Israel’s ambiguity with regard to nuclear weapons is well known, as is its refusal to sign-up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This tactic has shifted attention away from Israel for decades, as government officials keep dictating the necessity of “security” for a state built upon ethnic cleansing and illegal occupation. Last Monday, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution which calls on Israel to allow nuclear inspectors into the country. Those who voted against the motion were the usual suspects: Israel, the US, Canada, Palau, Marshall Islands and Micronesia.
Israel’s development of a nuclear programme commenced a few years after its creation in 1948. Citing protection for Jews after the Nazi Holocaust, Prime Minister Ben Gurion recruited Jewish scientists from abroad with the purpose of discovering uranium sources. Israel’s first nuclear partner was France, its major arms supplier. Full scale production of nuclear weapons is assumed to have started in 1967, a year after French assistance ended. The existence of the nuclear programme was divulged in 1960, leading Ben Gurion to declare that the reactor would “serve the needs of industry, health, agriculture and science”; it was claimed to be designed exclusively for peaceful purposes. This statement was contradicted by the chairman of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, who denied a distinction between “nuclear energy for peaceful purposes or warlike ones” and asserted that Jews would never again be obliterated through genocide.
Evidence of Israel’s nuclear weapons production was garnered from information given by Mordechai Vanunu, a former Israeli nuclear technician whose disclosure of the programme to the British press saw him being abducted by Israeli agents in Italy, subjected to a secret trial and sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Israel’s obsession with imposing its hegemony over the Middle East has resulted in a number of operations to destroy its neighbours’ nuclear programmes. In 1979, Mossad was responsible for destroying a French production plant which was to supply reactor cores to Iraq. Operation Orchard targeted Syria’s allegedly undeclared nuclear reactor. Mossad was also accused of being involved in the assassination of Iranian physicist Ardeshir Hassanpour. In 2007, reports emerged that Israel was planning to destroy nuclear facilities in Iran, a prologue to Israel’s recent obsession of waging a pre-emptive war against Tehran.
The UN vote was overwhelmingly in favour – 174-6 – reflecting serious opposition to Israel’s impunity, although General Assembly resolutions are not binding on UN members. Its dismissal of the vote shows that Israel harbours no illusions about the possibility being forced to adhere to international law. Foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Pamor described the resolution as a “meaningless, mechanical vote”, adding that the UN loses credibility each time a stance against Israel is supported.
Whilst 189 signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, including Iran, have agreed with the proposal of a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East, Israel’s refusal to give up its weapons has stalled the process. Instability in the region is more likely to be caused by Israel’s widely known but not officially acknowledged nuclear weapons stockpile than by Iran’s alleged commitment to nuclear development. Israel continues to receive unparalleled support from the US, encouraging it to act with impunity and employ oppressive tactics affecting regions beyond the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Obama’s claim that if Iran had a bomb neighbouring countries would be compelled to acquire the same should be applied to Israel, in proportions of greater magnitude, to stress the threat which Israel has become to the Middle East. The US should make a commitment towards eradicating Israel’s policy of deliberate ambiguity instead of sustaining the occupier’s implausible security concerns.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.