Published: April 10, 2010
By ducking nuclear security meeting, Netanyahu exposes Israel’s character
Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s withdrawal from the upcoming two-day nuclear security meeting in the US could represent a highly significant moment in Middle East affairs. The Israelis are giving out that Netanyahu had been warned he would be challenged by the Turkish and Egyptian delegations over Israel’s own undeclared nuclear arsenal.
There has also been speculation that with relations with Washington already strained, the Israeli leader was not prepared to risk another confrontation with the Obama administration. Yet until yesterday he had been vowing he would attend to raise the question of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and to press harder for international action against Tehran.
The reason this last minute change of mind could be so important is that even the Israelis have recognized the fundamental contradiction in their position. There they are, an undeclared nuclear power that has therefore refused to sign up to the 1970s Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), insisting that another Mideast country should not be allowed to also own such fearsome weaponry. It is patently clear that if it is right that Iran is driving to arm itself with nuclear warheads, then this in large degree because Israel has been the only regional nuclear power and has been prepared to use its warplanes to stop Iraq and most recently Syria from emulating it.
It cannot demand Iran be exposed to sanctions and untrammeled inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), without being prepared to accept the same scrutiny itself and, if it continues to block such checks, also to admit that sanctions against it must also be appropriate.
As the expression has it, Israel can no longer run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. If it wants Iran to open up its nuclear facilities to the IAEA, it can only offer the same for its own nuclear plant at Dimona in the Negev desert.
Therefore, Obama’s nuclear security conference that will be attended by the leaders of some 47 countries has in its way already ambushed the Israelis. Coming on top of the nuclear arms reduction deal inked with the Russians in Prague Thursday and the publication of the US Nuclear Posture Review, setting out when Washington would use its atomic arsenal, the conference will look to restore order and control to the world’s nuclear powers.
By canceling his attendance, Netanyahu has highlighted Israel’s own failure to comply with its international obligations. It has also made the issue of its nuclear arsenal an international issue that is unlikely to go away. Were India and Pakistan to finally sign up to the NPT, Israel’s position could become very awkward indeed.
Israelis need to understand that what they thought once was a comfortable guarantee of their existence has become a potent part of the Mideast problem. If Iran is indeed driving secretly toward nuclear weapons, it is because an aggressive and threatening Israel already has them. The way to stop this escalation is for Israel to come clean, sign the NPT and join in the project to rid the world of the nuclear menace.
© 2010 Arab News