People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 30

July 25, 2010

Israel’s Nuclear Status


Yohannan Chemarapally


ONE of the prominent issues that dominated the proceedings of the NPT Review Conference held in New York in May was the question of Israel’s so called “nuclear ambiguity”. During the course of the conference, an overwhelming majority of the delegates from NPT member countries had forcefully argued that nuclear armed Israel should be asked to sign the NPT. Reflecting the majority view, the final document adopted at the end of the conference called on Israel to sign the NPT and to “place all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).


The document also called for the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction, along with chemical and biological weapons from the West Asian region. For the first time, Washington went along with the international consensus and was a signatory to the document. On previous occasions, Washington had worked from behind the scenes to omit any references to Israel or its nuclear program. This time the Arab nations, had insisted that West Asia be declared a nuclear free zone. The creation of a WMD free zone will leave Israel with no other option but to give up on its arsenal of deadly weapons.


President Barack Obama has been preaching non-proliferation during the course of all his international stops. There was the danger of the NPT conference being derailed if Washington would have continued with its old practice of vetoing all documents that compromised Israel’s so called “nuclear ambiguity”. Despite strenuous opposition from Israel, president Obama chose to go along with the final document that explicitly stated for the first time that the West Asian region be declared a nuclear free zone. To add to Israel’s discomfiture, the NPT Review Conference called for an international conference to be held in 2012 with the aim of establishing a nuclear free West Asia. The declaration called on the UN secretary general along with the US, Russia and the UK, to name a facilitator to organise the 2012 conference. Under a NPT Action Plan announced during the conference, the five recognised nuclear powers---the US, Russia, the UK, France and China, committed to speeding up the disarmament process and report on the progress they have made in 2014. Ever since the NPT came into force in 1970, the major powers have been paying lip service about reducing their arsenals and establishing nuclear free zones.


Israel for that matter has sworn that it would never initiate the NPT but at the same time has called for the strengthening of the NPT regime to punish alleged rogue proliferators like Iran and Syria. India and Pakistan, both de facto nuclear powers, along with Israel, have so far refused to sign the NPT, describing it as discriminatory. North Korea walked out of the NPT in 2003. All other nations are signatories to the NPT. The NPT disarmament obligations are not confined only to a handful of countries like Iran, Syria and North Korea. Article V1 of the NPT treaty, specifically calls on the nuclear nations “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date, and to nuclear disarmament—under strict and effective international control”. Many of the nuclear weapons states are in fact expanding their nuclear arsenals. The US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) published this year shows that the US is actually strengthening its nuclear force. It has added an even more lethal “conventional deterrent” to its armoury which can strike any target in the word within an hour’s time.  




The message to Israel and the US from the NPT Review Conference is loud and clear. There cannot be double standards adopted all the time. While intense pressure is being put on Iran, an NPT signatory, on nuclear issues, Israel which has the biggest nuclear arsenal in the region, has been allowed to replenish its nuclear weapons, fuelling the volatility of the region. Fidel Castro, in his recent pronouncements has said that there is a real danger of a nuclear war breaking out in West Asia. Some hawkish politicians in Israel and the US have been urging the use of nuclear weapons against Iran. Though the US was a signatory, the American National Security Adviser, James Jones, was quick to “deplore” the inclusion of Israel in the document. He went on to add that it was “equally deplorable” that there was no mention of Iran’s nuclear ambitions in the document. Jones said that the goal of a nuclear free West Asia could only be achieved after the Arabs had made peace with Israel.  


To further reassure Israel, president Obama said in the first week of July during the official visit of the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu to Washington, that the US “strongly” opposes the move to single out Israel on the issue of non-proliferation. He again said that the greatest threat to proliferation was Iran’s failure to live up to its NPT commitments. More ominously, a statement released by the Obama administration during the Netanyahu visit bestowed upon Israel the “inherent right” to possess nuclear weapons for purposes of “deterrence”. The former US president Jimmy Carter has said that the tiny state possesses between 200-300 nuclear warheads.  


The joint statement issued after the visit stated that the US president told the Israeli prime minister “that he recognises that Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threats or possible continuation of threats, and that only Israel can determine its security needs”.  Obama administration officials are now saying that the support for a nuclear free West Asia during the NPT conference was “a mistake”. President Obama’s volte face was evident. He stated during the Israeli prime minister’s recent visit that both sides discussed issues that arose out of the NPT conference. “And I reiterated to the prime minister that there is no change in US policy when it comes to these issues. We strongly believe that given its size, the region that it is in, and the threats that are levelled against us----against it, that Israel has unique security requirements”, proclaimed the American president.




The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, speaking at a summit of D-8 countries in Abuja, Nigeria, was quick to react to the latest show of double standards by the Obama administration. He said that talks on Iran’s atomic program could only resume after Washington clarified its stand on Israel’s nuclear program. “The first condition is that they should express their views about the nuclear weapons of the Zionist regime. Do they agree with that or not. If they agree that these bombs should be available to them, the course of the dialogue would be different”, he told the media in the Nigerian capital. The Iranian president went on to add that the US should also clarify its own commitment to the goal of non-proliferation and its readiness to resort to “use of force” against his country.


It should be remembered that Israel had closely collaborated with the apartheid regime in South Africa on nuclear matters in the seventies and the eighties, when there was an international embargo against the country. Before the demise of the racist regime, it was widely known that South Africa too had the capacity to produce a nuclear weapon. A recent book---“Israel’s Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa”, written by Sasha Polakow-Suransky, a senior editor at Foreign Affairs. The book relies on de-classified South African documents, has revealed that Israel had offered to sell nuclear capable Jericho missiles to the racist government. The book quotes a senior Israeli politician, Elezar Granot, who served on the Israeli parliament’s defence committee in the 1980’s that the South Africans did substantial work for Israel’s military and nuclear program. South Africa supplied uranium to Israel. Israel reciprocated, according to the author, by selling tritium to the apartheid regime. Tritium is used in more advanced nuclear weapons. This fact was revealed to the author by none other than Fannie Botha, the then South African minister of mines.


Meanwhile reports are emerging that the US, despite its recent posturing, is actually moving forward with plans to strengthen Israel’s nuclear weapons stockpile. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz, has broken a story which chronicles in detail the nuclear cooperation between the Jewish state and its patron. Forbes Magazine has reported that 22 tons of uranium—235, a key materiel used to make nuclear bombs, was diverted from US labs to Israel. A March, 2010 audit by two former employees of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, published in the reputed magazine, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, revealed that 337 tons of highly enriched uranium procured by a Company called Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC) from the US are still unaccounted for. NUMEC was a front for the Israeli government.  The former CIA station chief in Tel Aviv described NUMEC as “an Israeli operation from the beginning”.