U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressing the NPT Review Conference at the UN Headquarters
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressing the NPT Review Conference at the UN Headquarters in New York on May 3, 2010. Photo by Reuters
Text size

The conference of the signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is a diplomatic victory for Egypt and a failure for Israel. Israel can feel sacrificed by the U.S. on the altar of a successful conference. Israel's nuclear program, and the international assessment that it possesses an arsenal with dozens, if not hundreds of nuclear weapons, has become a hostage to the conference.

The U.S. preferred its overall interest in advancing the idea of limiting nuclear weapons throughout the world, tighter inspections of nuclear installations and the spread of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, over supporting Israel's needs. The rein lies the difference between the Obama administration and the one preceding it. During the previous meeting in 2005, the U.S. refused to accept parts of the draft document that called on Israel to join the NPT and turned down the idea of holding talks in order to create a region free of nuclear weapons - even at the cost of the conference's failure. President Barack Obama and his administration opted for success at the conference over Israel.

On the face of it, the proposal deals with Israel in a fashion similar to the concluding document of the 1995 conference. Then, the Clinton administration agreed to have Israel mentioned in the document so that the "universality" of the NPT would be agreed upon. Then, too, there were disagreements between Egypt and the non-aligned states and the United States. However this time the decision differs and pushes forth two key issues beyond the 1995 document.

It talks of a target date - 2012 - for holding a conference, and appointing a special coordinator who will visit the region and hold talks for holding such a conference. However, that is still very far removed from the possibility that Israel will join the NPT. This is a sovereign decision of Israel and it is not possible to impose it.

There are many understandings between Israel and the U.S., both verbal and written, which were reiterated by the Obama administration, including the fact that Israel will not be forced into the NPT. The U.S. also accepts Israel's view on the subject of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. The Israeli approach calls on all countries in the region to first recognize Israel's right to exist, sign peace agreements, enter into security arrangements, limit conventional arsenals and also non-conventional weapons - including chemical and biological agents in their arsenals, and their missile delivery systems.

Only then will it be possible to begin discussions on a nuclear-free zone. On Friday the U.S. expressed its "serious reservations" at the end of the conference regarding the holding of a conference in 2012. National Security Adviser James Jones said that peace in the Middle East and compliance by all countries in the region - hinting at Iran - of their commitment to the NPT are preconditions to a region free of weapons of mass destruction.