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Former IAEA Director-General
Israel

Israel Indicates Support for CTBT

Daryl G. Kimball

With entry into force of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) still awaiting ratification by eight key states, officials from one of those states, Israel, have recently signaled strong support for the treaty.

Following a visit to Israel by Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he considers the CTBT to be “very significant,” is “proud” to have signed the treaty in 1996, and “has never had a problem with the CTBT,” according to a March 19 report in The Times of Israel.

Zerbo, making his first visit to Israel since becoming executive secretary last year, held talks with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, and Shaul Chorev, head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission.

While attending an April 10-11 meeting of an experts group in Stockholm to discuss options for bringing the CTBT into force, Zerbo told Arms Control Today that his Israeli interlocutors were “very positive” about the treaty. He said he believes that “Israel could be the next” state among the eight key holdouts to ratify the treaty.

Zerbo reported on his visit to Israel during the meeting with the experts group. The CTBTO established the group last September to promote the objectives of the CTBT and help secure its entry into force. Its 18 members include current and former prime ministers, foreign ministers, defense ministers, and other senior diplomatic leaders.

“We have an action plan that helpfully is differentiated for the nature of the challenges of the eight countries which we will be principally focusing on. We all have a reinforced obligation to see that the de facto moratorium becomes a legally binding ban to outlaw these dreadful tests,” said group member and former UK defense secretary Des Browne in an April 11 interview following the Stockholm meeting. The group is scheduled to meet again this fall in Hungary.

Meanwhile, in an address on the CTBT delivered in Hiroshima, Japan, on April 15, Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said the CTBT is “a key part” of leading the nuclear-weapon states “toward a world of diminished reliance on nuclear weapons, reduced nuclear competition, and eventual nuclear disarmament.”

Regarding U.S. efforts on ratification, Gottemoeller noted that “it has been a long time since the CTBT was on the front pages of U.S. newspapers” and the Obama administration therefore “need[s] time to educate the public and Congress to build support for U.S. ratification.”

She said there is “no reason” that the other key states that have not ratified the treaty need to wait for U.S. action.

Also in Hiroshima, 12 countries called on the United States and other CTBT holdouts “to sign and ratify [the treaty] without delay.” The call was part of an April 12 joint statement issued at a ministerial meeting of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), a group consisting of Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. At their meeting, NPDI foreign ministers were joined by Gottemoeller and Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.

The NPDI statement urged North Korea “to refrain from further provocative actions including, among others, ballistic missile launch, nuclear test or the threat of the use of nuclear weapons.”

The North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced March 30 that North Korea “will not rule out a new form of nuclear test to bolster up its nuclear deterrence.”

In an interview at the Stockholm meeting, former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry said that, by banning nuclear tests, the CTBT was designed to limit nuclear competition. “We were lucky in the Cold War that that arms race did not result in nuclear catastrophe. We may not be so lucky the second time,” he warned.

Israel appears to be signaling that it is seriously considering ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Israeli Government Expresses Strong Support for CTBT

Following a mid-March visit to Israel by CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made clear that he considers the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to be of no use in the Middle East, the sources said, but by contrast Israel considers the CTBT to be “very significant,” is “proud” to have signed it, and “has never had a problem with the CTBT,” according to a report in The Times of Israel. Zerbo held talks with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, and the head of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission Shaul Chorev. Israel...

Week Ahead March 3-9: IAEA mtg; Pentagon Budget; Nuclear Security; Ukraine & the NPT

As the crisis in Ukraine continues to dominate global attention and the news headlines, several other arms control developments of significance in the coming week. For more news and analysis on these and other weapons-related security issues, consider subscribing to ACA's monthly journal Arms Control Today, which is available in print/digital and digital-only editions. The March issue of ACT will be available online later this week to all subscribers. - the Editors at Arms Control Today Week of March 3: IAEA Board of Governors Convenes The 35-member International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)...

IAEA Members Reject Israel Resolution

Kelsey Davenport

A resolution critical of Israel’s nuclear program, revived after a two-year hiatus, failed to pass the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month.

The nonbinding resolution, sponsored by a group of 18 Arab states, would have called on Israel to join the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear-weapon state and put all of its nuclear sites under comprehensive IAEA safeguards. The measure, referred to as “Israeli Nuclear Capabilities” on the IAEA agenda, failed by a vote of 43-51 on Sept. 20, the last day of the conference.

Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, an Egyptian official and head of the Arab League’s mission to the IAEA, told Reuters on Sept. 20 that the world needs to know about Israel’s nuclear capabilities and that its nuclear arsenal is “not playing a constructive role.”

Israel does not publicly admit to possessing nuclear weapons, but is widely believed to have an arsenal of approximately 80 warheads. Israel has not joined the NPT, but is a member of the IAEA, and its nuclear research activities are subject to IAEA monitoring and verification.

In a Sept. 18 statement at the conference, Shaul Chorev, head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, said that introducing the resolution “inflicts a serious blow to any attempt to embark on a regional security dialogue.” He called on states to “condemn the Arab initiative” and “decisively defeat this motion.”

The United States voted against the resolution. In a statement delivered after the vote, U.S. Ambassador to the IAEA Joseph Macmanus said that the United States regretted that the resolution had been brought to a vote or even discussed at the IAEA.

A diplomat who attended the conference told Arms Control Today on Sept. 26 that about 30 European countries also voted against the resolution, as did Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea.

China, Russia, and South Africa were among the countries that voted with the Arab League. More than 60 IAEA members abstained or were absent during the vote.

A similar resolution passed the IAEA conference for the first time in 2009, after being voted down for several years. An attempt the next year failed. The Arab states refrained from putting the measure on the agenda in 2011 and 2012, saying they hoped that Israel would be more likely to attend a regional meeting on establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East if it did not feel singled out for condemnation in the region.

As part of an accord that was crucial to reaching consensus on the final document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, the treaty parties agreed to hold a meeting on establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East by the end of 2012. The meeting was set for Helsinki last December, but the conveners, which included Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, announced that the conference would be postponed because some states from the region had not yet agreed to attend and because there were disagreements over the agenda for the meeting. (See ACT, December 2012.)

At the time of postponement, Israel was the only country not to have publicly committed to attending a meeting.

A June 12 memorandum and letter submitted by Oman’s ambassador to the IAEA, Badr bin Mohamed Al Hinai, on behalf of 18 Arab states and the Palestinian territories asked that the resolution be placed on the agenda of the IAEA conference. According to the memorandum, the “recent course of events” failed to meet the expectations of the Arab states, motivating them to pursue passage of the resolution.

In his Sept. 20 statement, Macmanus said that the United States would continue to work toward “constructive dialogue” on establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East and called on “all concerned states” to “engage directly and on the basis of consensus and mutual respect” to establish the zone.

At the International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference, member states voted down a resolution critical of Israel’s nuclear program.

 

Israel Tests New Ballistic Missile Target

Eric Auner

Israel on Sept. 3 conducted the first flight test of a new missile defense target designed to improve Israeli defenses against longer-range ballistic missiles. The unannounced launch of the target, designed to simulate medium-range ballistic missiles like those possessed by Iran, was detected by Russian radar and reported in Russian media.

Israel, which initially claimed that it was unaware of a missile launch over the Mediterranean Sea after it was reported in the Russian media, said the test of the Silver Sparrow ballistic missile defense target was long planned. The Israeli Ministry of Defense issued a statement on its Facebook page saying that the missile defense radar successfully detected and tracked the launch and transferred flight data to the battle management system.

The test comes as Israel is gearing up to field a new interceptor, the Arrow-3, to protect against longer-range ballistic missiles, mainly those fielded by Iran. The Arrow-3 has been flight-tested, but has not yet intercepted a target. Silver Sparrow would be the target used in a future Arrow-3 intercept test.

The U.S. Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency, which frequently collaborates with Israel on missile defense tests, provided “technical assistance and support” for the test, according to a Sept. 3 statement from Pentagon spokesman George Little.

A Russian early-warning radar outside Armavir in southern Russia detected the launch of two ballistic objects before the test had been officially announced, according to the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency. The news agency later reported that Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told journalists that Israel should not “play with fire” by conducting such tests.

The test had “nothing to do with United States consideration of military action” in Syria, Little said in the statement.

On Sept. 4, Antonov met with the U.S. and Israeli defense attachés to discuss the test, according to a Russian-language article posted by the Russian Ministry of Defense press office on its website.

The trajectory of the test was “oriented to the east,” and “under certain conditions,” a “prolonged trajectory” could reach Russian borders, the article said. According to the article, Antonov told the U.S. representative that the United States should have notified Russia of the launch under the terms of a 1988 U.S.-Russian agreement that requires each country to notify the other of its missile launches. The article cited Antonov as saying the Mediterranean is “not the most suitable region” for testing missile defenses.

The United States has moved several naval vessels to the eastern Mediterranean to prepare for a potential strike on Syria in response to the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons Aug. 21. This deployment included guided missile destroyers capable of firing anti-missile interceptors. Russia has long opposed the deployment of U.S. land- and sea-based missile defenses in the region.

The Sept. 3 test is the latest step in Israel’s ambitious plans to deploy layered defenses against ballistic and cruise missiles of various ranges, as well as short-range rockets. Israeli missile defense efforts began in response to attacks by Iraqi conventionally armed ballistic missiles during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Israeli air and missile defense efforts have taken on a new urgency with the proliferation of short-range rockets in the region, especially the rocket arsenals of Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as the growth in Iranian ballistic missile and nuclear capabilities.

Israel has invested considerable effort and resources in developing and fielding systems to counter rocket and missile threats from surrounding states and militant groups, with significant U.S. technical and financial support.

Israel possesses three systems designed to intercept ballistic missiles.

The Arrow-2 has been in service for the longest period of time and is designed to intercept ballistic missiles within the atmosphere using a high-explosive warhead. The hit-to-kill Arrow-3 interceptor has a longer range and underwent its initial flight test in February. Hit-to-kill interceptors carry no explosive and rely purely on kinetic energy to destroy an incoming warhead.

Another system, called David’s Sling, is a hit-to-kill system intended to intercept shorter-range ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as heavy rockets. Israel completed a successful intercept test of the David’s Sling system for the first time in January.

Israel’s Iron Dome system, which defends against short-range rockets rather than ballistic missiles, is part of the layered Israeli approach to air and missile defense. With the exception of Iron Dome, these systems have not been tested in combat.

The United States has appropriated between $200 million and $500 million each year since fiscal year 2010 to fund the Israeli systems, with the majority of the funds assisting Israel in producing additional Iron Dome batteries and interceptors.

The three targets in the Sparrow series, produced by the Israeli government-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., are designed to simulate Scud-series or Shahab-series ballistic missiles, which Syria and Iran, respectively, possess. Sparrow targets are launched from aircraft and can mimic the maneuvers of a ballistic missile during part of their flight.

Israeli missile defense systems may be used if Israel is involved in a conflict with Syria, which possesses a large arsenal of ballistic missiles and rockets. The government of Syria already has used these weapons, including rockets armed with chemical weapons, against rebel groups and civilians within the country, according to the U.S. government and others.

Israel on Sept. 3 conducted the first flight test of a new missile defense target designed to improve Israeli defenses against longer-range ballistic missiles.

Despite Israeli Doubts, Serious Diplomacy Is the Best Option for Iran

By Kelsey Davenport Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the UN General Assembly on October 1, 2013. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly today that Israel will "stand alone" in order to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is good that Prime Minister Netanyahu is prepared for that, because alone is where Israel is right now when it comes to policy on Iran's nuclear program. Prime Minister Netanyahu seems to have missed the readout on the positive progress made last week on the negotiations between six world powers, or the P5+1, and...

The Week Ahead Sept. 14-20: Syria UN Report; Planning for International Control; Arab-Israeli Nuclear Politics

This bulletin highlights significant events in the world of arms control in the coming week, as compiled by staff and friends of the Arms Control Association. (Send your suggestions here .) - Jefferson Morley, Senior Editorial Consultant, Arms Control Today UN Report on Syria's Chemical Weapons Due on Monday The U.N. chemical weapons inspectors are expected to deliver their report on a suspected Aug. 21 nerve agent attack in the suburbs of Damascus to Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Monday or sooner, according to Foreign Policy magazine, and other news organizations. The report is expected...

Israel Back on Agenda of IAEA Conference

Kelsey Davenport

Eighteen Arab countries have requested space on the agenda for discussion of a resolution on Israel’s nuclear capabilities at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference in September.

An item on Israel’s nuclear capabilities has been on the annual conference’s agenda since 1987, but 2009 was the only year in which the member states approved a resolution on the topic.

In 2011 and 2012, the Arab states refrained from submitting a resolution on Israel’s nuclear program, a move they said they made to encourage Israeli participation in the process of creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East.

A June 12 memorandum submitted by Oman’s ambassador to the IAEA, Badr bin Mohamed Al Hinai, said that Israel “continues to defy the international community” by refusing to join the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). This refusal threatens peace and exposes the region to “nuclear risks,” the memorandum said. Al Hinai submitted the memorandum and an accompanying letter on behalf of the Arab Group, which is made up of 18 Arab states and the Palestinian territories.

Ehud Azoulay, Israel’s ambassador to the IAEA, told Reuters on July 9 that the Arab states “are taking a counterproductive route by raising this issue…and trying to bash Israel.”

Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, despite the government’s insistence that it will not be the first country to introduce such weapons into the region.

According to the memorandum, the “recent course of events” failed to meet the expectations of the Arab states, motivating them to put the resolution on Israel’s nuclear program back on the agenda for the IAEA conference.

A meeting was scheduled to be held in December 2012 on creating the WMD-free zone in the region, but was postponed.(See ACT, December 2012.)

Eighteen Arab countries have requested space on the agenda for discussion of a resolution on Israel’s nuclear capabilities at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference in September.

How did the Candidates Differ on Iran?

By Greg Thielmann Last night's presidential debate tended to blur some of the fundamental differences that had emerged during the campaign in the candidates' approaches to the Iran nuclear issue, and probably left most viewers more confused about the Iranian imbroglio than ever. "Red Lines" Governor Romney's campaign website recently shifted his red line for taking military action against Iran. He had previously said Iran could not be allowed to possess nuclear weapons, as had President Obama. But two weeks ago, Romney added that he would also not allow Iran to have a "nuclear weapons...

Israel Raises Doubts About WMD Meeting

Daniel Horner

The head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission last month offered a bleak assessment of the prospects for holding a long-planned conference on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East, citing the “somber realities” in the region.

The Sept. 19 statement by Shaul Chorev to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference in Vienna was seen by some observers as indicating an increasing likelihood that Israel would not attend the meeting on establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. The conference is supposed to take place this year.

The commitment to hold the 2012 conference was a critical piece of the negotiations that produced the final document of the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. (See ACT, June 2010.) In that document, the parties reaffirmed their commitment to “a full implementation” of the resolution on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East that, in turn, was central to the agreement at the 1995 review conference to make the NPT permanent.

The participation of Iran and Israel is considered crucial to the planned conference. Iran is an NPT party, but is suspected of using its nuclear program to pursue a weapons capability. Israel is not a party to the treaty and has an undeclared nuclear weapons program.

In his remarks, Chorev said one of the Middle East’s long-standing features has been “the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction by despotic regimes, in violation of [all] legally binding international commitments and obligations.”

A WMD-free zone has not been established anywhere in the world, “even in the most peaceful regions,” he said. As he noted, there are nuclear-weapon-free zones, but he said one of the lessons of the world’s experience from those areas is that the process for creating a zone “can only be launched when peaceful relations exist for a reasonable period of time in the region, and the neighboring states have established sufficient confidence among themselves.” Also, he said, the impetus for creation of a zone must come from within the region and “cannot be imposed from outside.”

Chorev argued that “any initiative to promote the 2012 conference on the Middle East under the banner of the NPT review conference, or the General Conference of the IAEA in complete disregard to the present regional, somber realities, is futile.”

After Chorev made his remarks, there were conflicting reports of the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s response to questions about the country’s official position on whether it would attend the conference. In a Sept. 24 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a spokesman at the Israeli embassy in Washington said, “The only position that has been stated is the [one in Chorev’s] speech.”

In an interview the same day, a former Israeli diplomat said he interpreted the speech as stopping just “short of spelling out ‘no.’”

Advocates of the conference have said on several occasions that no potential participant has said “no” to attending. A member of the team that is organizing the conference used that formulation at a meeting in early September.

The head of that team, Finnish diplomat Jaakko Laajava, said in June that there has been “substantial progress” on organizing the conference but that “further and intensified efforts are needed.” (See ACT, June 2012.)

The head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission last month offered a bleak assessment of the prospects for holding a long-planned conference on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East, citing the “somber realities” in the region.

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