The U.S. sabotage last week of an international agreement aimed at eradicating nuclear weapons stockpiles has been met mostly with alarm and frustration around the world—but gratitude from one key U.S. ally: Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally called U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday to thank the White House for leading the charge to block a final document that would have expanded the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)—of which Israel is not a signatory.
Netanyahu conveyed "his appreciation to President Obama and to the secretary," an anonymous Israeli official told media outlets. "The United States kept its commitment to Israel by preventing a Middle East resolution that would single out Israel and ignore its security interests and the threats posed to it by an increasingly turbulent Middle East."
But Phyllis Bennis, senior fellow at Institute for Policy Studies, told Common Dreams on Tuesday, "It is appropriate for Israel to be singled out, as Israel is the only nuclear weapons state in the Middle East." With an estimated 200 nuclear warheads, the Israeli government has repeatedly refused to publicly acknowledge its arsenal.
Bennis said the latest U.S. move "flies in the face of the statement recently made by Obama that the U.S. would have to at least consider changing its posture at the United Nations and reconsider its consistent protection of Israel at the United Nations. It's now clear that this is not seriously underway."
After weeks of negotiations at the 2015 NPT Review Conference, the U.S.—backed by Britain and Canada—led the charge on Friday to reject the final document from the gathering, which requires consensus to pass. The treaty will not be reviewed again until 2020.
The U.S. cited the attempt by states, including Egypt, to establish a Middle East conference within months aimed at eliminating "weapons of mass destruction" in the Middle East. U.S. officials accused the push for the conference as an attempt to "manipulate" the process to single out Israel.
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According to Alice Slater of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and Abolition 2000, the focus should be on the "aggressive" policies of the U.S., which along with Russia, accounts for the vast majority of the world's nuclear stockpiles.
"The fact is that our country is going to spend a trillion dollars over the next 30 years to build two new bomb factories plus submarines, airplanes, and missiles to deliver nuclear weapons and is constantly refurbishing weapons we have," Slater told Common Dreams. "This is incongruous with what was promised in the treaty in 1970."
The WMD conference is not a new concept, Slater added, but in fact was promised to Middle Eastern states as early as 1995, yet has never gotten off the ground.
Iranian delegate Hamid Baidinejad charged that, by blocking consensus, the U.S. and Britain were seeking to "safeguard the interests of a particular non-party of the treaty which has endangered the peace and security of the region by developing nuclear-weapons capability" without global oversight.
Ban Ki-moon last week expressed dismay last week that nations were "unable to narrow their differences on the future of nuclear disarmament or to arrive at a new collective vision on how to achieve a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction (WMD)."
Slater, however, said that civil society organizations around the world are finding hope in a humanitarian pledge that emerged from the NPT review, signed by 107 non-nuclear weapons states, calling for an all-out prohibition of the weapons: "What we have now are whole movements to get an international ban."