Israel’s Army Radio reported on Wednesday that the United States has sent Israel a secret document committing to nuclear cooperation between the two countries.
According to Army Radio, the U.S. has reportedly pledged to sell Israel materials used to produce electricity, as well as nuclear technology and other supplies, despite the fact that Israel is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Other countries have refused to cooperate with Israel on nuclear matters because it has not signed the NPT, and there has been increasing international pressure for Israel to be more transparent about its nuclear arsenal.
Army Radio’s diplomatic correspondent said the reported offer could put Israel on a par with India, another NPT holdout which is openly nuclear-armed but in 2008 secured a U.S.-led deal granting it civilian nuclear imports.
During Tuesday’s meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama, the two leaders discussed the global challenge of nuclear proliferation and the need to strengthen the nonproliferation system.
They also discussed calls for a conference on a nuclear-free Middle East, which was peoposed during the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NTP) review conference in New York and which Netanyahu said he would not take part in because it intends to single out Israel.
Obama informed Netanyahu that, as a co-sponsor charged with enabling the proposed conference, the United States will insist that such a conference have a broad agenda to include regional security issues, verification and compliance and discussion of all types of weapons of mass destruction.
Obama emphasized the conference will only take place if all countries “feel confident that they can attend,” and said that efforts to single out Israel would make the prospects of such a conference unlikely.
The two leaders agreed to work together to oppose efforts to single out Israel at the IAEA General Conference in September.
Obama emphasized that the U.S. will continue 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.”
Dan Meridor, Netanyahu’s deputy prime minister in charge of nuclear affairs, said Obama’s endorsement was not new but that its public expression – two months after Washington supported Egypt’s proposal at a review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – was significant.
Obama’s statement “was without a doubt a special and significant text. It was important for us, and it was important for the region,” Meridor said.
Israel neither confirms nor denies having nuclear weapons under an “ambiguity” strategy billed as warding off foes while avoiding public provocations that can spark regional arms races.
The official reticence, and its toleration in Washington, has long aggrieved many Arabs and Iranians – especially given U.S.-led pressure on Tehran to rein in its nuclear program.