“The nuclear security summit is supposed to be about dealing with the danger of nuclear terror,” the official said. “Israel is a part of that effort and has responded positively to President Obama’s invitation to the conference.”
The official added: “But that said, in the last few days we have received reports about the intention of several participant states to depart from the issue of combatting (sic) terrorism and instead misuse the event to goad Israel over the NPT.” – Haaretz
Prime Minister Netanyahu is looking his smallest, sending Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor to Washington, because of a potential shift in the nuclear security summit meeting that might include a discussion targeting Israel’s nuclear “ambiguity.” (To update, Chuck Todd reports NSA Jones briefed press pool on AF1, saying Netanyahu “needed to stay in Israel for Holocaust day.” Using this commemoration as cover, because Netanyahu obviously knows the dust up he’s causing, is truly a new low; Obama White House obviously offering Netanyahu as much cover as possible.)
Over 189 countries, including Arab states, are part of the NPT, with only Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea not signing on.
It brings to mind the interview Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren had with Fareed Zakaria that I wrote about at the time, which was akin to Zakaria having to pull Oren’s rhetorical teeth to get him on the record regarding Israeli ambiguity about their nuclear capabilities.
FAREED ZAKARIA: If you don’t believe you can deter a country, why did you build 250 nuclear weapons yourself?
MICHAEL OREN: Israel’s position is that Israel will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weaponry in the Middle East. Stand by that position.
FZ: Wait, let me be clear. Are you denying that Israel has nuclear weapons?
MO: I’m saying that Israel will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weaponry into the Middle East.
FZ: When you say “introduce,” you mean use.
MO: I mean introduce.
FZ: “Introduce” means actually have them.
MO: To “introduce.”
FZ: All right, so… But the common sense understanding of that word is that Israel does not have nuclear weapons.
MO: The idea is that Israel will not be the first to introduce, deploy nuclear weaponry in the Middle East.
Netanyahu’s fear of being pressured on the NPT puts Israel on the spot and in a very bad place during a time when Pres. Obama is asking the entire world leadership community to stand up against nuclear proliferation, but also each nation’s own responsibility to help create a non-nuclear world.
Pres. Obama is willing to put U.S. skin in the game to get it done, asking other nations to do likewise. It is nothing less than a Reagonesque move, when back in the 1980s Pres. Reagan dared to dream about nuclear zero. This historic reality renders the caterwauling from the right even more ridiculous. Obama going one step further by prioritizing the policy.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is, by his diplomatic ducking, saying he will remain outside the world community, further ostracizing Israel, which doesn’t need nuclear weapons to be safe. Not only do they have conventional weaponry for aggressive defense of their country, but the world community, led by the United States, would rightly act on Israel’s behalf if she was ever threatened.
There are other issues involved as well, including commitments of Arab nations, inspired by the dangerous saber rattling from Iran and Israel. From Haaretz:
[…] Many Muslim countries have voiced alarm at alleged nuclear programs in Israel and Iran, and have repeatedly called for an agreement to ban nuclear weapons from the region.
In late March the Arab League called for a Middle East free of nuclear weapons during a closed-door sessio, calling for a review of the 1970 NPT in order to create a definitive plan for eliminating nuclear weapons.
They also called on the UN to declare the Middle East as a nuclear-weapons-free region.
If Israel feels its national security is threatened by signing on to the NPT, Prime Minister Netanyahu should not equivocate in making that case strongly to world nations at a nuclear security summit if it comes up. It’s what strong leaders do: stand up for their own national security in the face of criticism or challenges of their policies.
Ah, but the problem with that is that Mr. Netanyahu might be confronted and be forced to admit that Israel’s conventional weaponry and the deep defensive and offensive structure they have built is more than enough to take out any enemy, including Iran. Face that the world actually stands behind the defense of Israel if threatened by Iran’s potential nuclear weaponization, even if that’s a long way off, and that the time to join the world to fight Iran on different turf than mere belligerence is an idea whose time has come.
The issue to be discussed at Obama’s nuclear security summit is “the danger of nuclear terror,” not the NPT, and Mr. Netanyahu hiding behind potential challenges to Israeli policy makes his country look like an unsophisticated, scared rogue nation, instead of the powerfully great little democracy it is today.