White House assures Israel on nuclear conference


WASHINGTON (JTA) — The United States will ensure that any text coming out of a conference reviewing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty meets Israel’s interests, the White House said.

Suggestions to the contrary are “offensive,” the White House said in an email sent to JTA on Thursday.

Israeli officials are concerned that the Americans will not stop a resolution being considered at the forum underway at United Nations headquarters in New York that would defer to the U.N. secretary-general the decision on when to convene a conference on making the Middle East a nuclear-free zone. As it stands now, the United States, Russia and Britain must agree before such a conference goes ahead.

The Obama administration has made good on a promise to Israel in 2010 that it would not allow such a conference to convene unless the conference met Israel’s terms.

Bernadette Meehan, the National Security Council spokeswoman, told JTA in the email that nothing was finalized at the conference, and that the United States was looking out for its own interests and for Israel’s.

“There is no final text on the Middle East conference, but we are working to ensure that it meets our interests and those of Israel,” she said in the email.

Spain, acting on the behest of Egypt, is promoting the resolution that would defer final say on the conference to the secretary-general.

Israel is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is not attending the review conference, which is in its final week.

Israel, which is believed to possess a nuclear arsenal, is concerned that a regional conference would expose its nuclear capacity. Israel has said it backs moves toward creating a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, but only once comprehensive peace is in place — terms that Arab countries reject, according to an analysis by the Arms Control Association.

Israeli officials have expressed concerns that the U.S. will allow the Spanish resolution to advance. The matter first came up Wednesday in a story in Bloomberg News, and Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, who is in Israel, said officials there have also raised the matter with him.

“They’re very disturbed, they’re very concerned and worried that the Americans will permit the Spanish resolution to be voted on,” he told JTA.

Meehan said the United States continues to work closely with Israel on the issue.

“Both the United States and Israel support the creation of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East,” she said, using the shorthand term for weapons of mass destruction.

“We are working closely with our Israeli partners to advance our mutual interests, including preserving the NPT,” Meehan said. “This Administration and this President do not break commitments to our Israeli partners, and any suggestion to the contrary is offensive.”

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