Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu accepted President Obama’s invitation to attend this week’s nuclear arms discussions. After further reflection he told Obama he would send a substitute, Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor.
Word had reached Bibi that Turkey and Egypt might demand that Israel sign The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The Prime Minister was shocked at such impertinence. He accepted the invitation because the talks were to focus on nuclear terrorism. He claims he did not anticipate that anyone would ask him about Israel’s nuclear arsenal, which has existed since the 1960s in the Dimona desert.
Too bad, because now the world will be deprived of hearing the PM give his version of Jack Nicholson’s response from the witness chair in A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth!”
This little pirouette on the world stage was performed in front of an audience that knows full well that Israel is not going to sign any treaty that forces it to admit the truth about its own nuclear arsenal.
According to The Voice of America web site:
Israel has two nuclear reactors, including one in the city of Dimona that is believed to be used to build the country’s stockpile of atomic weapons. The Jewish state has never confirmed nor denied that it possesses nuclear weapons.
Israel also has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which aims to halt the spread of nuclear technologies that can be used to produce atomic weapons.
In recent weeks, Israel has humiliated the Turkish prime minister, assassinated an Hamas official in a neutral country, embarrassed the US vice president, and traveled to Washington to be glorified by AIPAC, after refusing Obama’s request that he put a temporary freeze on settlement expansion.
This would have been a good time for Netanyahu to change his image from international pariah to the latest member of the nuclear arms club.
It was left to National Security Chief James Jones, the most neutral Middle East advisor in the White House, to respond to Bibi’s sudden switch. Jones played the dutiful diplomat’s role, as reported by the Los Angeles Times:
We obviously would like to have the prime minister, but the deputy prime minister will be leading the delegation and it will be a robust Israeli delegation,” US national security advisor James L. Jones told reporters on Air Force One while returning with President Obama from Prague, Czech Republic, where the president signed a nuclear arms limit agreement with Russia.
The White House has been pushing next week’s summit as the capstone of a week of activity on limiting nuclear weapons, including the signing of the arms treaty by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
The administration also released its latest nuclear profile, which for the first time said the United States will not use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state if it abides by the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty– a warning to Iran and North Korea, which have some form of nuclear programs.
Paul Woodward, who writes the blog, War in Context, points to a little known action taken by the US State Department to signal “that Israel’s days of ‘nuclear ambiguity’ may be numbered: Israel’s nuclear scientists are now being shut out of the United States.”
The Hebrew-language NRG/Maariv website, reports, under a headline, “Dimona reactor workers not welcome in the US”, that workers at Israel’s Dimona nuclear research reactor who submitted visa requests to visit the United States for ongoing university education in physics, chemistry and nuclear engineering, have all been rejected, specifically because of their association with the Dimona reactor.
According to the report, this is a new policy decision by the Obama administration, since reactor workers were until recently being issued visas to study in the US.
Is this a very quiet first step by Obama to say to Israel that it is well past the time for Israel to stop the charade that it has no nukes?
Israel does have a nuclear arsenal it refuses to acknowledge. The US is a party to Israel’s continued denial of its long established nuclear program. Barack Obama has inherited a situation in which his nation is a co-conspirator in deception. He cannot be comfortable with this situation. It is hard to believe that he intends to continue to participate in the deception much longer.
Plans for this week’s Washington conference were announced several months ago. Did the visa ban on Dimona scientists lead Bibi to fear a conference tribunal in which he would have to either admit, evade, or outright deny his nuclear program?
Whatever his motivation, Bibi has bailed out on the conference. That does not, however, end the matter.
Barack Obama’s visa ban has sent a strong signal which will not go unnoticed when the 47 nations gather in Washington April 12-13 to discuss how they can work together to prevent nuclear war heads from falling into the hands of militant groups.
Bloomberg News reports that in a conference call with reporters, US administration officials said that the Washington conference will focus on separated plutonium and highly enriched uranium that could be smuggled or sold on the black market to groups such as al-Qaeda.
“Those are the two materials that could be used for nuclear explosives,” said Gary Samore, senior director for non- proliferation at the National Security Council. “If we’re able to lock those down and deny them to non-state actors, then we have essentially solved the risk of nuclear terrorism.”
What we are witnessing with Bibi’s periot is a split in Israel’s own internal politics. The right wing leadership under Bibi has isolated Israel from the world’s political community. At the same time, the world’s business community sees Israel as a young business partner with strong growth potential.
Ironically, Israel’s nuclear arms industry has long been an important part of the ever-expanding economic growth in Israel.
In their book,Start-Up Nation, The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, co-authors Dan Senor and Saul Singer write that shortly after Israel emerged as a modern state, Charles de Gaulle “forged an alliance with the Jewish state and nurtured what Israeli leaders believed to be a deep personal friendship”
The alliance included a French supply of critical military equipment and fighter aircraft, and even a secret agreement to cooperate in the development of nuclear weapons (page 178).
Senor served as media spokesman for the US army during the early years of the Iraq war. Until he withdrew from the race recently, he was a declared candidate for the Republican nomination for the US Senate in New York State. Singer is a columnist and former editorial page editor of the Jerusalem Post.
The two authors, an American and an Israeli, give considerable credit for Israel’s “economic miracle” to David Ben Gurion, Israel’s founding parent, and current Israeli President Shimon Peres for launching “start ups” for Israel’s economic growth.
Peres wanted to secure government funds to develop a nuclear industry. His finance minister refused to cooperate; he argued that the future was in textiles. Even the nation’s leading scientists saw Peres’ plan as “too ambitious”.
With Ben Gurion’s backing, Peres funded the project “off budget”. He sent students from Technion (Israel’s Institute of Technology), to France for further training.
The result was the nuclear reactor near Dimona, which has operated since the early 1960s without mishap and has reportedly made Israel a nuclear power. As of 2005, Israel was the world’s tenth largest producer of nuclear patents.
From the outset, Israel has maintained an “ambiguity” policy regarding its nuclear program. Estimates within the scientific and political communities indicate that beginning in the late 1960s, Israel’s stockpile of nuclear warheads has range between 80 to 200 nuclear warheads.
Israeli leaders refuse to comment on the “ambiguity” policy, other than to maintain a silence on its program at Dimona. In its pre-conference story, Reuters observes:
The official reticence, and its tacit acceptance by the United States, has long aggrieved Arab and Muslim powers. Like India and Pakistan — both also slated to attend the NSS — Israel is outside the NPT and thus avoids mandatory international inspections of its nuclear facilities. Unlike them, it has not openly tested or deployed atomic weapons.
It is time for Obama to say to Israel, we will still be your friend, but we will no longer be your patsy.
The picture of Bibi Netanyahu, above, is an AP photograph from Voice of America.