During the closing press conference at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington Tuesday, The Washington Post’s Scott Wilson, asked President Obama:
“Will you call on Israel to declare its nuclear program and sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty?”
The President dodged the question:
“I’m not going to comment on their program, but what I’m going to point to is the fact that consistently we have urged all countries to become members of the NPT.”
The kindest thing to be said about that response is that it shows our president has chutzpah. It also demonstrated that his determination to be firm with Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is just so much sound and fury, signifying nothing
Netanyahu had put out the word that he would not attend the Summit because he had heard that Egypt and Turkey would ask him about Israel’s nuclear arms program, generally believed to be the sixth largest stockpile of nukes in the world.
Both Scott Wilson’s question and the President’s response, were reported fully in the Jerusalem Post. Both question and answer received almost no attentionin the US media. Here is Wilson’s question:
You have spoken often about bringing US policy in line with its treaty obligations internationally to eliminate the perceptions of hypocrisy that some of the world sees toward the US and its allies.
In that spirit and in that venue, will you call on Israel to declare its nuclear program and sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and if not why wouldn’t other countries see that as an incentive not to sign on to a treaty that you say is important to strengthen?
Summit participants Egypt and Turkey did not raise the “hypocrisy”question.
Scott Wilson did it for them.
Here is the full text of the President’s cautious non-answer:
Initially we’re talking about US behavior, and then, suddenly we’re talking about Israel. Let me talk about the United States. I do think that as part of the NPT, our obligation as the largest nuclear power in the world is to take steps to reducing our nuclear stockpile.
And that’s what the START treaty was about, sending a message that we are going to meet our obligations.
And, as far as Israel goes, I’m not going to comment on their program, but what I’m going to point to is the fact that consistently we have urged all countries to become members of the NPT.
So there’s no contradiction there. We think it is important that we have an international approach that is universal and that rests on three pillars, that those of us who have nuclear weapons are making serious efforts to reduce those stockpiles.
Scott Wilson’s own newspaper, The Washington Post, buried Wilson’s exchange with the president deep inside its longer story on the slow pace of peace negotiations.
In its coverage, The New York Times reports that Obama issued a specific warning to Iran, which had not been invited to the conference.
After four years of failed efforts on sanctions, the penalties he was trying to win at the United Nations Security Council had to be significant enough to get the attention of the Iranian leadership.
Speaking to reporters, Mr. Obama said he had insisted to President Hu Jintao of China that in dealing with Iran: “Words have to mean something. There have to be some consequences.”
Words, both spoken and unspoken, do have consequences. Does President Obama neither see nor hear how empty his declaration sounds to the people of the world who had looked to him to break Israel’s dictatorial grip on the region?
The picture above is by Doug Mills for The New York Times.