US President Barack Obama on Tuesday dodged a question regarding Israel’s nuclear program, and called on all countries to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
During a press conference at the end of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, Obama was caught off-guard by a question regarding Israel by The Washington Post
’s Scott Wilson.
“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?” Wilson asked Obama.
Israel acknowledges a civilian nuclear program, but has never declared possession of nuclear weapons. It is widely believed, however, to be the world’s sixth largest nuclear power.
Obama took a few seconds to formulate his response, but quickly took the weight off Israel and called on all countries to abide by the NPT.
“Initially we’re talking about US behavior, and then, suddenly we’re talking about Israel,” he said.
“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 reduce our nuclear stockpile. And that’s what the START treaty [recently signed with Russia] 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,” Obama said.
Israel will not be pressured into signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Wednesday, asking to send a
clear message “also to those who are our friends and allies.”
Speaking at a Defense Ministry ceremony in memory of fallen IDF
soldiers, Barak said Israel “still faces threats,” and that the army
“stands strong” in the face of those threats.
“Israel has never threatened to annihilate countries or peoples, but
Iran – and, in the past, Syria, Libya and Iraq, which also signed this
treaty – systematically breaches it while expressly threatening
Israel,” Barak said.
Israel “seeks peace and will continue to do so,” he said.