16/04/2010

The absence of Israel at the Washington Summit

Barack Obama has invited 47 countries to meet in Washington for the Nuclear Security Summit. The main topic is the need to fight against proliferation of nuclear weapons and prevent nuclear terrorism. If one of the sensitive issues is Iran, Arab countries are preoccupied by another one: Israel.
The Jewish state, which has not signed the Non Proliferation Treaty and is officially non-nuclear-armed, has always maintained a policy of nuclear ambiguity. Israel has always been vague about its nuclear ambitions, but, according to experts, it has nuclear weapons since forty years.
Benjamin Netanyahu, who must be present at the Washington Summit, canceled his visit because some countries including Turkey and Egypt had planned to raise the issue of Israel’s nuclear arsenal and to put pressure on Israel to sign it the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But even if the Israeli Prime Minister did not want to give explanations about its nuclear program, it was not the only reason for his absence. Relations between the U.S. and Israel play an important role. While the U.S. has so far respected the Jewish State’s policy of nuclear ambiguity, today the relations between the two countries are tense and Benjamin Netanyahu is not certain to receive support from the U.S if nuclear issue was raised.
After signing the Israeli-Egyptian Peace in 1979, Egypt joined the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but Israel did not followed. Since 1980, it tried calling Tel Aviv to join the NPT until 1995 when it launched an initiative to create in the Middle East a nuclear weapons free zone. Supported by the international community, United Nations, Arab League and the New Agenda Coalition (composed of Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, South Africa and Sweden) this project had unfortunately not been possible.
Today the region is experiencing a new dynamic because of changing power relations. Turkey, which seeks to establish itself as a regional leader, has a military agreement with Israel. But Ankara supports Mubarak on the issue of Israeli nuclear program. Following the events in Gaza, it is gradually changing position toward Israel and the relationship between these two states is increasingly tense. Ankara and Cairo are facing Israel as a strong axis which is denouncing Israeli nuclear policy without breaking the agreements that each country has with Tel Aviv.
Did Egypt, which has been working for years to make Israel sign the NPT, find in Turkey an ally? Does this alliance bring on day Israel to get rid of its arsenal? Despite an unfavorable international context for Israel, the issue of its nuclear ambiguity’s policy has not brought damage during the Washington Summit. So, it is difficult to imagine circumstances that could change Israel minds.

Sophia Vignard