The United Nations nuclear watchdog on Friday narrowly voted down an Arab League resolution to single out Israel for criticism over its alleged nuclear arsenal.
The bid, against which the US spoke out this week, reflects mounting frustration in the Arab world over the deferment of an international conference on the banning of atomic arms in the region, Reuters reported Friday.
The International Atomic Energy Agency rejected the initiative by a vote of 51 to 43 at its annual meeting in Vienna. 32 nations abstained.
Had the resolution been passed by the IAEA, Israel would have been called upon to sign on to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and submit to agency scrutiny of its nuclear facilities.
After the vote, Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin congratulated ministry employees and the Prime Minister’s Office, who worked incessantly in recent days to make sure the resolution would fail.
“I am glad that common sense prevailed and that the nations of the world rejected the proposal, which was designed to attack Israel, ” he said, adding, “The whole world must understand that the main task before the IAEA and the international community is to stop the Iranian nuclear program.”
Ambassador Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, who heads the Arab League group at the IAEA, was quoted as saying Friday that the vote would show the world that “Israel is not playing a constructive role.”
The Arab initiative was part of mounting international pressure on Israel to relinquish — or at least admit to possessing — weapons of mass destruction. The heightened interest in the Jewish state’s alleged nuclear, chemical and biological weapons comes amid indications from Iran that it’s ready to show flexibility in nuclear talks, and in the wake of a Russian-brokered deal that would see Syrian President Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons shipped off and eventually destroyed.
A similar version of the resolution was narrowly passed four years ago at the IAEA, but its implementation was postponed due to pressure from Western governments. In 2011 and 2012, Arab member states refrained from pushing the initiative fearing it would harm attempts to convene an international conference to rid the Middle East of WMDs.
On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Assad’s decision to amass chemical weapons was “in response to Israel’s nuclear capabilities” and that “Israel has technological superiority and doesn’t need nuclear weapons.”
According to a report in the September/October issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Israel possesses a stockpile of 80 nuclear warheads, all of which were produced by 2004, when Israel froze all production.
Israel’s nuclear program has long been shrouded in secrecy, with the country maintaining a policy of ambiguity while refusing to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Previous estimates have put the number of warheads in Israel’s possession at up to 400. According to foreign reports, Israel’s military has the capacity to deliver a nuclear payload via a variety of methods, including ballistic missiles, aircraft, and submarine-launched cruise missiles.