Obama administration: Israel has right to nuclear capability for deterrence purposes
NEW YORK - The Obama administration has revealed to the public, during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington, a series of understandings between the two countries on Israel's policy of "nuclear ambiguity" - which to date had been kept under wraps.
At the center of these understandings lies an Israeli veto on the holding of an international conference for a nuclear-free Middle East, as well as an unprecedented American willingness to cooperate with Israel in the field of nuclear power for civil use.
The revelations come in the wake of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference held in May, which called on Israel to agree to international inspection of its nuclear installations, and to the holding of an international conference for a nuclear-free Middle East. The conference's final document was passed despite Israel's strong protests to the Americans.
In talks since the conference, the Americans made it clear that that decision had been a "mistake." In an effort to clarify the administration's stance on the Israeli nuclear question, it was determined that - in coordination with Israel - the full details of the high-level understandings between the two sides, reached during the 1960s, would finally be revealed.
The understandings have been updated over the years, including during this past year.
Washington's aim through these revelations was to clear the air and correct the impression given at the May conference that the United States did not back Israel.
Following their meeting at the White House Tuesday, a special announcement was made an hour later concerning assurances given to Netanyahu by U.S. President Barack Obama.
According to the announcement, "The president told the prime minister he recognizes that Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats, and that only Israel can determine its security needs. The president pledged to continue U.S. efforts to combat all international attempts to challenge the legitimacy of the State of Israel."
"The president emphasized that the United States will continue its long standing practice to work closely with Israel to ensure that arms control initiatives and policies do not detract from Israel's security, and support our common efforts to strengthen international peace and stability," the statement continued.
In the event that the proposed conference on a nuclear-free Middle East is held, "the United States will insist that such a conference will be for discussion aimed at an exchange of views on a broad agenda, to include regional security issues, verification and compliance, and all categories of weapons of mass destruction and systems for their delivery."
"The president emphasized that the conference will only take place if all countries feel confident that they can attend, and that any efforts to single out Israel will make the prospects of convening such a conference unlikely. In this regard, the two leaders also agreed to work together to oppose efforts to single out Israel at the IAEA General Conference in September."
Meanwhile, prior to departing for New York, Netanyahu met with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and presented him with Israel's security needs as part of a permanent agreement for the establishment of a Palestinian state.