western double standards, its racism and complicity in genocide in the name of Western Civilization (democracy, liberty, international laws, UN, etc.) in order to dominate to exploit will never die.

    Should Iran stop negotiating unless International Laws are applied to the Paranoid killers boasting of their power to wreak havoc on a sovereign nation? Or, just like Israel and America themselves, Iran too in order to protect its civilian population should ferociously launch preemptive attacks disregarding Islamic values: after all is this not the lesson we have learned from our well-educated enemies in Europe and America?

  4. We have to be grateful to Mr.Netanyahu to put the mask of “innocent humane prosecuted jews who took refuge to thier ancient home land to live peace ” . The right wing comrades of Mr.Netanyahu is now revealing the inner feeling and intentions of the Zionists in the area. Thank you for being honost for the first time since your birth and speaking your innerself and your real intentions.
    Mr.Moshe Yaalon very “bravely” ,as it is expected of Zionist Minister of War, talks of dropping A-Bomb on Iran as the US dropped of Japan. Truman’s reason for dropping A-Bomb on Japan is exactly like the reason Hitler gave for mass-killing of Jews and others- to get rid of some menace to human race. Is that acceptable as a “moral” decision to save lives ?? That act will remain as the greatest crime against humanity and an everlasting shame for Americas in human history.
    I endorse Prof.paul Hatgil,tms 5510,edding,Mike Kearney and specilly Khorow’s comments emphasis that these prosecuted people are not in normal and healthy mental state and are obvious menace to human beings. Those who supprt them share their crimes including what they recently have done in Gaza .
    I strongly recomend the Iranian authorities to get hold of sufficient quantities of nuclear weapons as a means of protecting the gentle innocent people of Iran, who supported and welcomed jews as far back as human history can show and even today under the Islamic regime of Iran they are living (ten per cent of the population,according to some Iranian Jewish sources)safe and sound and without any prejudice or threat.
    I emphasise againg that getting hold of nuclear weapon is an urgent priority as a deterrent for Iranian Authorities because these “heartless paranoid habitual killers ” are totally unpredictable and capable of doing the unthinkable any moment.

  5. Yes Ron Hawk, well said except for the last paragraph.

    Iran’s “threats” to wipe out Israel is pure rhetorics with absolutely no serious intentions or practical applications. Israel is far enough from Iran to be unattainable. The rhetorics are ,of course, politically very unwise and irresponsible.
    Why should Iran bend to illegitimate black mailing of Israel like most Arabs and Western countries ?? Experience shows that there is no end to Israel’s illegitimate and illegal demands and there is absolutely no reason to believe that Israel would honour any treaty or agreements. The only language Israel understand is “…eye for eye…”. ….
    The only deterrent to Israel’s threats and bullying is for Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons and means of delivery ,if case of necessity.
    There is nothing in the world today that can deter Israel from committing a crime against any human society,similar to that of US in Japan and Vietnam , except the fear of effective retaliation.That is the only language these mad psychopaths understand.

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