Like the gleeful sound one makes upon hearing that a particularly obnoxious and troublesome relative will not be attending a family gathering, Washington officials probably issued a collective sigh of relief when hearing the news that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has canceled his visit to Washington planned for next week. The Israeli Prime Minister has caused enough diplomatic problems for the Obama government recently and his appearance at an international summit on the spread of nuclear weapons could have further embarrassed both Israel and the United States.
Netanyahu will not attend the weapons conference because he is afraid to confront a group of representatives of Arab nations who plan to bring up the issue of Israel’s non-participation in the Non-Proliferation Treaty. These nations want to force Israel to publicly acknowledge its nuclear capability and permit international inspection of its facilities.
The Jerusalem Post refers to the Israeli nuclear arsenal as “alleged,” maintaining the ludicrous Tel Aviv “policy of ambiguity.” The headline of the Hebrew version of Ynet says Netanyahu is afraid of an “ambush” by the Arab delegates to the conference. Israel will send Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor to the conference to be the flak-catcher for Netanyahu. The Israeli leader’s absence will deflect attention from the potential bad publicity that discussion of Israel’s nuclear capability will generate.
Israel maintains an arsenal which is assumed to be between 100 and 300 warheads depending on the source of the data estimate. Mordechai Vanunu revealed details of Israel’s nuclear arsenal to the British press in 1986. He served 18 years in an Israeli prison after being abducted from Italy by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad. Vanunu is prohibited from leaving Israel, where his freedom of speech, association and movement have been severely limited by authorities since his release. He has been designated as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.
According to the Federation of American Scientists website, it has been reported that “fearing defeat in the October 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Israelis assembled 13 twenty-kiloton atomic bombs.” The fact that Israel may have seriously considered a nuclear strike in 1973 first became known to the general public in Seymour Hersh’s 1993 book, The Samson Option. If my memory serves me, Hersh claimed that Israel loaded the nukes on missiles and aimed them.
Surely the Americans must be ecstatic about Netanyahu not coming for another visit, although they are forced by their “very special relationship” with Israel to explicitly deny the obvious. The dubious honor for the denial fell on the shoulders of General James Jones, who told reporters that “of course we wanted the Prime Minister [Netanyahu] to come [back for another visit].”
Isn’t the very special Israeli-American relationship getting more special all the time?