PM to take part in US nuke summit

Some worry light will shine on Israeli policies; no Obama meeting scheduled.

Netanyahu Vicar 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Netanyahu Vicar 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced on Tuesday that he willreturn to the US on Monday, to take part in President Barack Obama’sNuclear Security Summit, just three weeks after he met with Obama in ameeting widely characterized as extremely difficult.
Beyond meeting Obama at a reception for the more than 40 leaders fromaround the world who are expected at the two-day gathering, noone-on-one meeting is scheduled between the two men.
Nor, one government official said, is there a sense of great pressureinside the Prime Minister’s Office for Netanyahu to provide the US withresponses to demands that were presented him during his meeting withObama two weeks ago.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, meanwhile, said he did not feelIsrael was obliged to give any written response at all to the USdemands, which included a four-month moratorium on Jewish building ineast Jerusalem, an extension of the 10-month housing-start moratoriumin the West Bank, confidence-building measures to the Palestinians, andan agreement to deal with the core issues of Jerusalem, refugees andborders in indirect proximity talks.
“I don’t think we need to give any written responses,” Lieberman saidin an Israel Radio interview. “I don’t know why everyone thinks Israelhas to present a report where we explain ourselves. I think thegovernment of Israel’s position is clear.”
Lieberman said Israel had already made enough gestures toward thePalestinian Authority and that it was now the PA’s turn to reciprocate.
Among the Israeli gestures he numbered were Netanyahu’s speech atBar-Ilan University on June 14, where he accepted a two-state solution;the housing-start moratorium in the West Bank; allowing Fatah toconvene a meeting in Bethlehem last year; and removing numerous IDFroadblocks.
Instead of receiving a “positive incentive” in return for these steps,Lieberman said, “all we got were more demands, more pressure and morerequests.”
Responding to questions on whether this position would not lead tofurther strain in ties with Washington, Lieberman said, “We as a stateneed to understand that as long as we want to remain an independentcountry, we need to demonstrate an ability to withstand pressure.
“We cannot give up our sovereignty; we are talking about oursovereignty as an independent state,” he said. “I don’t know a state inthe world that would agree to any limitation on construction in itscapital. This is completely unacceptable, and therefore, there areperiods when you have to demonstrate determination and also an abilityto withstand pressure.”
While on the surface, Netanyahu’s decision to travel to Obama’s summitseemed obvious, it was preceded by deliberations about whether hisattendance at a conference focusing on the nuclear issue and attendedby countries such as Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan, Jordan and Saudi Arabiawould be beneficial.
One of the arguments in favor of going to the conference was simplythat when the president of the US extends an invitation, one accepts it.
The prime minister will be accompanied by Shaul Horev, director-generalof the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, and National Security Councilhead Uzi Arad.
Although the conference is an attempt to secure all loose nuclearmaterial within four years, and to keep this material – believed to beenough to build more than 100,000 nuclear bombs – out of the hands ofterrorist organizations, it will inevitably also focus on Iran.
As such, another of the arguments in favor of attending was thatNetanyahu should be at a forum where critical decisions might be madeon Iran – perhaps regarding what types of sanctions to impose on thecountry if it does not halt its nuclear march.
Also, Netanyahu has been one of the leading voices in recent yearscalling for concerted international action to keep nuclear material outof the hands of non-state actors such as terrorist organizations – themain theme of the summit.
On the other side of the pro-con ledger, one main argument againstparticipation was that Netanyahu’s presence at an international forumdealing with nuclear issues would inevitably draw attention to Israel’sown reported nuclear arsenal, as well as its policy of ambiguity onwhether it has nuclear weapons.
Countries such as Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia will certainly – asthey do regularly at international nuclear forums – shine the spotlighton Israel and a perceived imbalance: Why is the world so keen onstopping Iran’s nuclear development program, but silent in the face ofIsrael’s reported nuclear arsenal?
One government official said Netanyahu’s decision to attend, despitethis likely scenario, had been made because key issues affecting Israelwould be discussed there, and it was important for the Jewish state’svoice to be heard – as well as the realization that Israel’s reportednuclear capacity would be an issue whether Netanyahu participated inthe meeting or not.