What's it like to be one of the principal keepers of "The Worst-Kept Secret" (as Israel bomb historian Avner Cohen calls it in his new book)? David Danieli, the deputy director general and head of the policy division of Israel's Atomic Energy Commission, was recently interviewed by Yossi Melman for Haaretz. Some background: at this year's General Conference of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), the Arab states, along with Iran, sought to pass a resolution calling for Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In the process, Israel would place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards and, oh yeah, finally admit to possession of nuclear weapons. The resolution failed to pass as narrowly as it succeeded in passing last year (though obviously to little effect that time). First, Washington's response. Reuters reports . . .
Washington had urged countries to vote down the symbolically important although non-binding resolution, saying it could derail broader efforts to ban nuclear warheads in the Middle East and also damage fresh Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. "The winner here is the peace process, the winner here is the opportunity to move forward with a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East," said Glyn Davies, the U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
With its insinuation that they're less invested in the peace process than the United States and Israel, Davies's gloating is an insult to the Arab states. Worse, its suggestion that all it takes for the Middle East to be a nuclear-weapon-free zone is for the likes of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria to hold their heavy water makes him sound delusional. If Davies wants to pretend that Israel has no nuclear-weapons program, fine, but don't expect the Arab states -- or the citizens, if not the governments, of Western states -- to succumb to this mass hallucination.
Neither was Danieli the soul of graciousness when he told Melman: "This was definitely a very important achievement for Israel. . . . This is also an unprecedented decision, in light of the fact that there is an automatic majority against Israel in international organizations. Israel is not blessed with a lot of decisions in the international arena that defeat the bloc of Arab-Muslim states." In other words, it wasn't the peace process and the nuclear-free weapons zone in the Middle East to which he was referring, just sheer victory over the Arab states.
In fairness to Israel, it must be pointed out that when it comes to this, he has a case: "One of our more convincing arguments was asking why Israel should be singled out when the IAEA has never passed a resolution against any other country that is not a signatory to the treaty, such as Pakistan and India."
As for Israel joining the NPT . . .
Israel does not see fit to join the treaty as long as the current conditions in this region remain in place. . . . There are other weapons of mass destruction here -- chemical and biological [as well as] terrorist organizations that get aid from terror-supporting states like Iran and Syria [and] have tens of thousands of rockets aimed at Israel.
See what Danieli is saying here? Because of extenuating circumstances, Israel needs its nuclear weapons. But in the next breath he says: "Israel has a clear and responsible nuclear policy, and it has frequently reiterated that it will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East."
As you can see David Danieli has a thankless job trying to juggle Israel's nuclear lies. Unless his audience has undergone mass hypnosis, there's no way he can keep all those balls in the air.
First posted at the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.