With Russian officials urging the IAEA to host a conference on a nuclear-free Middle East, Israel’s atomic energy chief Shaul Horev has rejected the idea as unrealistic and “futile.” Foreign Ministry officials declined to say if Israel would even participate if such a summit was held.
“Regrettably, the realities in the Middle East are far from being conducive,” said Horev, adding that the “concept of a region free of weapons of mass destruction” was not “applicable” to the Middle East. Israel is the only nation in the region with nuclear weapons.
The idea of a nuclear-free Middle East has been kicked around for years, but gained a major boost when the US endorsed the idea in 2010 at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) conference. Having endorsed the plan, it took less than 24 hours for the US State Department to express “deep regrets” over the signing, saying it was unfair. President Obama followed up by calling the signing a mistake and insisted Israel has a “right” to nuclear weapons.
Polls have consistently shown strong support among Israelis for a nuclear-free zone in the region, but the hawkish government in power in Israel has blasted every proposal to even discuss the subject, saying it “unfairly singles out” Israel by virtue of the fact that Israel is the only nation with a nuclear weapons program in the first place, as well as the only non-signatory to the NPT in the region.