The elephants in the room:
Israel’s weapons of mass
Israel is not a party to the Chemical
Weapons Convention. It signed the
Convention in 1993 when it opened for signature, but it has never ratified it.
Now that Syria
has become a party to the Convention, Israel is one of only 6 states in
the world that are not. They are: Angola, Egypt,
Israel, Myanmar, North
Korea and South Sudan .
As a matter of fact, Israel
isn’t a party to any of the three “weapons of mass destruction” treaties, that
is, the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT)  and the
Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) , in addition to the
Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) – and it is the only state in the Middle East that isn’t a party to any of them.
Almost all states in the Middle East (including Iran) are party
to all three, the exceptions being:
What is more, Israel
is the only state in the world (apart from South Sudan,
which only came into existence in 2011) that isn’t a party to any of these
treaties. Since it also holds the world
record for being in breach of Security Council resolutions that require action
by it and it alone, unkind people might say that it deserves the title of a
Korea isn’t party to either the BWC or the
CWC. Having joined the NPT as a
‘non-nuclear-weapon’ state in 1985, it withdrew in 2003, but its withdrawal has
not been formally accepted and the UN still lists it as a party .)
Mainstream media carried very little
The mainstream media carried very little about this during
the controversy about Syria’s
chemical weapons, when one might have thought that Israel should have been asked to
explain why it was refusing to become a party to the CWC, while being
enthusiastic about its Syrian neighbour doing so. Could it be that it didn’t want to give up
its chemical weapons?
Fox News did run a story called Syria
deal shines light on suspected Israeli chemical weapons program on 16 September 2013 ,
in which a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Paul Hirschson, is
quoted as saying that “Israel
could not ratify the treaty in such an uncertain environment”. He continued:
things are regional and we're not going to go out there on our own”
That is close to an admission that
does possess chemical weapons – which will only be given up when all other
regional players have given up theirs. Syria has done
so. Presumably, the Israeli spokesman
in mind. Like Israel,
it is suspected of having chemical weapons (and of using them during its
intervention in the civil war in Yemen in the 1960s). Like Syria,
Egypt has linked its refusal
to join the CWC to Israel’s
possession of nuclear weapons and refusal to join the NPT.
(The Fox News article also quoted from former Israeli Defense Minister, and Labour
Party leader, Amir Peretz, on the issue.
He said the international community's attitude toward Israel is
"different" from Syria, because "it's clear to everyone that
Israel is a democratic, responsible regime” – that has invaded every one of its
neighbours, in its short life, and has occupied large tracts of territory not
its own for nearly half a century, and annexed East Jerusalem and a bit of
Syria, he might have added.)
Has Israel got chemical and biological
Nobody seriously doubts that Israel has an arsenal of nuclear
weapons, perhaps as many as 400 of them, though it refuses to confirm or deny
this. But does it also possess chemical
weapons? There are strong suspicions
that it does and that it has biological weapons as well. See, for example, Israel’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: An Overview (2008) by
Professor Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International
which was published in 2008.
Recently, on 9 September 2013, Foreign Policy magazine
published an article entitled Does Israel Have
Chemical Weapons Too? . This quoted from a 1983 CIA intelligence
estimate which said that Israel
had a “probable chemical weapon nerve agent production facility and a storage
facility... at the Dimona Sensitive Storage Area in the Negev Desert”.
"several indicators lead us to
believe that they have available to them at least persistent and nonpersistent
nerve agents, a mustard agent, and several riot-control agents, matched with
suitable delivery systems."
Of course, none of this constitutes conclusive proof that Israel had a
chemical arsenal in the 1980s let alone now.
Nor does conclusive proof exist that it possesses biological weapons. But, given its distinction as the only state
in the world (apart from South Sudan) that isn’t a party to any of the three
“weapons of mass destruction” treaties, one might expect a little more media
attention to the matter.
Monumental double standard
For more than two decades, Israeli political leaders have
claimed that Iran is
developing nuclear weapons and demanded that the world put a stop to it, otherwise
would have to take military action to do so.
As long ago as 1992, the present Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu,
predicted that Iran was 3 to 5 years from being able to produce a nuclear weapon
– and that the threat had to be "uprooted by an international front
headed by the US” .
While insisting that Iran
must not have nuclear weapons, Israel
has continued to enhance its own nuclear weapons systems. This is a double standard of monumental
proportions. But, in all this time, the
mainstream media have rarely drawn attention to the fact that Israel has a
nuclear arsenal, let alone challenged Israeli leaders to justify the application
of this double standard.
The two exceptions to the latter that I am aware of were both
on the BBC Today programme recently, the first on 14 June 2013 
(and that was down to Jack Straw) and the second on 26 September 2013. See my article The BBC spreads untruths about Iran’s nuclear activities 
for transcripts of these.
Mainstream journalists know that Israel
has nuclear weapons and it is clearly newsworthy that Israel is applying a monumental double standard
by demanding that Iran must
not acquire what Israel
itself already possesses in large numbers.
So why is the question rarely put?
Presumably, because mainstream journalists are simply too craven to put
it for fear of the consequences from their employer or from Israel itself.
Since it is Israeli policy neither to confirm nor to deny that
it has nuclear weapons, it is impossible for Israeli spokesmen to answer such a
question if it were put.
1969 Nixon/Meir deal
The same is true of US spokesmen, since it is also US policy neither to confirm nor deny that Israel
has nuclear weapons.
The US took
a vow of silence on this issue over 40 years ago: to be precise, on 26
September 1969, when President Nixon made a secret, unwritten, agreement with
Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir, in a one-to-one meeting in the Oval Office
in the White House. Since then, the phrase “Israel’s nuclear weapons” has rarely if ever
come out of the mouth of a US
Nixon/Meir deal, the US
agreed not to acknowledge publicly that Israel possessed nuclear weapons,
while knowing full well that it did. In
undertook to maintain a low profile about its nuclear weapons: there was to be
no acknowledgment of their existence, and no testing which would reveal their
existence. That way, the US
would not be forced to take a public position for or against Israel’s
possession of nuclear weapons.
(For the fascinating story of how this came to be US policy, see Israel crosses the threshold by Avner Cohen and William Burr, published
in the May-June 2006 issue of
the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists ).
US refuses to discuss Israel’s nuclear weapons
accordance with the Nixon/Meir deal, the US
has refused ever since to acknowledge that Israel possesses nuclear
weapons. This leads to the absurd
situation in which US
discussion of nuclear matters has to proceed without Israel’s nuclear weapons being
example, in his speech in Prague on 5 April
2009, when he announced “America's
commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” ,
nuclear arsenal was off limits. This led
to an amusing exchange at a press briefing onboard Air Force One en route to Prague between a
journalist and a White House briefer, Denis McDonough (now Obama’s Chief of
Staff). The dialogue included the following
Have you included Israel
in the discussion [about a world without nuclear weapons]?
McDONOUGH: Pardon me?
Have you included Israel
in the discussion?
McDONOUGH: Look, I think what you'll see tomorrow is a very comprehensive
It is rare
for journalists to ask the US
administration awkward questions about Israel’s nuclear arsenal. However, at the President’s press conference on 13 April 2010 after the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, Scott Wilson of the Washington
“You have spoken often about the need to bring
US policy in line with its treaty
obligations internationally to eliminate the perception of hypocrisy that some
of the world sees toward the United
States and its allies. In that spirit
and in that venue, will you call on Israel to declare its nuclear
program and sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty? And if not, why wouldn’t
other countries see that as an incentive not to sign on to the treaty that you
say is important to strengthen?” 
as far as Israel
goes, I’m not going to comment on their program.”
Nixon/Meir deal in action 40 years after it was done.
Israel stood outside the international
Iran was one of the original signatories
to the NPT on 1 July 1968 as a ‘non-nuclear-weapon’ state, forbidden under
Article II of the Treaty to acquire nuclear weapons. After the Islamic revolution in 1979, when
the Islamic Republic reviewed all its international treaty commitments, the new
rulers continued its adherence to the Treaty.
Over the past 20 years, there has been a continuous stream
of accusations from Israel,
the US and others that Iran was engaged
in nuclear weapons development, contrary to its NPT commitments, but there has
been little in the way of hard evidence to that effect. Even its detractors agree that it hasn’t got
any nuclear weapons today, let alone an operational nuclear weapons system.
In their book,
Going to Tehran: Why the US must come to
terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran
published earlier this year, Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett (who both served
on the US National Security Council in the first Bush administration until 2003)
put it this way:
Israeli and other Western intelligence services have claimed since the early
1990s that Iran is three to
five years away from acquiring nuclear weapons; at times, Israel has offered
more alarmist figures. But twenty years
into this resetting forecast, no Western agency has come remotely close to
producing hard evidence that Iran
is trying to fabricate weapons. In
Russia, which has its own extensive intelligence and nuclear weapons
communities and close contacts with the Iranian nuclear program, high-level
officials say publicly that Iran is not seeking to build nuclear weapons – a
judgment echoed privately by Russian officials knowledgeable about both nuclear
weapons and Iran’s nuclear programme. Mohamed ElBaradei, who served as director
general of the IAEA from 1997 to 2009 … has said on multiple occasions that
there is no evidence that Iran
is trying to build nuclear weapons.” p81-2
for more than 40 years, Israel
has stood outside the international non-proliferation regime, refusing to join
the NPT so that it could be free to develop nuclear
weapons. Today, it has the ability to
deliver them by aircraft, ballistic missile and submarine-launched cruise
submarines supplied at knockdown prices by Germany ). It is in a position to wipe off the map every
capital in the Middle East (and probably much
further afield). It is guilty of
nuclear proliferation on a grand scale.
introduced nuclear weapons into the Middle East. Without this, the Middle
East would be a nuclear weapons free zone today.
Yet, it is Iran that has been treated as a pariah state and
subjected to fierce economic sanctions by the US/EU and their allies, while Israel is
showered with largesse by the US/EU. It receives
over $3bn a year in military
aid from the US,
more than any other state in the world, even though its GDP per capita is on a
par with that of the EU. And, since
2000, it has enjoyed privileged access to the EU market for its exports. Not only that, Germany has subsidised the enhancement of Israel nuclear
weapons systems by supplying it with submarines.
Iran and other Israeli neighbours can withdraw from NPT
made the wrong choice in 1968 by signing the NPT. Had it taken the same route as Israel and
refused to sign, it would have been free to engage in any nuclear activities it
liked in secret, including activities for military purposes, without breaking
any obligations under the NPT.
In fact, given Israel has acquired a nuclear arsenal since
Iran signed the NPT in 1968, under Article IX of the NPT, Iran would be well
within its rights to withdraw from the Treaty and remove the constraints upon
it due to NPT membership (and so would every one of Israel’s neighbours). Article IX says:
Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to
withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events, related to
the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of
its country. It shall give notice of such withdrawal to all other Parties to
the Treaty and to the United Nations Security Council three months in advance.
Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events it regards as
having jeopardized its supreme interests.” 
objective standard, Iran
(and other neighbours of Israel)
has good grounds for withdrawing, because of the build up over the past 40
years of an Israeli nuclear arsenal directed at them. There could hardly
be a better example of “extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of
this Treaty”, which “have jeopardized [their] supreme interests”.
to Germany, Israel has
second strike capability
A further point: the impression is often given, not least by
the Israeli leadership, that Iran’s
possession of even one nuclear weapon would put Israel’s
existence as a state in jeopardy. But,
once account is taken of Israel’s possession of a nuclear arsenal,
this proposition loses its force, especially since, thanks to German generosity
with submarines, it is impossible for any aggressor to destroy Israel’s nuclear
weapons systems in a first strike. Thanks
to Germany, Israel has
second strike capability
The plain fact is that if Iran
were ever foolish enough to make a nuclear strike on Israel,
it is absolutely certain that Israel
would retaliate in kind and overwhelmingly and, as a result, many Iranian
cities would be razed to the ground. The rulers of Iran know that to be the case and
are not suicidal.
The Israeli leadership is well aware of this. In February 2010, when he was
Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barack said:
don’t think the Iranians, even if they got the bomb, [would] drop it in the
neighbourhood. They fully understand
what might follow. They are radical but
not totally crazy. They have a quite
sophisticated decision making process, and they understand reality.” 
What he is
saying - obliquely, since he doesn’t want to state openly that Israel possesses nuclear weapons – is that Iran would not make a nuclear strike against Israel if it
had the capacity to do so, because its leadership is fully aware of the awful
signatories agree to Middle East WMD free zone
The 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference (attended by
all parties to the NPT and therefore excluding Israel) passed a resolution
calling for the creation of WMD free zone in the Middle East - to be precise, “an
effectively verifiable Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction,
nuclear, chemical and biological, and their delivery systems” .
It also called for all states in the region to accede to the NPT as soon
as possible. This resolution was co-sponsored
by the US, UK and Russia.
Nuclear weapons free zones have come into existence in other
areas of the world since the late 60s (for example, in Latin America & the
Caribbean and in Africa), where states in the
area have agreed to ban the use, development, or deployment of nuclear weapons.
of a nuclear-weapon-free
zone in the Middle East had been the subject of resolutions in international
fora since the mid 70s, when evidence began to emerge that Israel was
developing nuclear weapons. In December
1974, for example, the UN General Assembly passed resolution 3263 (XXIX) ,
proposed by Iran and Egypt,
calling for the establishment of such a zone and for all states in the
region to adhere to the NPT. The
resolution was adopted almost unanimously, with only Israel
Security Council Resolution 687, the resolution passed at
the end of the Gulf War in April 1991, which demanded the destruction of Iraq's “weapons of mass destruction”, also
called on UN member states “to work towards the establishment in the Middle East of a zone free of such weapons.” .
NPT signatories agree to conference on Middle East WMD free zone
The 1995 NPT resolution calling for a WMD free zone in the Middle East was reaffirmed at the next NPT Review
Conference in 2000. However, needless to
say, there was no progress whatsoever on its implementation.
In December 2003, when Syria
was a member of the Security Council, it introduced a resolution reiterating
the clause from the Iraq
disarmament resolution calling for a WMD free zone in the Middle East, but the US threatened
to veto it and it was never voted on .
The 2005 NPT Review Conference failed to agree a final
consensus declaration, a sticking point being the lack of progress on
implementing the 1995 resolution. The US had refused to put its name to any text which
involved taking additional measures to induce Israel to give up its nuclear
weapons and accede to the NPT.
The Obama administration was anxious to avoid a similar
outcome at the 2010 NPT Review Conference.
This time, a coalition of the 118 states in the Non-Aligned
Movement, led by Egypt, lobbied strongly for progress on
this (and other) issues. In order to
achieve a final consensus declaration, the US had to agree to “a
process leading to full implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle
East”, to quote from the conference final document  (p30).
in a resolution on the Middle East, the
Conference agreed that
Secretary-General of the United Nations and the co-sponsors of the 1995
Resolution [the US, UK and Russia], in consultation with the States of the
region, will convene a conference in 2012, to be attended by all States of the
Middle East, on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons
and all other weapons of mass destruction, on the basis of arrangements freely
arrived at by the States of the region, and with the full support and
engagement of the nuclear-weapon States. The 2012 Conference shall take as its
terms of reference the 1995 Resolution;”
resolution also specifically stated that Israel should accede to the NPT as
a “non-nuclear weapon” state (ie that it should give up its nuclear weapons)
and place all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards
(p29/30). Iran’s nuclear activities weren’t
mentioned in the resolution. Surprisingly,
the US put its name to this,
since it effectively calls for Israel
to give up its nuclear weapons.
conference, which was supposed to be held in 2012, has yet to take place. At one point it was scheduled to be held in Finland in
December 2012, with Finnish
Undersecretary of State Jaakko Laajava as the facilitator. But, the US called it off at the last
moment, a statement issued by the State Department on 23 November 2012 saying:
“As a co-sponsor of the proposed
conference on a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction (MEWMDFZ),
envisioned in the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference Final
Document, the United States regrets to announce that the conference cannot be
convened because of present conditions in the Middle East and the fact that
states in the region have not reached agreement on acceptable conditions for a
At that time, one state in the Middle
East was refusing to attend. No marks for guessing that the odd man out was
At the time of writing (7 November 2013), the conference has
not been rescheduled.
US accords Israel veto over holding conference
It wasn’t a
surprise that the US called
the conference off because Israel
didn’t want to attend, because immediately after the US
had put its name to the consensus declaration on 28 May 2010, President Obama’s
National Security Advisor, General James Jones, stated that the US had
about the proposal for the conference . He went on:
“The United States has long supported
such a zone, although our view is that a comprehensive and durable peace in the
region and full compliance by all regional states with their arms control and
nonproliferation obligations are essential precursors for its establishment.”
So, as far as the US
is concerned, it is OK for Israel
to keep its nuclear weapons until there is a comprehensive peace settlement in
the Middle East
General Jones continued:
a co-sponsor charged with enabling this conference, the United States
will ensure that a conference will only take place if and when all countries
feel confident that they can attend. Because of [the] gratuitous way that Israel has been
singled out, the prospect for a conference in 2012 that involves all key states
in the region is now in doubt and will remain so until all are assured that it
can operate in a[n] unbiased and constructive way.”
So, within hours of the 189 signatories of the NPT,
including the US, agreeing
to the conference being held, the US
unilaterally accorded Israel
a veto over whether the conference would be held.
Lest there be any doubt about this, listen to this from
President Obama, meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu in Washington a couple of months later on 6
“The President emphasized that the
conference will only take place if all countries feel confident that they can
attend, and that any efforts to single out Israel will make the prospects of
convening such a conference unlikely.” 
Israel has to be singled out
Jones’ assertion that it is gratuitous to single out Israel
when talking about a WMD free zone in the Middle East
is beyond absurdity.
is the only state in the Middle East that
isn’t a party to any of the three WMD treaties.
Israel is the only
state in the Middle East that possesses nuclear weapons is Israel (and
they are the only weapons which merit the name “weapons mass destruction”).
and Syria (and Israel) may possess other forms, but it
generally believed that their pursuit of them was driven by Israel’s possession
of nuclear weapons. The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI)
organisation says of Egypt:
“Cairo continues to lead efforts to establish a Weapons of Mass
Destruction Free Zone (WMDFZ) in the Middle East and to criticize Israel's alleged nuclear weapons program,
linking its refusal to participate in further arms control agreements such as
the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to Israel's nonparticipation in the
And of Syria:
“The country's primary motivation
for pursuing unconventional weapons and ballistic missiles appears to be the
perceived Israeli threat, as Israel
has superior conventional military capabilities and is widely believed to
possess nuclear weapons.” 
So, unless Israel is singled out for WMD elimination, there
will never be a WMD free zone in the Middle East.
accords Israel veto over
creation of Middle East WMD free zone
is clear that the US is not
going to be singling out Israel
any time soon. When he met Prime Minister Netanyahu on 6 July
“The President told the Prime Minister he recognizes that Israel must always have the ability to defend
itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats, and
that only Israel
can determine its security needs.” 
In that, the Obama administration accepts that Israel has a right to nuclear
weapons for deterrence purposes – and the right to decide when, if ever, it no
longer needs nuclear weapons for deterrence purposes. That accords Israel a veto over the creation
over a WMD free zone in the Middle East – and over the achievement of “a world
without nuclear weapons”, which he embarked on rhetorically in Prague in April
If the US
were to apply that principle universally, then every state in the world would
have a right to nuclear weapons, if it believed that their possession was necessary
to deter aggression. However, it’s
likely that the US
will restrict the application of this principle to very special friends.
7 November 2013