State Dept. Calls on Israel to â€œForeswearâ€ Nuclear Arms
17:51 Apr 03, '05 / 23 Adar 5765
In a move that could curtail Israeli power in the Middle East, the US is calling on Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and forego the use and stockpile of nuclear weapons.
Twice in the past two weeks, State Department officials have compared Israelâ€™s status as a nuclear power with that of India and Pakistan, calling on all three nations to give up their nuclear arms.
The statements were made by two mid-level State Department Officials, ahead of the NPT Review Conference, scheduled to open in New York on May 2.
The purpose of the conference is to evaluate implementation of the NPT and determine its future course. The officialsâ€™ comments regarding Israelâ€™s weapons capability were made, apparently, in order to put the issue of Israelâ€™s nukes on the conferenceâ€™s agenda. The comments appeared to deviate from Bush Administration policy, which up to now, refrained from using terminology that confirms Israelâ€™s status as a nuclear nation.
The most recent statement came from Jackie Wolcott Sanders, the presidentâ€™s representative for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. In an essay titled â€œHow to Strengthen the NPTâ€ Sanders mentions Israel, along with India and Pakistan, within the context of enforcing â€œuniversal NPT adherence,â€ but adds that itâ€™s not likely â€œin the foreseeable future.â€
â€œThe Review Conference should reinforce the goal of universal NPT adherence and reaffirm that India, Israel and Pakistan may join the NPT only as non-nuclear-weapon states. Just as South Africa and Ukraine did in the early 1990s, these states would have to forswear nuclear weapons and accept IAEA safeguards on all nuclear activities to join the treaty. At the same time, we recognize that progress toward universal adherence is not likely in the foreseeable future,â€ writes Sanders.
She adds, â€œThe United States continues to support the goals of the Middle East resolution adopted at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, including the achievement of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction.â€
Another statement, using similar language, was made by Mark Fitzpatrick, acting deputy assistant secretary for nuclear proliferation, on March 17, at a Meeting of the Organization of American States Committee on Hemispheric Security, in Washington, D.C. He also held the status of Israelâ€™s nuclear armaments on a par with those of Pakistan and India:
â€œThe Conference should also reinforce the goal of universal NPT adherence and reaffirm that India, Israel and Pakistan may join the NPT only as non-nuclear-weapon states. Just as South Africa and Ukraine did in the early 1990s, these states should forswear nuclear weapons and accept IAEA safeguards on all nuclear activities.â€
Fitzpatrickâ€™s comments regarding Israel were made just after proclaiming, â€œIran and North Korea must not be permitted to violate the NPT without consequences.â€
The statements of the two officials contrast with President Bushâ€™s own reference to the NPT in a speech he made on March 7 when he called for enforcing the treatyâ€™s provisions on NPT members, which conveniently include both Iran and North Korea. Bush did not refer to his policy regarding non-member states, which include Israel, Pakistan, and India.
The U.S. State Department has often taken pro-Arab positions on the Arab-Israeli dispute over the years, and has been wary of projecting Israeli power in the Middle East.
Sometimes the departmentâ€™s positions ostensibly contradict those of the president. For example, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice recently declared in two separate newspaper interviews that President Bush did not make any guarantees to Israel regarding Israelâ€™s right to retain certain settlement blocs as part of a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians. The president purported to make such promises to Israel in a letter he wrote to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last spring, but the interpretation of Bushâ€™s statements have been the subject of much controversy, some of it spurred on by State Department officials.