Israel is looking to a US-India nuclear deal to expand its own ties to suppliers. It is also quietly lobbying for an exemption from non-proliferation rules so it can legally import atomic material, according to documents made available to AP.
The move is sure to raise concerns among Arab nations already considering their neighbour the region’s atomic arms threat. Israel has never publicly acknowledged having nuclear weapons, but is generally thought to possess them.
Exclusive terms: US undersecretary of state Nicholas Burns had said earlier this year that the agreement with New Delhi would not be a precedent for bringing in other countries on the same basis.
The new push is reflected in papers Israel presented earlier this year to the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG).
The initiative appeared to be linked to a US-India deal that would effectively waive the group’s rules by allowing the US to supply India with nuclear fuel despite its refusal both to sign the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect all of its nuclear facilities.
Israeli officials began examining how their country could profit from that deal as early as last year, at one point proposing that the US ask for an exemption from restrictions stipulating safeguards by the UN nuclear agency on all nuclear facilities, said a diplomat who did not want to be named. The US rejected that request.
Still, the documents made available on Tuesday say Israel has not given up its quest.
The two papers were circulated among the group on 19 March by Japan, whose mission to Vienna’s IAEA serves as the liaison office for the group.
In the paper proposing a list of criteria to be used by NSG countries for “nuclear collaboration with non-NPT States,” Israel inadvertently appeared to touch on the debate over its own status, saying one condition should be application of “stringent physical protection, control, and accountancy measures to all nuclear weapons ... in its territory.”
The other document—“Toward a criteria based approach for nuclear collaboration with non-NPT States”—meant to outline Israel’s commitment “to the global non-proliferation regime” urges “the international community at large, and NSG member states in particular”, to cooperate “with non-NPT states with strong non-proliferation credentials” in the “supply of (nuclear) know-how and equipment.”
The diplomat, who is familiar with the issue, said the Israeli papers were “acknowledged, but definitely not embraced” by the NSG countries.
Despite close US-Israeli ties, undersecretary of state Nicholas Burns appeared to rule out special treatment for the Jewish state, telling reporters earlier this year that NSG countries needed to know the deal with New Delhi “won’t be a precedent to bring other countries in under the same basis.”
The most recent tension over Israel’s nuclear capabilities surfaced at the IAEA’s 148-nation general conference. On its penultimate day, 20 September, only the US and Israel voted against a critical resolution implicitly aimed at the Jewish state for refusing to put its nuclear programme under international purview.