Why Netanyahu stayed away from Washington

There’s been plenty of speculation about Benjamin Netanyahu’s last-minute cancellation of his plan to attend the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. The official explanation was that it was to avoid facing criticism from Turkey, Egypt and other Middle East states over Israel’s nuclear program. Such criticism was long anticipated so that was never a credible explanation, but maybe the real reason became apparent this afternoon when President Obama said Israel should sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

This is what he said in a news conference:

Scott Wilson, Washington Post: You have spoken often about the need to bring U.S. policy in line with its treaty obligations internationally to eliminate the perception of hypocrisy that some of the world sees toward the United States and its allies. In that spirit and in that venue, will you call on Israel to declare its nuclear program and sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty? And if not, why wouldn’t other countries see that as an incentive not to sign on to the treaty that you say is important to strengthen?

President Obama: Well, Scott, initially you were talking about U.S. behavior and then suddenly we’re talking about Israel. Let me talk about the United States. I do think that as part of the NPT our obligation as the largest nuclear power in the world is to take steps to reducing our nuclear stockpile. And that’s what the START treaty was about — sending a message that we are going to meet our obligations.

And as far as Israel goes, I’m not going to comment on their program. What I’m going to point to is the fact that consistently we have urged all countries to become members of the NPT.

So there’s no contradiction there. We think it is important that we have a international approach that is universal and that rests on three pillars: that those of us who have nuclear weapons are making serious efforts to reduce those stockpiles; that we all are working against the proliferation of nuclear weapons and those countries that don’t currently have nuclear weapons make the decision not to pursue nuclear weapons; and that all countries have access to peaceful nuclear energy.

And so whether we’re talking about Israel or any other country, we think that becoming part of the NPT is important.

US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Ellen Tauscher spoke with Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon last week and said that the US was going to adopt a policy of “calculated ambiguity” towards friendly nuclear nations that are outside the NPT.

That calculated ambiguity may be exactly what spooked Netanyahu. In a play on Israel’s own policy (which is that it will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East), did the Obama administration merely promise the Israelis that at the summit the US would not “introduce” the topic of Israel’s need to sign the NPT?

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4 thoughts on “Why Netanyahu stayed away from Washington

  1. Renfro

    Hah!……love it…….we aren’t going to point out Israel and we aren’t going to not not include Israel either….they are just another one that needs to sign up.

    Can we keep minimizing them, shrink their self important huffing and puffing down to say a country the size of New Jersey?
    I can see Netanyahu sitting his bunker now, gazeing lovingly at his nukes, moaning ‘why isn’t anyone paying attention to us, we’re big, we’re bad and we got nukes too, so why can’t we get no respect?

  2. Norman Morley

    Unless I read that wrong, “O” used double speak? I believe that before this is over, the U.S.A. is going to find itself behind the proverbial 8-Ball. This country can not continue to fund Wars throughout the World, nor continue these insane Military Expenditures! Perhaps the “O” will wake up one day and realize that he is the P.O.T.U.S. , that it takes more than just pretty speeches. As for the non Nuclear proliferation stuff, look at who has the bomb already, but it’s a good bet that Iran will be a target before Israel. The U.S. Public needs to step from behind the cloak and realize the stakes involved. Just because it’s over in the Middle East, doesn’t mean it won’t effect the rest of the World. All this talk about limiting Iran with sanctions, will all be meaningless if Israel drops a Nuclear Bomb on them.

  3. Christopher Hoare

    How can international treaties maintain any credibility when abiding or not abiding, joining or not joining, depends entirely upon how many votes in the US Congress the holdouts own?

  4. DE Teodoru

    It is a most peculiar situation in which Israel abuses its American ally only because it can, endangers American interests and proceeds to provoke hatred while considering lack of repost as proof of Israel’s dominant position as the root of its freedom of action. How does Israel gain confidence in his freedom to act with utter disregard of consequences as a result of the lack of response to abuse from its only friend? What if Israel were wrong and it were not the oppressive political pressure from American Jews but Obama’s genuine feeling of sympathy that caused the US to refrain from retribution in response to damaging abuse of American interests? Then Israel’s misreading of that “schwarza” Obama’s weakness vis-à-vis Israel on which it insolently bases its freedom of action suggests that it suffers from the spoiled child syndrome. I know of many cases where a beloved dependent child abused the affectional self-restraint of parents only to find that these same parents were invariably driven to conclude that they have a moral obligation to society as well as toward the child to severely restrict the freedom of action their child enjoys only because too many innocents suffer victimization due to the affection induced paralysis of the parents. Those who care are invariably coming to conclude that there is no choice but severe punishment; that will come without warning since all past warnings were totally disregarded, making impossible any moderation of the punitive action because of the realization that restraint encouraged evil behavior and consequent inevitable self-destructive and dangerous all around criminality. At some point, America will have to choose between a permissiveness that puts American Jews in danger from anti-Semitic backlash consequent to Arab retribution on the US economy and a slapping down of Israel that will forever humiliate it in order to make very clear that stepping out of line will never again be tolerated. Such a crisis– forced on the US by Israel’s inability to appreciate the affectionately inhibited prior action– hurts everyone, especially those Israeli citizens forced to suffer the consequences, American affection notwithstanding. The severe punishment will be unavoidable because otherwise the object of its affection would turn irretrievably evil.

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