The UN’s NPT vote
Glibly calling for a “nuclear-free Middle East” ignores the predicament of Israel, a country built on the ashes of the Holocaust.
IAEA cameras in Iran uranium plant [file] Photo: REUTERS
In yet another anti-Israel vote backed by an overwhelming majority, the UN
General Assembly singled out Israel – not Iran or Syria – for supposedly
violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In a 174-6 with six
abstentions, the General Assembly called on Israel Monday to join the NPT
“without further delay,” and to open its nuclear facilities to inspection by the
International Atomic Energy Agency. The US, Canada, Marshall Islands, Micronesia
and Palau deserve praise for once again standing by Israel. The Obama
administration, however, deviated from previous US governments by voting in
favor of two paragraphs in the resolution that were put to a separate
Both support universal adherence to the NPT – including in the
Middle East – and call on those countries that are not parties to it to ratify
the treaty “at the earliest date.” The only “no” votes on those paragraphs were
cast by Israel and India.
The Obama administration has already
articulated a problematic stance on nonproliferation in the Middle East that
deviates from that of both the Bush and the Clinton administrations. The most
striking example was Washington’s decision in May 2010 to join 188 other nations
in singling out Israel’s purported nuclear capability for special censure while
completely ignoring Iran.
At the end of a month-long review conference of
the four-decade-old NPT, which takes place every five years, the signatories of
the treaty agreed to put pressure on Israel to abandon its policy of nuclear
ambiguity, under which we neither confirm nor deny having a nuclear capability.
US officials reportedly assured Israel at the time that a “nuclear-free zone”
would not be foisted upon the region, while adding that the US’s agreement to
acquiesce to the initiative – spearheaded by Egypt – would help defuse criticism
of America’s “unfair” policy of ignoring Israel’s purported nuclear arsenal
while singling out for censure countries such as Syria or Iran.
addition, the NPT signatories called at the time to hold a conference this year
that would seek ways to rid the Middle East of nuclear weapons. The conference
was to be attended by members of the NPT review conference, which, as in the UN
system, lends wholly disproportionate numerical weight to the dozens of
developing, quasi-democratic nations of Africa, Asia and South and Central
America – including almost 50 Muslim states – that make up the 118-strong
Non-Aligned Movement. Invariably, the conference’s focus would be a denunciation
of Israel, the only country in the region said to have atomic
Thankfully, at the end of last month the US canceled the
conference, which was slated to take place this month in Helsinki.
Unfortunately, the reason given by the US for the cancellation was unrest in
Gaza, Syria and Egypt – not the fact that the conference would deteriorate into
an Israelbashing fest. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton noted with
“regret” the “postponement” of the conference and “hopes that the Conference
will be convened as soon as possible.” British Foreign Office Minister Alistair
Burt also said the conference was being postponed, not canceled.
dangerous impression that the US is allowing to be created is that a nuclear
capable Israel can be equated with a nuclear capable Iran – an approach that
fails to make the distinction between Israel, the Middle East’s only democracy,
and Iran, a despotic regime run by Shi’ite fanatics that openly persecutes
homosexuals, promotes misogyny, brutally puts down political protest and shammed
its last elections.
Now is not the time to devote international energies
to coercing Israel into ending its four-decades of nuclear ambiguity –
maintained responsibly even during the 1973 Yom Kippur War when Israel was on
the verge of being overrun by the combined armies of the Arab
Doing so detracts from efforts to stop Iran from obtaining
nuclear weapons and plunging the region into a destabilizing nuclear arms
Perhaps the day will come when Israel’s neighbors will recognize
the Jewish state’s right to exist and agree to live in peace with it. Until
regional peace is attained, however, Israel must rely on
Glibly calling for a “nuclear-free Middle East” ignores the
predicament of Israel, a country built on the ashes of the Holocaust, and blurs
the moral distinctions between the hegemonic designs of Tehran’s messianic,
apocalyptic regime that repeatedly declares its intention to “wipe Israel off
the map,” and the essential deterrent and defensive needs of a small democracy
surrounded by enemies.