Uh oh: Netanyahu pulls out of Obama’s nuclear summit

posted at 5:57 pm on April 8, 2010 by Allahpundit

This can’t really be the reason, can it?

The PM made the decision Thursday after finding out that several Muslim states intend to bring up Israel’s failure to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Earlier, the PM’s Office issued an official statement announcing the trip.

“In the last 24 hours we received reports about the intention of various states that will be present at the Washington conference to go beyond the issue of preventing nuclear terror,” a senior source in Jerusalem said. “These states intend to exploit the occasion in order to slam Israel. The prime minister expressed his displeasure over these intentions, and he will therefore not be traveling to the summit.”

Israel’s atomic energy minister will go in his place. Here’s the full list of countries attending the summit, but it’s no mystery who they’re worried about. It’s Egypt and Turkey, the latter of which has been lobbying against sanctions on Iran and which called Israel the “principal threat to peace” in the Middle East just yesterday. Surely, though, Netanyahu realized all along that those two would try to make Israeli nukes an issue, in which case why agree to attend in the first place? In fact, U.S. officials as recently as this week tried to give him comfort:

Earlier this week, Ellen Tauscher, the U.S. under secretary of state for arms control, phoned deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon ahead of Netanyahu’s planned participation in the conference, reassuring him that the United States would continue to respect a policy of ambiguity on the nuclear arms of its allies.

Maybe Bibi got cold feet when Obama released the new U.S. nuclear protocol aimed at bringing countries into line with the NPT? Or maybe it has something to do with … this?

The Obama administration is now denying U.S. visas to Israeli scientists who work at that nation’s Dimona nuclear reactor. This startling reversal of traditional policy was reported April 7, 2010, in the Israeli website/newspaper NRG/Maariv (link to the original Hebrew here and to an exclusive Pajamas Media translation here)…

According to Maariv: “…. workers at the Dimona reactor who submitted VISA requests to visit the United States for ongoing university education in Physics, Chemistry and Nuclear Engineering — have all been rejected, specifically because of their association with the Dimona reactor. This is a new policy decision of the Obama administration, since there never used to be an issue with the reactor’s workers from study in the USA, and till recently, they received VISAs and studied in the USA.”

Israeli defense officials are stating these workers have no criminal records in the U.S. or Israel and have been singled out purely because of their place of employment.

Assuming that’s true, maybe Netanyahu took it as a sign that the U.S. wouldn’t look askance at Turkish attempts to demagogue the Israeli arsenal. The One does, clearly, perceive Israel to be the recalcitrant partner in the peace process with the Palestinians (at least lately); why wouldn’t he consider their nuclear deterrent a “stumbling block” or whatever to getting Iran to give up the bomb? Exit question: Is this really just Bibi’s way of showing that one humiliating turn deserves another?

Update: Worth noting: Israel won’t be the only country in attendance that hasn’t signed the Nonproliferation Treaty. India and Pakistan haven’t signed either and they’ll both be there, so any attempt to frame Tel Aviv as the sole “rogue” outlier is DOA.

Update: See Joshuapundit for more on the Dimona snafu.

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First and foremost, nobody was going to force Israel to sign the NPT. All that was going to happen was that two countries, with whom Israel has full diplomatic relations, were going to address this issue.
It would have been a minor part of the summit and the other countries still outside the treaty – India, Pakistan and North Korea – would almost certainly have been mentioned too.

Upon closer examination, though, this justification seems very hollow and is probably not the real reason why Israel cancelled.

What should concern Israel’s decision-makers is that Netanyahu’s settlement policies are not only affecting relations with the US. They are also affecting Israel’s capability to defend its interests, not only in foreign policy, but also those directly impacting on its security.

The issue of nuclear terrorism is close to many Israelis’ hearts, not just Netanyahu’s. By refusing to attend, Israel will be missing a vital opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with other countries in addressing, and cooperating, over this very important issue.
This impacts on Israel’s security directly as Israel needs the co-operation of other countries – for example, politically or in intelligence-gathering.

As the issue of settlements is undoubtedly one of the main reasons behind Netanyahu’s refusal to attend the summit, what it means is that the settlements policy is becoming an liability with regard to Israel’s security concerns.

So he refuses to attend because it doesn’t like what two countries are going to mention. Their opinion was not going to prevent Israel from using the summit as an opportunity to represent itself in a respected international forum.
Nor was it going to stop the Israeli government from using the summit to improve the country’s battered image and standing in the international arena. Not to mention the fact the summit could have been used by Netanyahu to address Israel’s valid concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme with the leaders of the world’s most powerful countries, who are discussing further sanctions against Iran.

They need Israel’s co-operation more than ever, and Israel needs their backing in addressing this important issue. This is not the time for Netanyahu to turn his back on them and the international community. The issue of the Iranian nuclear programme is far more important and urgent than the current Israeli government’s settlement policies.

The expansion of construction in East Jerusalem must stop, in order to enable Israel and the international community to address Ayatollah Khamenei’s nuclear ambitions. To do so, Netanyahu should realise sooner rather than later that he can’t have his Iranian yellowcake, and eat it too.

mags on April 10, 2010 at 10:42 PM