U.S. not pushing Israel
on non-proliferation

Thursday, December 11, 2003< /FONT>

The Bush administration has avoided pressing Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or related accords.

A report by the Washington-based Arms Control Association asserted that the administration has done little more than mouth rhetoric for countries to sign the NPT and related agreements. The report said that neither President George Bush nor senior aides have pressed Israel to sign the NPT or the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, which would place a cap on the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for weapons.

"Since taking office," the report said, "the current administration has not raised disarmament issues with Israel, contenting itself with continuing the practice of previous administrations of periodically tipping its hat to the importance of the universality of the NPT as a long-term goal but deferring any efforts to pressure Israel on this issue until a broader, lasting peace in the Middle East is achieved."

[On Wednesday, an Indian daily reported that Israel has agreed to cooperate with New Dehli in the development of nuclear-powered submarines, Middle East Newsline reported. The Hindu daily reported that India, which has sought to produce a nuclear submarine since 1985, could replace Russia as the main partner in such a project.]

The report, entitled, "Israel, India, and Pakistan: Engaging the Non-NPT States in the Nonproliferation Regime," said the administration has decided to focus on efforts toward Israeli-Palestinian peace rather than a nuclear-free Middle East. The administration has embraced the view by Israel that peace in the Middle East is a precondition for eliminating nuclear weapons.

"Indeed, the United States is seeking to forge an international consensus on the need to pressure Iran to curtail its weapons-related nuclear activities, while Israel bolsters its ability to deal with the possible failure of such efforts by investing in missile defense and, reportedly, a second-strike nuclear deterrent," the report, authored by Marvin Miller and Lawrence Scheinman, said.

Miller is a research affiliate at the MIT Center for International Studies. Scheinman served as assistant director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency for Non-Proliferation and Regional Arms Control in the Clinton administration and was a member of the Secretary of State's Advisory Board on Arms Control and Nonproliferation from 1998 until 2001.

The report said the administration has acknowledged that India and Pakistan which have tested atomic bombs have nuclear weapons. But the White House has never acknowledged Israel's nuclear weapons program, which the report termed as more advanced than either that of Islamabad or New Dehli.

The United States, the report said, must consider pressing Israel to sign the NPT and other nuclear non-proliferation treaties if Iran signs the Additional Protocol of the NPT. The report said this could resolve what it termed a significant sorepoint in the troubled relations between United States and the Muslim world, which has accused Washington of adopting a nuclear double standard that favors Israel.

"For now, however, it is more important to focus on reducing political tensions in the Middle East and engage Israel more fully in the nonproliferation regime rather than in a divisive debate about the ambiguity surrounding its nuclear status," the report said. "No state, even the United States, has unlimited political capital, and efforts should be focused where there is a chance that some progress might be made."

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