NEW YORK: Israeli officials said they are concerned the Obama administration is preparing to renege on a 2010 commitment to shield the Jewish state from attending a United Nations-backed conference aimed at establishing a Middle East free of nuclear weapons.
Israelis have said they believe Iran, Turkey and Arab states would use such a conference to seek to disarm Israel, which is believed to possess the Middle East’s only nuclear weapons arsenal. Officially, Israel neither confirms nor denies it has weapons.
Discussions on convening a conference are intensifying in New York this week as the U.S. and other nations debate a draft statement that seeks to strengthen a 1970 U.N. treaty that regulates nuclear technologies and aims for the eventual eradication of the world’s nuclear weapons.
U.N. officials are seeking to reach agreement on the draft statement by Friday, when a Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference ends, according to diplomats involved in the process.
A draft circulated at the U.N. calls for a conference that would pursue a Middle Eastfree of nuclear weapons to be held as early as December, according to the diplomats.
A senior Israeli official said early Friday that language Israel supports requiring consensus among Middle East countries in order for the conference to be held has been stripped from the draft under consideration.
Members of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government said White House approval of such a U.N. statement would violate a commitment it made toIsrael in 2010 concerning the convening of such a conference.
“The only way for the U.S. to honor its stated commitments to Israel is by rejecting the draft resolution before the NPT Review Conference, which seriously would jeopardize Israel’s national security and contradicts stated U.S. guarantees,” said the Israeli official in Jerusalem.
“These safeguards for Israel, backed by U.S. guarantees, are glaringly absent from the draft resolutions now under consideration in New York. The need for consensus has been thrown out,” the official said.
Senior U.S. officials denied Thursday that the Obama administration was reneging on commitments to Israel. They said the White House was seeking to develop a text at the U.N. conference that promotes both the U.S.’s and Israel’s national security interests.