UN expected to push Israel on nukes

Jerusalem Post
Monday, May 15 2000
By Marilyn Henry

NEW YORK (May 15) - As the UN heads into the final week of its month-long review of the treaty on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons (NPT) today, Israel is expected to come under new pressure to join the pact, in part because of international anxiety over India and Pakistan.

Foreign Minister David Levy on Friday said Israel will not sign.

Israel is one of only four nations that have not signed the treaty, which was designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and technology. A fundamental premise of the 30-year-old pact is that it should be universal, and Egypt had led the demands that Israel join.

"The dilemma is to find a diplomatic solution that can bridge an apparently unbridgeable gap," said Joseph Cirincione, a disarmament expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"Egypt's demands are very clear and they have proposed some urgent and dramatic measures which clearly the US and others cannot accept," Cirincione said in an interview at week's end.

The NPT is reviewed every five years. The current review ends Friday.

At the 1995 conference, Egypt persistently focused attention on Israel's refusal to sign the NPT and allow its facilities to be inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Israel seems far more exposed at this conference. In part, it is because of Egypt's campaign. However, the Israeli exposure seems based more on events in South Asia since the last conference.

The 1995 review encouraged all NPT states parties to exert "every effort" to achieve universal adherence to the treaty, without pointing fingers.

Since then, nine states have joined: Andorra, Angola, Brazil, Chile, Comoros, Djibouti, Oman, United Arab Emirates, and Vanuatu.

That focuses attention on the outsiders: Cuba, India, Israel, and Pakistan.

In 1998, India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests, which set off alarms.

The Security Council unanimously passed a resolution calling on India, Pakistan, and "all other states" that have not yet done so to sign the NPT without delay or conditions.

"There's more urgency on universality because of India and Pakistan," Cirincione said. "Then, to be consistent, they are forced to drag in Israel into it."

Much of the strong sentiment from Egypt is political rhetoric for domestic consumption.

"Some of this shows up in the fact that Egypt and Syria and others are reluctant to talk about Iraq and Iran and focus entirely on Israel," Cirincione said. "But it is not completely political rhetoric... They are very frustrated with the free pass that Israel gets on this issue."

When Egypt signed the NPT, it abandoned its nuclear ambitions, but Cairo believes that Israel's nuclear program justifies the pursuit of nuclear weapons by other nations in the region, Cirincione said.

"If they are ever going to have a chance of resolving the Iranian and Iraqi programs, they've got to resolve the Israel program at the same time," he said.

The Israeli position is the reverse: Jerusalem, which does not confirm or deny a nuclear regime, wants the Iranian and Iraqi threats dealt with first.

At the UN on Friday, Levy said: "It is a fact that the technology purchased by Iran is intended in order to develop weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles. We have not reached a state of tranquility and calmness that we can say the friends of Israel can guarantee the future."

The main American weapons concern in the Middle East is not Israel, but Iranian and Iraqi compliance with the NPT, Cirincione said. "The United States in particular, and the western states in general, seem to have a high tolerance for the continued existence of Israel's nuclear program."