13th Aug 2020

Arab League wants EU to back monitoring of Israeli nukes

The Arab League has requested that the European Union back its resolution calling on Israel to submit to international monitoring of its alleged nuclear capability at next month's general assembly of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

According to a report in Ha'aretz, the centre-left Israeli daily, the secretary-general of the League of Arab States, Amr Moussa, sent a letter to Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt, whose country currently chairs the EU's six-month rotating presidency, urging the bloc to back the resolution, which would request that Israel join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and open itself up to inspection by IAEA personnel.

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  • Centrifuges used in uranium enrichment: The Arab League is concerned about Israel's alleged possession of nuclear weapons (Photo: Wikipedia)

Though Israel is widely assumed to be a nuclear power, with IAEA director-general Mohamed El Baradi categorising the country as such, Tel Aviv has never officially admitted to having nuclear weapons, preferring instead to maintain a policy known as "nuclear ambiguity."

Arab states perennially attempt to have similar resolutions passed at the global nuclear energy watchdog's 150-member general assembly, but have up to now not succeeded in winning over other delegations, including European representatives, to their point of view.

Meanwhile, since the 2003 discovery of nuclear activities undisclosed by the Iranian authorities to the IAEA, the European Union has been at the forefront of efforts to have Tehran suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities and heavy water-related projects.

In 2005, in June 2006, and again in May 2008, the EU presented proposals to the Iranian authorities that would offer Iran help in the development of a civil nuclear power programme in return for meeting international concerns about its peaceful nature.

The EU has not issued similar concerns about Israel's alleged nuclear weapons, but unlike Iran, Israel is not a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and is thus not bound by its reporting requirements.

In the wake of US president Barack Obama's stated desire to push forward with nuclear disarmament and frustration by even some of Israel's closest allies at its devastating assault on the Gaza Strip in January, the Arab League believes it may have a chance this time.

The Arab League's letter also comes at the same time that the White House is finalising plans for an international summit on nuclear disarmament.

The US is reportedly this month or in the autumn drafting the list of summit invitees. Deciding who to invite to top-level international pow-wows is always a task that is fraught with opportunities for giving diplomatic offence, but this summit is turning out to be even more sensitive than normal.

An invitation to Tel Aviv tacitly admits that Israel is a nuclear power, while excluding Israel from the list is unlikely to be effective in avoiding the issue, as other attendees are certain to raise it in any case.

The Arab League may also be emboldened regarding the potential for EU backing by recent strains in relations between Europe and its Middle Eastern neighbour.

The 27-country bloc remains divided over its stance towards Israel, with, on the one hand, countries such as Ireland and Belgium quietly horrified at the nature of the Gaza assault and on the other hand member states such as Italy, which shortly after the attack repeated its position that Israel should one day join the EU.

The EU suspended a scheduled "upgrade" in relations with the Jewish state as a result of the short war and has said it will continue to keep a foot on the brakes until Israel accepts a two-state solution to the conflict and ends the building of illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Anders Jorle, a spokesperson for the Swedish EU presidency, told EUobserver: "A response is in preparation [to Mr Moussa's letter], but what the answer will be is not yet known."

A spokesperson for the Israeli ambassador to the EU, said that there was as yet "no official comment" on the matter.

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