The Arab states, led by Egypt, plan to refrain this year from seeking a vote on a resolution regarding the oversight of Israel’s nuclear facilities during the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) general conference next month, Haaretz reported Thursday, citing a cable sent to several Israeli embassies abroad.
Three Israeli diplomats who are privy to the content of the classified telegram, sent by Tamar Rahamimoff-Honig, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Arms Control Department, said it stated that the Arab League member states had made the decision not to demand a vote on a resolution regarding Israel’s nuclear program.
The Israeli diplomats noted the telegram warned the Arabs’ decision could change on short notice, so the envoys had to be prepared to counter such a resolution, like every year.
In the telegram, the ambassadors were asked to convey to their interlocutors in the countries where they serve that Israel is pleased with the Arab states’ decision not to seek a vote on such a resolution, but to stress that if a vote does take place, Israel would like that country’s envoy vote against it. Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission also fears that the Arab states will try to start a debate on the safety of Israel’s nuclear facilities — not on the production of weapons of mass destruction — during the conference, on the assumption that there is an international consensus on the issue of nuclear safety.
In previous years, the Arab states would annually attempt to pass a resolution at the IAEA meeting that would force Israel to join the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
Arab member states have accused Western countries of double standards on the nuclear issue by not putting Israel's activities under IAEA supervision, while forcing Iran to honor its obligations under the NPT.
The resolution has been rejected every time so far. Two years ago, for example, a similar measure by 18 Arab member states was rejected by 58 votes to 45, with 27 countries abstaining.
The measure was similarly defeated in 2013 by 51 votes against and 43 in favor with 32 abstentions.
On June 24, according to the Haaretz report, the Moroccan ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Mohammadi, who serves as the current chairman of the Arab group, sent a letter to IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano asking to include “Israel’s nuclear capabilities” on the agenda of the general conference, but there was no request for a vote to be called on a resolution on the issue. Israeli and Western diplomats dealing with the matter said the Moroccan ambassador and the envoys of other Arab states made it clear to IAEA officials and American representatives that in contrast to previous years, they have no plan to advance a resolution on the subject.
Israel’s ambassador to the IAEA, Merav Zafary-Odiz, sent Amano a letter on July 26, in which she welcomed the Arab states’ decision. However, she noted that the fact that the Arab states want the issue of Israel’s nuclear program on the agenda shows they are still trying to politicize the IAEA’s debates and single out Israel.
“Israel welcomes the decision of the Arab League to refrain, this year, from submitting a draft resolution under this agenda item,” Zafary-Odiz wrote, according to Haaretz. “Israel views this decision as a positive step, and remains hopeful that it will mark the path forward for a future meaningful regional dialogue. Unfortunately, the Arab Group’s letter is a clear deviation from this path. Our neighbors’ insistence on Israel’s joining the NPT not only ignores the repeated pursuit of nuclear weapons by Middle Eastern members of the Treaty, but also masks their refusal to engage sincerely with Israel.”
Senior Israeli diplomats noted that the Arab states’ decision was most exceptional, and Israeli and Western diplomats dealing with the matter believe that there are two reasons for the decision not to advance a resolution on Israel’s nuclear weapons. The first is the fact that the Arab states have failed to gain a majority for the resolutions in recent years. “They simply understand that they’ll lose and they don’t want to be humiliated again,” said an Israeli diplomat.
The second reason, they said, is the dramatic warming of relations between Israel and Egypt, which has always been the country spearheading this issue. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry was responsible for dealing with this subject, and that ministry is now headed by Sameh Shoukry, who visited Israel recently.
“Apparently Shoukry understands that advancing this move against Israel’s nukes is illogical, doesn’t serve Egyptian interests and will undermine other issues it is trying to advance with Israel,” a Western diplomat said.