The Wider Context of the Flotilla Tragedy/ The NPT Conference outcome
Jun 4, 2010 | AIJAC staff
June 4, 2010
Number 06/10 #02
Today’s Update continues our coverage of the Gaza flotilla tragedy, with articles that attempt to put this specific event into the wider regional and strategic context. It also has some new expert comment on the controversial outcome of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review conference, which concluded on the weekend.
First up, it includes a broad analysis from BICOM looking at how recent events will affect Israeli Palestinian peace negotiations, the long-term viability of Israel’s blockade, Turkey’s regional role, and efforts to stop the Iranian nuclear program. The analysis predicts growing pressure to eliminate or ameliorate the Israeli blockade of Gaza, and possibly, at Turkey’s instigation, efforts to tie this issue to support for tighter sanctions against Iran. The authors also warn that major changes to either the blockade or international policy toward Hamas risk undermining the Palestinian Authority, and current political and economic improvements in the West Bank, as well as peace talks. For the rest of what they have to say, CLICK HERE. More on the debate about Israel’s needs to maintain a blockade of Gaza from Israeli thinktanker Daniel Gordis, Michael Singh of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, journalist Michael Totten, and the Jerusalem Post.
Next up is noted US Foreign Policy expert and author Walter Russell Mead, who tries to place recent events in the context of Israel’s bigger strategic problem. He argues that Israel is constantly being placed in situations like the current one “where it has no good choices and where its successes don’t make things better — but the inevitable failures and missteps cost dear.” To oversimplify, he argues that the world is demanding that as the stronger party, Israel must find a way to satisfy Palestinian demands, but the strength of Palestinian rejectionism makes this impossible, so all Israel can do is successfully defend itself, but this inevitably leads to events that cause opprobrium, like in the current case. For one of the most perceptive looks at Israel’s overall strategic dilemma that I have seen, CLICK HERE. Another individual putting the current Gaza situation in the context of the seeming Israeli-Palestinian strategic impasse is former US mediator Aaron David Miller, while commenting on that same feeling of impasse is top Israeli journalist Yossi Klein Halevi, among others, in this piece.
Finally, Dr. Emily Landau, an academic proliferation specialist at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, looks at the controversial outcome document of the NPT Review conference – which singled out Israel with a demand that it join the NPT (which would require Israel to give up any nuclear deterrent it currently possesses), but refused to name Iran for its documented non-compliance with the NPT. Landau focuses on the stance of the US Administration on this issue – which amounted to reluctantly going along, while publicly protesting verbally. She questions whether the net result the US achieved – an ability to say of the conference it “didn’t end in failure” – was worth the concessions the American administration made. For Landau’s full analysis,
CLICK HERE. The Jerusalem Post also had an editorial worth reading on the NPT conference outcome.
Readers may also be interested in:
- Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech Wednesday on the Gaza flotilla.
- Hamas is currently refusing to accept the aid the flotilla brought. An Israeli in charge of aid to Gaza said the convoy brought nothing Gaza is short of. More here.
- Historian and Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren explains Israel’s reaction to the flotilla – and includes some new revelations – including that non-Israeli bullet cases were found on the Mavi Marmara, that some passengers had huge sums of money on them, and that footage was found on board which appears to be pre-made propaganda about wounded passengers.
- Other new revelations about the Mavi Marmara include: That at least three of those killed announced they wanted to be martyrs beforehand, that the grandson of Osama bin Laden’s spiritual mentor was in the flotilla, and that the captain allegedly admitted that some of the passengers, whom the IDF believes had military training, did have their own guns, which they threw over the side.
- New videos of: a flotilla participant saying he hoped to become a Shahid (martyr), protestors arming themselves to confront Israeli troops (here and here), Israeli soldiers apparently under live fire from protestors on the ship.
- Some additional comments about international law and Israel’s actions on the flotilla from a variety of international law experts consulted by Jonathan Saul of Reuters. Other valuable statements on this subject come from Canadian International Law expert Ed Morgan, Israeli expert Robbie Sabel, and noted American Professor of International Law Ruth Wedgewood (in a TV interview which follows a rather long interview with the strongly anti-Israel blogger Glen Greenwald in the same clip).
- Israeli Arab journalist and recent visitor to Australia Khaled Abu Toameh takes on the Israeli Arab Knesset members who took part in the Gaza flotilla for failing their constituents.
- Four rockets fired at Israel from Gaza yesterday.
- An important piece from veteran journalist Robert Pollack on why Turkey is acting the way it is.
- A news report from the Arab world says an Australian woman named Shyloh Giddins may have been arrested in Yemen for alleged ties to a terrorist group, possibly al-Qaeda.
- The latest events surrounding the Gaza flotilla will have an effect on broader regional and international issues, from the Middle East peace process to the Iranian nuclear threat.
- The incident highlights the need for an open eyed approach to dealing with the situation in Gaza, the containment of Hamas’s threat and the political ramifications of any radical change of policy.
- The existing diplomatic emphasis, which prioritises progress in the West Bank while leaving Gaza to later stages of the negotiations is under question, not least because of Turkey’s insistence on the matter and Ankara’s growing regional role.
Will the latest events affect the renewed peace process?
This incident comes at a delicate time, with indirect talks just underway there is inevitable pressure on the Palestinian Authority to withdraw from talks with Israel. So far, however, it is notable that the Palestinian Authority, whilst condemning the Israeli operation in the harshest terms, has not made any moves to withdraw from the nascent peace talks. Mahmoud Abbas is due to visit Washington next week for a meeting with US President Barack Obama, and it remains to be seen how the two leaders reconcile their positions in light of the latest events. A lot will also depend on Israeli steps to empower Abbas against those who are likely to call for a Palestinian withdrawal from the talks.
In this context, it is notable that the US has reacted with caution to yesterday’s events. Whilst expressing concern, and calling for an investigation, they have stopped short of condemning Israel outright. This reflects a recent effort on the part of the US to smooth over relations with Israel, and avoid any more tensions which could disrupt the peace process.
This week’s events will raise doubts whether the approach of focusing the diplomatic effort on dealing with the West Bank whilst containing Hamas in Gaza is sustainable. So far the reaction of the US appears to reflect a desire to remain focussed on their current strategy of proximity talks with the hope of progressing toward direct negotiations in approximately four months. However, the situation in Gaza is likely to become harder to sideline.
What will be the diplomatic fallout of the latest events?
The latest events have exacerbated the tensions between Jerusalem and key players in the region and internationally. Significantly, the incident exacerbates the already tense relations between Israel and Turkey, which has positioned itself as a vocal critic of Israel in the region. Ankara, which played an important mediating role in negotiations between Israel and Syria until December 2006, has gradually distanced itself from Jerusalem after Operation Cast Lead and the election of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government shortly thereafter. Seeking to establish itself as an independent regional power, Turkey has also distanced itself from US foreign policy, and enhanced its ties with its neighbours. The latest incident, which involved a Turkish ship and a radical Turkish Islamic group, will further highlight the deep gaps between Israel and Turkey.
The growing Israeli-Turkish rift comes at a sensitive time when the US Administration is pushing for a fourth round of sanctions against Iran at the UN Security Council. Turkey is a non-permanent member of the UNSC and a recent uranium-swap agreement between Iran, Turkey and Brazil was seen as an attempt to derail US efforts to garner unanimous support for additional sanctions. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met yesterday with her Turkish counterpart in an effort to mend relations between the countries. It is possible that the US will agree to some of Turkey’s demands to review the situation in Gaza and support an investigation into the flotilla raid as a way of garnering some Turkish support on the Iranian issue. Although there is no assurance that this support will be achieved, diplomatic negotiations are likely to see a growing link between the Israel-Gaza situation and broader geo-strategic questions.
Meanwhile, responses from Israel’s Arab neighbours remain relatively subdued. Egypt’s announcement yesterday that the Rafah border crossing between northern Sinai and Gaza will be opened for 12 hours a day until further notice signals a dual effort by the Egyptians to show solidarity with the residents of Gaza and at the same time deflect criticism of its own participation in the blockade of the Hamas-ruled strip.
However, Egypt’s longstanding stance is to avoid any step that could interpreted as a de-facto acceptance of responsibility for the situation in Gaza; Egypt does not want to take over Israel’s thorny problem. Periodical opening of the Rafah crossing alleviates some of the criticism within Egypt against the regime’s relatively passive position. However, a substantive policy change will only take place alongside an Israeli agreement to a broader change in the regime governing Gaza’s borders, or an acceptance by Hamas of the Palestinian unity agreement that Egypt has long been attempting to broker.
Will the incident change the existing border regime in Gaza?
This week’s events have led to widespread calls on Israel to lift its restrictions on access Gaza. However, the underlying strategic challenge remains unchanged. Israel, along with Egypt, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and much of the international community, faces an acute dilemma over how to contain the Hamas regime in Gaza and this remains the case after the Gaza flotilla incident. There is an international consensus that the situation in Gaza ought to be addressed as a matter of urgency. At the same time, it is impossible to isolate the humanitarian assistance to Gaza residents from the need to fully address several key issues, first and foremost Hamas’s efforts to smuggle weapons into the strip and rebuild its military capacities.
Many have called for the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA) to be implemented as a way of easing the Israeli restrictions. However, it is necessary to take into account the political reality that has changed significantly since 2005. The AMA was signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority under President Mahmoud Abbas as part of Israel’s withdrawal from the strip and the hope of transferring control over it to the Palestinian Authority. Since it was signed, forces loyal to Abbas were violently ousted from Gaza in a coup, after which Hamas took sole control of the strip. Without a credible force that takes part in the monitoring of the border crossing to and from Israel and Egypt, it is hard to see how the AMA can be re-implemented.
Any future easing of the naval access into Gaza will have to ensure that these new routes of access are not abused by Hamas. One option that has been raised is for Israel to shift its policy from a blockade to a quarantine, in which it would allow ships to pass after boarding and searching them. This would have the dual benefit of allowing critical goods into Gaza while relieving some of the international pressure to completely lift all restrictions. However, this still leaves open the concern that Hamas will be empowered and claim the concession as a victory.
Is international policy toward Hamas likely to change?
The policy of the international Quartet since 2007 has been to isolate Hamas and strengthen the West Bank Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. This is why most Western diplomats refuse to have contact with Hamas officials, without Hamas first moderating its position by recognising Israel, renouncing violence, and adhering to previous peace agreements. Israeli officials have repeatedly stated that under these conditions Israel will not object to Hamas’s participation in the diplomatic process. However, legitimisation of Hamas at this point, when the movement continues to call for Israel’s destruction and opposes Fatah’s policies in the West Bank, threatens to reward Hamas’s intransigence. In the past, among the first to object to calls for the international community to engage with Hamas have been Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah. They have been waiting for months for Hamas to sign a unity agreement to bring new Palestinian elections. They fear any international measure that will boost Hamas’s domestic popularity.
Repeated polls indicate that Hamas’s popularity has waned significantly. Any international engagement with Hamas is likely to significantly energise the movement and its supporters in the Palestinian street. Furthermore, the significant effort taken by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank to curb Hamas activity and ensure security and stability on the ground will lose much of its momentum if Hamas is legitimised internationally.
An unconditional u-turn in international policy toward Hamas will also invigorate radical elements across the region, from Hezbollah in Lebanon to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. At a time when there is growing recognition of Iran’s effort to expand its influence in the region through proxy organisations like Hamas in Gaza, an acceptance of Hamas runs the risk of emboldening Iran’s status.
The regrettable deaths aboard the Turkish ship on Monday will spark a debate about the future of the Gaza Strip and its impact on broader regional and international issues. To avoid the mistakes that prevailed in the past, policymakers will need to seriously consider a number of interrelated issues as they determine long term development. These include specifically the potential effect it may have on the Middle East peace process, the moderate Palestinian leadership and the Iranian efforts to establish its influence in the region.
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Walter Russell Mead
The American Interest Online,
Posted on June 3rd, 2010
Outrage reigns as Israel writhes, impaled on the horns of the same old dilemma once again.
It is an old and familiar story. Pursuing its security in a hostile environment, Israel takes a risky and perhaps a radical step. Something goes awry and people are killed. Waves of international outrage flood the globe. In the Arab countries, the Islamic world generally and increasingly in Europe, there are demonstrations, denunciations and protests. The United Nations debates condemnations of Israel. The United States, almost alone, stands aside, negotiating to soften any Security Council resolutions and expressing sympathy if not always full support of Israeli actions.
The indignation machine is in high gear. As Archbishop Cranmer reports, the sacred UN Human Rights Council, with such members as Mauritania (where slavery is widespread) and Libya, has devoted 33 out of 40 resolutions to Israel; number 34 is coming irresistibly down the pike. The entire world is outraged and shocked, shocked at the brutal Israeli regime. Castro in Cuba, Chavez in Venezuela, China, Russia and Iran have joined with their fellow human rights leaders to voice the strongest possible condemnation of this latest affront to global morals. As the solemn conclave of human rights leaders voted to conduct an investigation into the incident, observers worldwide were confident that the inquiry would be conducted with all the scrupulous sense of fair play and even handed diligence that characterizes the judicial systems of countries like Cuba and Iran.
After the shouting dies away and the controversies have run their course, we will find that once again Israel’s political and moral isolation has gotten a little deeper; the Palestinians who believe that their cause is best served by constant and unremitting opposition to Israel’s existence are encouraged and strengthened while those who favor compromise are weakened; and the voices in the United States who call for the US to distance itself from Israel have fresh fodder for their arguments.
That is the basic shape of these crises, and so far the furor over Israel’s attack on the Gaza convoy is following the pattern. There are a few troubling new features, especially the central involvement of Turkey. In the past, Turkey held largely aloof from Israel’s conflicts with its neighbors, and the Turkish and Israeli defense forces quietly developed a relationship that was useful to both countries. The AK government now ruling Turkey wants Turkey to have a more active political role in the Middle East and plays to a public opinion that often sees Israel as a problem not just for Arabs but for the whole Muslim world. According to a very interesting New York Times story by Sabrina Tavernise and Michael Slackman, the money that funded the convoy comes in part from the rich merchant classes in Turkey who also support the AK Party. This latest incident has already done grave damage to an already troubled Israeli-Turkish relationship, further isolating Israel in the region and driving yet another wedge between Turkey and the United States. (For a sobering view of US-Turkish relations, see this extraordinary piece by Robert Pollock in the Wall Street Journal.)
Israelis often argue about tactics when these problems come up: Should the navy have done something else about the aid convoy? Should restrictions on imports to Gaza be lifted or modified? And so on. Often it turns out that other alternatives did exist and they might have been less politically and even morally dangerous. Given the high price that Israel pays for hard-line actions, to say nothing of the humanitarian consequences of some of the decisions it makes, many of Israel’s friends would like to see it find more creative solutions to some of the admittedly difficult challenges it faces. Yet realists understand that Israel is constantly faced with difficult choices and that mistakes are inevitable. Israel’s critics bitterly attack whenever Israel falls short of perfection — with much less concern for the brutal crimes of its enemies. Israel cannot win at this game; nobody gets it all right, least of all a democratic society under virtual siege for most of the last sixty years.
Even some of Israel’s strongest supporters have expressed their concern about this latest fiasco. Max Boot writes in both The Wall Street Journal and his Commentary blog that Israel shot itself in the foot on this one; he’s right. As the international storm over the convoy interception wound up, the head of Mossad warned the Knesset that Israel is gradually becoming less of an asset and more of a hindrance for the United States. If the current Israeli leadership wasn’t already seriously worried about the government’s international isolation, comments like these should serve as a wake up call. Israel is in trouble, big time, and even as the Iranian nuclear program presents Israel with one of the greatest crises in its history, the country’s leaders seem to be better at shedding old allies than acquiring new ones. The smartest, most fair-minded assessment I’ve seen is by Aaron David Miller, former US negotiator on Middle East issues, over at Bloomberg.
All that said, the real problem isn’t Israel’s response to this or that challenge. The real problem is the failure of Israel and its friends to counter the grand strategy of the Palestinian resistance groups that, over and over, manage to put Israel in situations where it has no good choices and where its successes don’t make things better — but the inevitable failures and missteps cost dear. Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians is a strange mix of enduring success and strategic failure. On the one hand, Israel keeps winning wars, defending its borders and, slowly, getting treaties signed with its neighbors. On the other hand, in 62 years of independence the Israelis have never managed to develop a vision for the Palestinian future that can bring an end to the conflict between the two peoples on workable terms. Constantly on the defensive, Israel must simultaneously defend itself against terrorist attacks while fending off global pressure to do something, anything, that will satisfy the Palestinians.
Many of Israel’s critics insist on believing that Israeli acceptance of the two-state solution based on the pre-1967 armistice lines will settle the dispute. Since the Oslo Accords, the Israelis have accepted (and still accept, however reluctantly) the idea of a two state solution. Twice Israeli prime ministers have made serious offers to return virtually all the territory occupied since 1967 to Palestinian control. Yet these concession and offers brought no decrease in the pressure on Israel; neither did unilateral withdrawals from South Lebanon and Gaza.
The Palestinians now ruling Gaza (not to mention many of the ‘peace activists’ seeking to break the Israeli blockade by sending the convoy) resolutely and fiercely oppose the two state solution. The ‘right of return’–the right of the descendants of Palestinians who fled or were expelled from what is now Israel during the War of Independence to return home–remains the key demand of many Palestinians who believe that the violence must continue until they go ‘home.’ Israel cannot satisfy these Palestinians and their allies without committing national suicide. This is the essential point at issue and it has been for sixty years. A critical mass of Palestinians still wants to return to pre-1948 Israel; the Israelis won’t allow it.
The world of the 1940s was full of refugee problems of this kind. Roughly 12 million Germans, most of them women and children who had nothing to do with Hitler’s war, were expelled from Poland and what is now Czechoslovakia; millions of others fled the murdering and raping Red Army as it visited on innocent Germans the same suffering that German forces inflicted on the territories it occupied in the USSR. Huge numbers of Hindus and Muslims fled or were expelled across the partition line between India and Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands of Jews fled or were expelled from the Arab world in response to mob violence and other threats following the establishment of Israel. In no case have the refugees gone home; in every case but the Palestinian situation, the refugees found new homes for themselves and became integrated into new societies and built new lives. (Even among the Palestinians some refugees have done this: in Jordan and Syria many Palestinian refugees and their descendants are living reasonably normal lives today.)
The bleak reality is that the rejectionist wings of the Palestinian national movement — those who reject the idea of two states within boundaries more or less corresponding to the 1948 armistice lines with mutually agreed adjustments — have impaled Israel on the horns of a strategic dilemma. The world thinks Israel has a duty to make the Palestinians happy enough to make peace with concessions, but the concessions that Israel can reasonably make do not and cannot command enough support among Palestinian refugees to bring the conflict to a close.
Israel cannot be defeated by military means, but Israel cannot bring Palestinian resistance to an end and as it seeks to defend itself it cannot avoid actions that much of the world sees as brutal and unwarranted. Sympathy for the Palestinians grows, but Israel still has no path to peace.
Israel and the United States today are working to get a peace agreement with the rulers of the West Bank — historically the home of more moderate Palestinian political forces and a place where a peace agreement just might stick. The hope seems to be that an agreement there might one day be expanded to cover Gaza when Fatah is strong enough, or public opinion in Gaza has changed enough, so that Hamas can either be persuaded to accept the agreement or through elections or some other means be overthrown.
I hope this works, but I have my doubts. The problems of the Palestinians on the West Bank probably could be solved within the framework of a two-state solution. The problems of the Palestinians in Gaza (and also of the Palestinian exiles in Lebanon) almost surely cannot.
In any case, the world’s need to believe that there is a simple solution to this long running dispute works against Israel. As the more powerful of the two antagonists, Israel seems to hold the upper hand, and many people assume without thinking it through that Israeli intransigence is responsible for the continuation of the dispute — and for the suffering of the Palestinians. That Israel continues to expand its settlements in Palestinian land suggests to many people that Israel is failing to offer the Palestinians a solution on purpose — that Israel plans to use the continuing impasse to grab more land. The perception that Israel is humiliating and oppressing the Palestinians as part of a plot to steal their land is the main force that powers the waves of anti-Israel feeling in the west. That Israel’s settlement policy reminds people of past efforts by Europeans to take the lands of native peoples in the colonial period (with South Africa as the latest and most egregious example) only intensifies the rage.
This view is not just paranoia; there are Israelis who think this way, and some of them are represented in the current government. But in my view, even a right wing Israeli government would accept a two-state solution if Israeli public opinion thought the solution would stick and that enough Palestinians would buy it so as to end the violence and the demands of Palestinians to regain lands and homes lost since the 1940s. The offers by former prime ministers Barack and Olmert demonstrate Israel’s willingness to make realistic proposals to end the conflict.
In the past, Fatah’s leadership (including Arafat) wasn’t ready to sign on the dotted line. I think the current Fatah Prime Minister is much closer to signing — though it’s hard to see how the two sides will manage the questions of Jerusalem and the holy sites plus, of course, the right of return. But that will not be the end of the conflict: Gaza will remain what it is, and it is clear that Hamas and its rejectionist allies have significant public support among Palestinians and in world public opinion. With money from Iran and Syria propping this faction up, and propaganda fests (like the effort to ‘break’ the blockade with civilian ships) keeping them on the front page, it’s very hard to see the anti-two state wing of the Palestinian movement changing its ideas anytime soon.
This means that Israel will have to pay virtually the full price for peace — withdrawal from settlements, some kind of solution in Jerusalem and other concessions — without getting full peace. I think that under some circumstances this is a chance worth taking — but then I’m not being asked to make any sacrifices or take any risks. Moreover, what would Israel then do about Gaza? If it opens the blockade Hamas will certainly import weapons including rockets that can and will be used against Israel at Hamas’ discretion. But if it keeps the blockade up, there will be more ships and more incidents and more hate propaganda about how Israeli brutality and intransigence is the only thing preventing Middle East peace.
Until Israel finds a strategy to counter Palestinian rejection, we will see many more incidents like the tragic attack on the ‘aid’ convoy.
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Emily B. Landau
INSS Insight No. 185, June 3, 2010
Egypt’s campaign to pressure Israel on the nuclear issue, a firmly established dynamic in the weeks leading up to the NPT Review Conference (RevCon) and during the discussions that took place for close to four weeks in May, ended up overshadowing the RevCon final document. The final document, adopted by consensus, reflects Egypt’s relatively successful campaign to force the US to accept its agenda for starting discussion on a nuclear weapons-free zone (NWFZ) and for singling out Israel in the nuclear realm. Egypt stood by its threat to block consensus on any final document of the RevCon if the US did not adhere to its demands.
The US agreement to the consensus document is certainly not an endorsement of the Egyptian agenda, rather a reflection of the fact that it succumbed to Egyptian pressure. The US was vulnerable to this pressure due to its strong interest that unlike the previous review conference in 2005, this conference not be pronounced a “failure.” The serious US reservations to singling out Israel by name, especially while refraining from any specific mention of Iran, were clarified in strong statements issued by the administration almost immediately after the document was released. National Security Advisor Jim Jones “deplored” the situation and Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Ellen Tauscher noted that singling out Israel would “seriously jeopardize” US efforts to persuade Israel to attend the conference on the establishment of a weapons of mass destruction free zone (WMDFZ) in the Middle East.
Iran succeeded in its aim of not being named specifically by the conference document. The tough stance set forth by Secretary of State Clinton in her opening speech ended with a consensus document that reflected none of her passionate determination. Clinton had claimed emphatically that Iran is the “only country represented in this hall that has been found by the IAEA Board of Governors to be currently in noncompliance with its nuclear safeguards obligations – the only one.” In that case, what explains the decision to omit specific mention of this dangerous proliferator? In light of the strongly worded IAEA report on Iran released a mere three days after the close of the RevCon, there is no ready explanation for the concession that all the members of the NPT made to Iran, or for why it was not considered preferable to have a final document that mentioned Iran by name, even at the cost of “consensus minus Iran”. The US has repeatedly advocated isolation of Iran, and naming Iran’s non-compliance in the final document would surely have served this goal. Moreover, in the first week of the conference, when consensus seemed like it might be an elusive goal, the US had entertained the idea of lowering the bar of “success” to something less than consensus. At the time, US special representative for nuclear nonproliferation Susan Burk said that what the US was looking for was “broad agreement on the importance of the NPT to international and regional security.” Another notable and quite problematic omission from the final document was any mention of Syria, suspected of working on a military nuclear program and not cooperating with the IAEA, as clarified by the IAEA report on Syria that was released at the same time as the Iran report.
How should these dynamics be understood from Israel’s perspective? The first point is that in reality, if Iran’s nuclear ambitions would be effectively confronted outside the framework of the NPT – the only viable possibility for conceivably achieving this goal – then the omission of Iran’s name in the final document would not be that significant, beyond the stark hypocrisy that it reflected. The same of course is true regarding the specific mention of Syria. The problem is that the international community is proving unable to confront either Iran or Syria – or North Korea – with the necessary determination in the international political arena.
Aside from the fact that Israel was named specifically – and it is noteworthy that the mention of Israel, as opposed to India and Pakistan, was included in the section of the document entitled “conclusions and recommendations for follow-on actions” rather than only in the initial declarative clauses – the major concession to Egypt was inclusion of the idea that a WMDFZ conference be convened in 2012. Significantly, however, the conference must be convened “on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at by the States of the region,” and perhaps even more important is that the idea of establishing a regional forum for discussion of WMD in the Middle East is not in itself a negative development. Rather than projecting a self-defensive attitude, Israel’s challenge in the face of this emerging agenda is to try to frame the idea according to what it views as the best way to conduct this type of discussion. Israel could emphasize the need to revisit the experience of the Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) dialogue of the early 1990s. Dialogue would have to encompass all states in the region – including of course Iran – in a meaningful way. In light of current deteriorating conditions in the Middle East, initial discussion – like in ACRS – would have to focus on confidence and stability building measures. It must be recognized that there is no way that this would be a short term process.
Reflecting on the final results of the NPT RevCon, the Washington Post noted correctly that the most the US could boast about the conference was that “it didn’t end in a failure.” However, this shaky “success” looks very much like a failure on the pressing proliferation challenges to the treaty. And as much as the US believed it must address the demands of the non-nuclear-weapons states that the nuclear states do more to adhere to their own commitment to disarm, the most pressing challenge to the treaty is obviously not the pace of disarmament on the part of the five nuclear states, rather the dangerous proliferators: Iran, North Korea, and Syria. Some officials complained that the US nuclear arms control steps of recent months were in any case not recognized by the non-nuclear states as sufficient or even very significant – they pocketed them, and then additional demands were made. In this international atmosphere, one cannot avoid asking whether a “lack of failure” is indeed enough of a success to justify the poor end result of the 2010 NPT RevCon.
 Iran presumably was the only state that made this a condition for their consent to the document.