The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) signed an agreement to recognize Palestine, as a state as it joined the international body as a observer on Tuesday. While it is not a member, it can attend meetings as an observer, an IAEA spokesperson said.
The agreement, which was signed by the agency's director general Yukiya Amano and the Palestinian Ambassador in Vienna Salah Abdul Shafi, gives the IAEA inspectors the ability to check the safety of radioactive materials and fissile nuclear materials, such as uranium.
While the PA has no nuclear reactors, it does have physics departments in hospitals and universities, which have medical equipment containing components of nuclear materials.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said that the agreement was a "violation of international conventions."
This act is seen by Israel as a push by the PA for international recognition, similar to when the PA joined UNESCO in 2011.
The agreement puts Israel, the IAEA and the PA in a challenging situation, as it is not yet clear how the IAEA will define the territory and borders of a Palestinian state.
Furthermore, Israel has never signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, an international treaty including most of the world, which has the goal of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. While Israel does not say that it has nuclear weapons, it does not deny it possess them either. Thus, Israel only allows the IAEA to visit designated areas with supervision. It is widely speculated that Israel has a nuclear facility outside the southern city of Dimona. This reactor is off limits to the IAEA inspection and, according to foreign reports, Israel produces fissile materials there - highly enriched uranium and plutonium - for nuclear weapons.
"This is another attempt by the Palestinian Authority to join international organizations in order to exploit them for political purposes," the Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
"Israel does not recognize the attempts of the PA to join such organizations and such institutions as a state, and Israel views this as a violation of international agreements."
The IAEA spokesperson told The Jerusalem Post's sister Hebrew newspaper, Maariv, that: "The agreement does not in any way imply an expression of a position regarding the legal status of any state or territory or its powers or demarcation of its borders."
Because of a law from the 1990s, the US is prohibited from funding any UN organization that gives full membership to a group that does not have “internationally recognized attributes” of statehood, according to Reuters. While the IAEA was established as an autonomous organization, it does report to the UN. It is not yet clear how the US will react. As of 2016, the US has contributed $200 million annually in assessed and voluntary contributions to the IAEA, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Yvette J. Deane translated this article.