Israel, thought to be the Middle East’s only nuclear power, has rejected a new U.N. call to come clean about its secretive nuclear program, calling it a “deeply flawed and hypocritical” act that ignores the threat posed by its sworn enemy Iran.
Israel declared late Saturday that it would not take part in a 2012 conference on establishing a nuclear-free Middle East – an Arab-led initiative backed by top ally U.S. and the 188 other signatories to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Although a series of U.S. conditions put the conference in doubt, the resolution, and the surprising U.S. support it received, added new pressure on Israel to give up what is almost universally believed to be a sizable nuclear arsenal. Israel refuses to confirm or deny the suspicions.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to discuss the resolution with President Barack Obama when the two meet in Washington Tuesday, the Israeli leader’s office said.
Netanyahu was traveling in Canada Sunday, and a government spokesman declined what contacts had been made with the U.S. over the resolution.
But an Army Radio reporter traveling with Netanyahu in Toronto said his office unsuccessfully lobbied the U.S. to block the resolution ahead of Friday’s vote.
Israel’s so-called policy of nuclear ambiguity is a cornerstone of its military deterrence. It has long said that a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace must precede such weapons bans.
Israel has never signed the non-proliferation treaty, which requires members to open nuclear facilities to inspection and to disarm. In its statement, it noted that since it’s not a member, it is not a party to the resolution.
“This resolution is deeply flawed and hypocritical: It ignores the realities of the Middle East and the real threats facing the region and the entire world,” the government statement said.
It “singles out Israel” yet “the terrorist regime in Iran, which is racing to develop nuclear weapons and which openly threatens to wipe Israel off the map, is not even mentioned in the resolution,” it added.
Despite its assertions to the contrary, Iran is widely suspected to be seeking to build nuclear weapons.
Israel sees Iran as its fiercest threat because of its nuclear program, its ballistic missiles capable of hitting the Jewish state and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s repeated references to Israel’s destruction.
The Arab proposal for a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction was first endorsed at a 1995 non-proliferation conference but never acted on. At this month’s review of the treaty at U.N. headquarters, many delegates considered a conference to begin talks on a nuclear-free Middle East to be a critical part of the final resolution.
The review’s spotlight on Israel put the Jewish state in an uncomfortable position. While it tirelessly lobbies the international community to preventing Iran from acquiring atomic weapons, it insists on maintaining a veil of secrecy around its own nuclear capabilities.
Details and pictures leaked in 1986 to the Sunday Times of London by Mordechai Vanunu, a former technician at Israel’s Dimona nuclear plant, led foreign experts to conclude Israel has dozens of nuclear weapons.
After Friday’s vote, U.S. National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones said Mideast peace and full compliance by all countries in the region to their arms control and nonproliferation obligations “are essential precursors” of a nuclear-free Middle East.
The compliance demand appeared to be aimed at Iran, which is a party to the nonproliferation treaty.
Jones also faulted the resolution’s decision to single out Israel while failing to mention Iran, which he said poses the greatest threat of nuclear proliferation in the region.
A sticking point had been a passage naming Israel, reaffirming “the importance of Israel’s accession to the NPT,” a move that would require it to destroy its arsenal.
On the other hand, the final document did not single Iran out by name as a member nation that has been found to be in noncompliance with U.N. nuclear safeguards agreements.