Israel to boycott nuclear-free Middle East plan


ISRAEL HAS condemned as “deeply flawed” and “hypocritical” the weekend resolution adopted by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference, vowing to boycott efforts to work towards a nuclear-free Middle East.

The NPT’s 189 signatory nations, meeting in New York, proposed new steps towards disarmament and making the Middle East free of atomic weapons, including a UN-backed international conference in 2012.

The resolution singled out Israel, stressing “the importance of Israel’s accession to the treaty and the placement of all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards”. The prime minister’s office in Jerusalem condemned the review conference conclusions.

“It ignores the realities of the Middle East and the real threats facing the region and the entire world. Given the distorted nature of this resolution, Israel will not be able to take part in its implementation.”

Under a decades-old policy of “nuclear ambiguity”, Israel has never confirmed or denied possessing atomic weapons, maintaining the country “will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East”.

According to foreign media reports, the Jewish state is widely believed to possess several hundred nuclear warheads, as well as the means to deliver them. Three years ago, former US president Jimmy Carter claimed Israel had “150 or more” nuclear weapons in its arsenal.

Israeli commentators expressed particular concern that Washington had voted in favour of Friday’s resolution, marking what appeared to be a change in US policy, which has traditionally turned a blind eye to Israel’s nuclear capabilities.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will raise the issue when he meets President Barack Obama at the White House tomorrow. Last month, Mr Netanyahu cancelled his participation at the Washington summit on nuclear security at the last minute, after Jerusalem received information Muslim states, led by Egypt and Turkey, were planning to press for Israel to join the NPT.

The new resolution was seen as a major diplomatic victory for Muslim and Arab states, which have been trying for decades to get Israel to sign the NPT, and for Iran, which is fighting a campaign against international sanctions over its own nuclear programme.

Although Washington voted in favour of the resolution, Mr Obama made it clear he was against highlighting Israel. “We strongly oppose efforts to single out Israel, and will oppose actions that jeopardise Israel’s national security,” he said.

Israel’s deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon vowed Israel’s co-operation with the US would remain unchanged, and he condemned the resolution as “insignificant”. “Iran has signed the NPT, Iraq has signed it, Syria has signed it, and we see that it hasn’t stopped them from seriously breaking the treaty and from trying to bypass it,” he said.

Europe’s top diplomat praised the resolution: “I warmly welcome the consensus reached by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference,” said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in a statement. “This shows that the multilateral non-proliferation and disarmament regime is alive and supported by all.”