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Thursday, September 30, 2010     GET YOUR INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Secret focus of Obama-Netanyahu talks: Israel's strategic ambiguity policy

TEL AVIV — Israeli sources said the administration of President Barack Obama has drafted an agreement for nuclear cooperation between Jerusalem and Washington. The sources said the secret accord would overcome the longtime U.S. nuclear ban on Israel, which has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.


"This has become a leading item on the strategic agenda between the two countries," an Israeli source said.

In June 2010, the United States alarmed Israel when Washington supported a resolution that urged the Jewish state to sign the NPT, Middle East Newsline reported. Obama later insisted that the vote did not represent a change in the U.S. position toward Israel, which has refused to confirm or deny its nuclear weapons program.

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"The Obama administration's acquiescence to Arab pressure, and its deviation from long-standing U.S. policy, was perceived by Israel as a threat to its security, and Israel demanded that the situation be rectified," the Middle East Media Research Institute said. "The administration complied."

The sources said the nuclear issue has become a leading item in talks between Netanyahu and Obama. They said Israel wants a commitment that Washington would halt any effort by Egypt and its allies to single out Israel during the Sept. 20 general conference of the IAEA.

Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute, said Obama has accepted Israel's policy of nuclear ambiguity. He said Obama promised Netanyahu that the United States would not betray Israel at the NPT conference.

"That so much of their time was taken up with nuclear policy matters — and that so much of this was made public — was a result of the utter shock felt within Israel's security establishment upon Washington's acquiescence to the NPT document," Satloff said.

Over the last year, the sources said, Jerusalem has sought to break the U.S. boycott of Israel's nuclear program. They said Israel has argued that Washington should end the boycott as it did with India, slated to receive U.S. nuclear technology and supplies despite its refusal to sign the NPT.

On Sept. 13, the United States urged Arab countries to withdraw a resolution that called on Israel to sign the NPT. Arab League members had been drafting the resolution for the assembly of the International Atomic Energy Agency, on Sept. 20.

"We need to send a positive impulse to that broader peace process, not a negative one," Glyn Davies, the U.S. envoy to the IAEA, said.

The sources said the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been studying a U.S. draft of the nuclear accord. They said the Obama administration has pledged to consider the supply of unspecified technology for any Israeli nuclear energy program under IAEA supervision.

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