Netanyahu Won’t Participate in Obama’s Nuclear Summit

According to media reports, the Israeli leader fears massive criticism of Israel’s nuclear program. That’s why he’s sending a representative to the Summit on Nuclear Security in Washington instead of attending himself.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has turned down an invitation to take part in an international summit on nuclear security to be held in Washington next week. No official reason was given for his decision. Israeli media, however, report that he fears massive criticism of Israel’s nuclear program. In his place, he is sending Dan Meridor, who serves as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy. Israel is considered a nuclear state, although it has never officially confirmed that it possesses nuclear weapons.

Citing government sources, the Israel daily newspaper, Haaretz, reported on Friday that it expects a group of Muslim countries led by Egypt and Turkey to pressure Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The newspaper quoted an anonymous government official who said he was “disappointed with developments” prior to the conference. “The nuclear security summit is supposed to be about dealing with the danger of nuclear terror,” the official said. He then added, “But, that said, in the last few days we have received reports about the intention of several participant states to depart from the issue of combating terrorism and instead misuse the event to goad Israel over the NPT.”

White House National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said, “Israel is a close ally and we look forward to continuing to work closely on issues related to nuclear security.” Hammer added, “This is a summit focused on addressing the security of nuclear materials and geared toward having the participants take practical measures to ensure that terrorists cannot get access to those materials.”

President Obama invited representatives from 43 nations to the summit. The goal is to get nations to agree to take measures to ensure the security of dangerous nuclear materials used in military and research facilities, as well as in medicine, so they do not fall into the hands of terrorists. The two-day summit begins next Monday. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which prohibits the spread of nuclear weapons, has been signed by nearly 190 countries; only the nuclear states Israel, India, North Korea and Pakistan are not signatories.

This past Thursday, the United States and Russia ushered in a new era of bilateral relations with the conclusion of a comprehensive arms reduction treaty. Obama and his Russian counterpart, Dmitri Medvedev, signed the Start-I treaty in Prague, which codifies further reductions in their nuclear arsenals.

Relations between Israel and the United States have significantly cooled recently because of disagreements over Israel’s continued expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem. In mid-March, Netanyahu met with Obama in Washington. The two leaders neither shook hands for the cameras, nor did the meeting result in a joint final declaration. Observers in Israel said President Obama “humiliated” their head of government.

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