It looks like Israel is heading towards an earlier than expected general election, in which with any luck the detestable ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu will get the old heave-ho. But I won’t hold my breath. What is more predictable will be more attacks on Gaza, and indeed more attacks on pro-Palestinian politicians abroad in order to refresh the line that Israel can only stand against its enemies with Bibi in charge.
El Trumpo has just renewed a George H. W. Bush-era declaration of national emergency (because of the threat of WMD). A national emergency that’s lasted 28 years? They need to get a grip. With 600 dead or missing people in California’s wildfires, one wonders what Trumpo will do to tackle the clear and present danger of the new WMD – climate change? Apart from pouring more petrol on the fire, that is.
The newly renewed declaration of national emergency empowers the U.S. to control exports which may assist other countries acquiring WMD, and authorises sanctions where appropriate. Here’s a taste of it:
Sec. 3. Department of Commerce Controls.
(a) The Secretary of Commerce shall prohibit the export of any goods, technology, or services subject to the Secretary’s export jurisdiction that the Secretary of Commerce determines, in consultation with the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and other appropriate officials, would assist a foreign country in acquiring the capability to develop, produce, stockpile, deliver, or use weapons of mass destruction or their means of delivery. The Secretary of State shall pursue early negotiations with foreign governments to adopt effective measures comparable to those imposed under this section.
(b) Subsection (a) of this section will not apply to exports relating to a particular category of weapons of mass destruction (i.e., nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons) if their destination is a country with whose government the United States has entered into a bilateral or multilateral arrangement for the control of that category of weapons of mass destruction-related goods (including delivery systems) and technology, or maintains domestic export controls comparable to controls that are imposed by the United States with respect to that category of goods and technology, or that are otherwise deemed adequate by the Secretary of State.
What I’m wondering is whether the U.S. has ‘entered a bilateral arrangement’ with Israel to allow the transfer of technology that could support the development of Israel’s nuclear weapons stockpile? Or are we to suppose that despite the U.S. currently contributing 20% of Israel’s defence budget, it has no knowledge of Israel’s nuclear arsenal and had no hand in its development? Does the U.S. have a secret deal to help Israel in this regard, despite Israel not signing up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? My naive questions I find are easily answered – the U.S. and Israel have had a semi-secret mutual understanding since the time of Nixon, the details of which are explored in an excellent article which appeared in The New Yorker last June “How Trump and Three Other U.S. Presidents Protected Israel’s Worst-Kept Secret: Its Nuclear Arsenal” (https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/how-trump-and-three-other-us-presidents-protected-israels-worst-kept-secret-its-nuclear-arsenal)
This mutual understanding has been underpinned by an exchange of letters (that is, not a formal bilateral agrrement), which Netanyahu has been keen for successive U.S. presidents to sign.
Following Obama’s election, Netanyahu was particularly worried: “Ahead of a nonproliferation conference in 2010, Netanyahu became concerned, once again, that Israel could come under international pressure to disarm. In response, Obama made a public statement that echoed the contents of the secret letters, without revealing their existence. “We discussed issues that arose out of the nuclear-nonproliferation conference,” Obama said, after meeting with Netanyahu on July 6, 2010. “And I reiterated to the Prime Minister that there is no change in U.S. policy when it comes to these issues. We strongly believe that, given its size, its history, the region that it’s in, and the threats that are levelled against . . . it, that Israel has unique security requirements. It’s got to be able to respond to threats or any combination of threats in the region. And that’s why we remain unwavering in our commitment to Israel’s security. And the United States will never ask Israel to take any steps that would undermine their security interests.” (op cit)
El Trumpo has now signed the letters. “Like Obama’s advisers, Trump’s aides were baffled by the importance that Netanyahu placed on getting the letters signed so quickly. […]the issue is central for Netanyahu because the nuclear arsenal fuels his “sense of impunity, sense of Israel being so powerful, that it can dictate its own terms in the region and beyond.” (op cit)
One suspects that the U.S declaration of a national emergency will be renewed many more times yet. Perhaps this whole subject is something else the U.S. House of Representatives could get its teeth into.