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Opinion

If Israel can ignore the IAEA, why should anyone else listen?

Media reports on Monday suggested that this week’s annual conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will include a serious discussion of Israel’s presumed nuclear capabilities. One can only hope that this takes place, that the long-running grievances of Arab and other countries are finally given their just due. With accusations relating to weapons of mass destruction having been a large part of the US pretext for invading Iraq and Iran now facing heavy pressure over similar claims, the double standard involving the Jewish state ­ which has steadfastly refused to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) ­ has become too obvious to ignore any longer.

None of this has deterred the Israelis, though, from speaking out against the alleged ambitions of others. In fact, Israel has been at the forefront of countries demanding that the IAEA get tough with Iran. The Israelis are not at all embarrassed that Tehran is a signatory to the NPT and they are not; nor does it bother them that no one thinks the Islamic Republic has nuclear weapons, while the Jewish state is estimated by experts to possess something in the order of 200-300 warheads, not to mention a variety of air-, land- and sea-based delivery systems.

The unbridled hypocrisy of Israeli policy and rhetoric on this issue constitutes a major test for the IAEA, and indeed for two cornerstones of modern diplomacy: arms control and collective security. If the presumed violations of some countries are to be “punished” pre-emptively while those of others go unchecked, there is little point in cooperating with the co-opted organization that enforces its own regulations according to Washington’s whim. Israeli impunity relies on America for its sustenance, and the nuclear question is a case in point: US law is very clear in banning foreign aid to countries that either do not sign or fail to obey the NPT, but somehow more than $3 billion in illegal funds gets from Washington to Israel every year with nary a word of protest on Capitol Hill.

If America is unwilling to comply with its own laws when these do not suit Israel’s purposes, why should anyone trust it to undertake an accurate accounting of international security arrangements? And if the IAEA is unwilling to assert its independence in the face of pressure from Washington, why should any of its members bother to help maintain the pretense that signed agreements mean anything at all?


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