Israel Can’t Hide From Next Month’s Nuke Meeting
After two busy days of back-to-back-to-back meetings with some of the world’s most crucial players in the international system, President Barack Obama can finally take a brief moment to pause and regroup. His Nuclear Security Summit in Washington D.C. – the biggest global gathering on American soil since World War II- was largely successful for the President’s nuclear agenda. I’m not going to go over all of the agreements that were made on both a bilateral and multilateral basis (I would be in this room all night if that were the case), so here’s the official communique that was released at the end of the conference. By the way, this wasn’t the only document that was released. For a full picture, check out this link at The Cable.
So congratulations to President Obama for a job-well done. His staff tirelessly made arrangements for 47 world leaders to travel to the nation’s capital, a difficult task in and of itself. The conference was successfully concluded without any major diplomatic incident (minus this hilarious exchange between the South African and UAE delegations. And the two-days of talks actually produced a brief, yet worthwhile document, towards Obama’s goal of locking up all loose nuclear materials in four years.
There’s one problem though; Israel, America’s “special ally,” chose not to participate in the nuclear summit at a head-of-state capacity. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly canceled the trip a day or two before the summit began, and instead sent a mid-level diplomat (Dan Meridor) to take his place.
Was this another deliberate snub by the Israelis, in line with last month’s decision to announce more settlements in East Jerusalem as soon as VP Joe Biden landed in Tel Aviv? Some may be inclined or tempted to think so, but this would be highly inaccurate.
The reason that Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu chose not to attend Obama’s conference is well-known; he didn’t want his country’s nuclear arsenal to be under assault from Arab countries, particularly Egypt and Turkey. And from a strategic standpoint, it makes sense. Israel is the only nuclear-weapons power in the Middle East (although they haven’t technically declared that they have nukes to begin with), and Arab nations have long used Israel’s nuclear capability as an excuse to start looking into nuclear research on their own. Of course, America’s ambiguous policy doesn’t help either; Washington looks the other way on Israel’s nuclear program, but gets all hot-and-bothered when Iran or other Arab nation’s show an interest in nuclear technology. But that’s a whole other story.
Israel may have managed to escape criticism earlier this week. But come next month, when the world once again comes together to look at the Non-Proliferation Treaty (to which Israel will certainly be an attendee), expect a barrage of complaints from Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the like. Questions like, “well if Israel is allowed to have nukes, then why can’t we?” will be asked. And if the United States doesn’t provide a good answer to this question, the threat of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East may very well expand to uncontrollable levels.
The Israelis can expect Washington to do its bidding next May when the topic comes up. But at what cost to its credibility in the Persian Gulf?
-Daniel R. DePetris
**Comments courtesy of the Economist**