VIENNA (AP) — After a two-year hiatus, Arab nations are relaunching efforts to single out Israel for criticism at a major international conference by preparing a resolution over the country’s alleged nuclear arsenal, suggesting that the Jewish state’s refusal to acknowledge it has such arms is threatening Middle East peace.
The Arab push was a mainstay of recent annual meetings of the 159-nation International Atomic Energy Agency, where it was usually narrowly voted down by Israel’s allies. It was suspended in 2011 and 2012, in what Arab nations viewed as a concession to keep hopes alive of high-profile talks on banning weapons of mass destruction from the Mideast.
That attempt, co-sponsored by the United States, Russia and Britain, was called off late last year. While Syria’s civil war, nuclear tensions with Iran and other Middle East frictions were cited as the official motive for the cancellation, diplomats then acknowledged that the real reason was the failure to bridge Arab-Israeli differences.
Israel has long said that a full Palestinian-Israeli peace plan must precede any creation of a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction. The Israelis refuse to confirm or deny whether they have nuclear weapons. They also describe Iran and its alleged work on nuclear weapons as the real regional menace.
Iran denies wanting such arms, while it and the region’s other Muslim nations assert that Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal presents the greatest threat to peace in the neighborhood. They insist that Israel should declare such weapons and join the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as part of any peace talks.
The renewed Arab push is reflected in a draft resolution seen by The Associated Press on Monday and endorsed by all 18 Arab members of the IAEA.
An official from one of the Arab delegations confirmed that the supporting nations even include Syria, where President Bashar Assad’s government is at odds with some of its Arab neighbors — such as Saudi Arabia — over its war with rebels trying to topple him.
The Arab move underscores the failure of attempts from the outside to persuade the Israelis and the Palestinians to compromise and — if submitted for a vote at the September conference — will exacerbate international divisions on the issue.
The resolution “expresses concern about the Israeli nuclear capabilities, and calls upon Israel to accede to the NPT and place all of its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA” purview.
The Arab official said the document was formally submitted to IAEA chief Yukiya Amano late Monday for inclusion on the conference agenda. An explanatory note from the Arab group accompanying it and seen by the AP said the resolution was timely because “Israel alone possesses nuclear capabilities, which are undeclared and not subject to international control thus constituting a permanent threat to peace and security in the region.”
The official said the Arabs blamed “the attitude of the United States and Israel” for the failure of the planned Mideast meeting and said Arab nations decided to resume direct criticism of Israel at the September meeting in Vienna as a result.
He demanded anonymity, saying he was not authorized to discuss the resolution and related matters because the document remains confidential until it is formally published by the IAEA as an agenda item.