Monday, May 31, 2010

Obama: Israel Must Sign NNPT.

It's really not a good day for Israel and Netanyahu, with even the US - under Obama - now insisting that Israel sign up to the NNPT.

The Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, cornerstone of global disarmament efforts, has gained a new lease of life – but at the price of a small but telling diplomatic victory for Iran, and new strains between Israel and its most important ally, the US.

Unlike its predecessor in 2005, the regular five-yearly NPT review conference that wrapped up at the United Nations at the weekend this time did manage to produce a final resolution. The 189 signatories unanimously reaffirmed the treaty's basic bargain – that states with nuclear weapons will take steps to get rid of them (although once again no deadline is stipulated), while those that don't have them undertake not to do so.

But all of its most contentious parts affect Israel, not a signatory to the treaty and generally assumed to be a nuclear power, with anywhere between 100 and 300 warheads, even though it refuses to confirm or deny their existence.

Not only does the 28-page final document call for an international conference on a nuclear weapon-free Middle East, a long-standing goal of Arab countries, led by Egypt. It also specifically demands that Israel sign up to the NPT, and open its nuclear facilities to international inspection.

In a blistering response on Saturday, the Israeli government said it would ignore the resolution, describing it as "deeply flawed and hypocritical". Why single out Israel, it asked, when "the real problem with Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East ... relates to those countries that have signed the NPT and brazenly violated it – Iraq under Saddam, Libya, Syria and Iran."

Obama has done well to insist on this ahead of his meeting with Netanyahu tomorrow. I have always said that Obama needs to demonstrate to Netanyahu that he can bring serious pressure down on his head if he remains obstinate on the subject of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Insisting that Israel sign up to the NNPT is merely the first of several options which Obama has open to him.

There is talk that Obama was left with an untenable choice, either fail to support Israel or be seen as wrecking a conference on one of the President's top priorities, preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

But the choice he has made, despite his reasons for doing so, is very different from the one which would have been made by his predecessor.

Netanyahu is finding out that America's interests and his own are not necessarily the same thing.

Click here for full article.

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