Editorial: Singled Out Again

For the latest in an endless series of examples of Israel being singled out in the international arena, let’s examine the recent Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference.

Every five years, the 189 NPT member nations meet to review the status of the treaty, which was signed in 1970 with the goal of stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. After meeting for most of May, the conference produced a final, 28-page declaration.

The word “Iran” does not appear once in the document, despite Tehran’s ongoing violations of the NPT. That’s right—the most serious threat to global non-proliferation gets a pass from the organization dedicated to non-proliferation. Syria, too, escapes any censure, even though Damascus is suspected, with good reason, of having a covert nuclear program.

That the country the NPT document does mention by name is Israel should not come as a surprise. After all, when 189 countries agree on anything—think of the U.N. General Assembly—it’s easy to predict how the Jewish state will fair: poorly.

Indeed, the declaration singles out Israel, calling on it to join the NPT and open its nuclear facilities to IAEA inspection. The document also calls on the United Nations to convene a conference in 2012 “on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction.”

While such a conference sounds innocuous on paper, in reality, it is a cause of great concern for Israel. Arab countries, led by Egypt, would use the conference to beat up on Israel over its longstanding policy of nuclear ambiguity. In short, the conference would be less about a safer Middle East and more about seizing another opportunity to criticize Israel in a new international venue.

Israel reacted harshly to the NPT document. “The real problem with weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East does not relate to Israel but to those countries that have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and brazenly violated it—Iraq under Saddam [Hussein], Libya, Syria and Iran,” the Israeli government said in a statement.

“That is why the resolution adopted by the NPT Review Conference not only fails to advance regional security but actually sets it back. As a non-signatory state of the NPT, Israel is not obligated by the decisions of this conference, which has no authority over Israel. Given the distorted nature of this resolution, Israel will not be able to take part in its implementation.”

So there you have it. This brings us to the role of the United States in all this. While the Obama administration “deplored” the fact that the NPT document singled out Israel, it nevertheless chose not to break the international consensus in approving the final document. The decision to support the consensus was a disappointing reversal of U.S. policy. As a result of that choice, little was done at the NPT conference to highlight the threat posed by Iran.

In the aftermath of the conference, the Obama administration has tried to distance itself from some of the provisions that it formally endorsed. Top U.S. officials have set conditions for the 2012 talks on a nuclear-free Middle East.

James Jones, President Obama’s national security adviser, emphasized Washington’s “serious reservations” about the conference and indicated that peace in the Middle East and universal adherence by all countries in the region to their arms control and nonproliferation obligations “are essential precursors” to such a gathering.

That’s one way of saying that the conference will never happen. Jones also said Washington would ensure that the conference would take place only “if and when all countries feel confident that they can attend.”

To build that confidence, the United States needs to do a lot more to counter the threat of Iran. With the NPT conference now over, the United States must quickly ensure that the U.N. Security Council implement and enforce its new sanctions resolution against Iran. At the same time, the United States needs to press the European Union to impose sanctions of its own against the Islamic Republic.

The events of the past couple of weeks—from the NPT consensus against Israel to the international condemnation of the Jewish state after its soldiers acted in self-defense aboard the Mavi Marmara—are a reminder that Israel is increasingly alone on the world stage.

We must urge U.S. leaders to continue to stand with Israel against those who wish it harm. If Israel’s adversaries sense that it is on its own, the situation in the region will only worsen.

Iran and Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt—all of them are watching to see how the United States is willing to defend its ally Israel in the months ahead. BACK TO TOP