Arab States Won't Demand Vote on Israel's Nuclear Arms at IAEA Conference in September

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Jerusalem on July 10, 2016.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Jerusalem on July 10, 2016.Credit: Ronen Zvulun, Reuters

The Arab states, led by Egypt, plan to refrain this year from seeking a vote on a resolution regarding the oversight of Israel’s nuclear facilities during the International Atomic Energy Agency’s general conference next month, according to a cable sent to several Israeli embassies abroad, whose contents reached Haaretz.

Three Israeli diplomats who are privy to the content of the classified telegram, sent by Tamar Rahamimoff-Honig, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Arms Control Department, said it stated that the Arab League member states had made the decision not to demand a vote on a resolution regarding Israel’s nuclear program. The Israeli diplomats noted the telegram warned the Arabs’ decision could change on short notice, so the envoys had to be prepared to counter such a resolution, like every year.

In the telegram, the ambassadors were asked to convey to their interlocutors in the countries where they serve that Israel is pleased with the Arab states’ decision not to seek a vote on such a resolution, but to stress that if a vote does take place, Israel would like that country’s envoy vote against it. Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission also fears that the Arab states will try to start a debate on the safety of Israel’s nuclear facilities — not on the production of weapons of mass destruction — during the conference, on the assumption that there is an international consensus on the issue of nuclear safety.

On June 24, the Moroccan ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Mohammadi, who serves as the current chairman of the Arab group, sent a letter to IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano asking to include “Israel’s nuclear capabilities” on the agenda of the general conference, but there was no request for a vote to be called on a resolution on the issue. Israeli and Western diplomats dealing with the matter said the Moroccan ambassador and the envoys of other Arab states made it clear to IAEA officials and American representatives that in contrast to previous years, they have no plan to advance a resolution on the subject.

Israel’s ambassador to the IAEA, Merav Zafary-Odiz, sent Amano a letter on July 26, in which she welcomed the Arab states’ decision. However, she noted that the fact that the Arab states want the issue of Israel’s nuclear program on the agenda shows they are still trying to politicize the IAEA’s debates and single out Israel.

“Israel welcomes the decision of the Arab League to refrain, this year, from submitting a draft resolution under this agenda item,” Zafary-Odiz wrote. “Israel views this decision as a positive step, and remains hopeful that it will mark the path forward for a future meaningful regional dialogue. Unfortunately, the Arab Group’s letter is a clear deviation from this path. Our neighbors’ insistence on Israel’s joining the NPT not only ignores the repeated pursuit of nuclear weapons by Middle Eastern members of the Treaty, but also masks their refusal to engage sincerely with Israel.”

Senior Israeli diplomats noted that the Arab states’ decision was most exceptional. The Arab states, led by Egypt, have been advancing resolutions on Israel's nuclear facilities nearly every year since 1987. During this decade alone, a vote on such resolutions was taken in 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Over the last three years Israel foiled the resolutions by recruiting more and more countries to vote against them.

Israeli and Western diplomats dealing with the matter believe that there are two reasons for the decision not to advance a resolution on Israel’s nuclear weapons. The first is the fact that the Arab states have failed to gain a majority for the resolutions in recent years. “They simply understand that they’ll lose and they don’t want to be humiliated again,” said an Israeli diplomat.

The second reason, they said, is the dramatic warming of relations between Israel and Egypt, which has always been the country spearheading this issue. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry was responsible for dealing with this subject, and that ministry is now headed by Sameh Shoukry, who visited Israel recently.

“Apparently Shoukry understands that advancing this move against Israel’s nukes is illogical, doesn’t serve Egyptian interests and will undermine other issues it is trying to advance with Israel,” a Western diplomat said.

Click the alert icon to follow topics: