Israeli Air Force missile batteries
Israeli Air Force missile batteriesIsrael News Photo: (file)

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller called on Israel Tuesday to join the universal nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The high-ranking American official spoke out at a two-week meeting of the 189 nations that have already signed the pact, according to the Reuters news agency.

Israel neither acknowledges nor denies having nuclear weapons, but experts estimate the Jewish State has between 75 and 200 nuclear warheads. In addition, Israel allegedly possesses the Jericho III ballistic missile system, believed to be capable of delivering a nuclear warhead at a distance of up to 7,000 kilometers.

“Universal adherence to the non-proliferation treaty itself, including by India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea … remains a fundamental objective of the United States,” Gottemoeller stated. Afterwards, she refused to answer questions from reporters who asked whether the U.S. would pressure Israel to join the treaty.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry source responded to the U.S. demands Wednesday morning, saying that joining the pact is not an effective solution to prevent nations from seeking nuclear weapons.

The source pointed out that Iraq, Libya, and Iran, who have all sought nuclear weapons, are partners to the treaty. 

Significantly, Gottemoeller did not mention Iran, whom both Israel and the U.S. believe is working toward developing a nuclear weapon. The Foreign Ministry was checking the accuracy of the statements attributed to Gottemoeller and said it would make an inquiry into the matter through official channels.

The Obama administration has taken a conciliatory approach to Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regime, preferring to focus its efforts on an open-ended diplomatic effort to persuade Iran to abandon its drive toward nuclear development despite the evidence that such a strategy is not effective. Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, has frequently reiterated his goal of wiping Israel "off the map," and Jerusalem has made it clear to the U.S. that it will not allow an existential threat to its survival to continue indefinitely.

Earlier in the week, Iranian deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali Hosseini criticized the U.S. for continuing to support Israel's nuclear program, in what many saw as an effort to divert attention away from his own country's nuclear ambitions.

North Korea pulled out of the treaty in 2003. India and Pakistan have never signed it. Recently, international leaders have become increasingly concerned that a nuclear weapon could fall into the hands of the Taliban, a Muslim extremist sect, due to the fragile nature of the Pakistani government.