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Arad Exposed Secret US Agreement To Jump-Start Israeli Civilian Nuclear Power Industry – OpEd

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I reported a story from Yediot that claimed Uzi Arad had given a U.S. diplomat a copy of the secret Lindenstraus report on the second Lebanon war.  Turns out, there were two accurate claims in the report–that it involved the U.S. and a secret report.  But the rest was wrong.

Today, a different story has been reported by Channel 2 about the reason for Arad’s brusque firing by Bibi Netanyahu from his senior post as national security advisor.  The news report says that Arad briefed Israeli reporters and revealed that during the prime minister’s July 2010 visit to the White House, the U.S. and Israel secretly upgraded the level of their nuclear cooperation.  This, according to Haaretz, followed on the heels of Obama’s surprise endorsement of a nuclear-free Middle East in which all states endorsed the NPT.  This raised fears in Israel that pressure would be brought to bear against it as a non-signatory.  The agreement was meant to reassure Israel.

Since the 1970s, Israel has been punished for not signing the NPT by being prohibited from building a civilian nuclear program.  Only one other country in the world is an NPT non-signatory which received a “waiver” to build its own civilian nuclear power facility with U.S. approval: India.  This is what Arad was telling the world.  Israel had achieved what only one other country in the world had.  The ability to thumb one’s nose at NPT while having civilian nuclear power: like having your cake and eating it too.

Given the sensitivity of the subject, considering Iran’s nuclear program and Israeli-U.S. hyperventilation about the threat it poses, Arad’s revelation can only have complicated relations between the U.S. and other Mideast states.  Further, considering the U.S. was secretly upgrading cooperation with an Israel which has refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, while it railed against Iran (an NPT signatory) for having the temerity to want what Israel has had for decades–well, the hypocrisy is breathtaking.

That is what this 7th Eye report explicitly confirms, saying that the U.S. offered to provide Israel nuclear fuel for civilian uses:

Because Israel was a serious, responsible state.

…As opposed to a certain other Middle East state who didn’t yet have nuclear weapons, was an NPT signatory, but nevertheless was unserious and untrustworthy…

Though Israel has Dimona, which produces fuel for its nuclear weapons, it does not have civilian nuclear power capacity.  That’s what the U.S. was offering.   Materiel and know-how that could begin a civilian nuclear power industry in Israel, to be used by Israel to produce not only electric power, but also in technological processes and to power various types of sophisticated equipment.  Israel, of course, viewed this as a Good Housekeeping seal of approval from the White House that its status as a nuclear power was in the good graces of Washington.

All this of course put the lie to U.S. efforts to inhibit nuclear proliferation both in Iran and throughout the Middle East.  How could we look at such countries with a straight face and tell them they should remain nuclear-free, when we were rewarding Israel’s defiance of NPT with secret accords and other goodies?

Senior Israeli minister Yuval Steinitz went further in his own remarks and said that the agreement with the U.S. put in on a par with India (another NPT refuser) as a nation with which the U.S. engaged in similar secret nuclear agreements.  The message Steinitz sought to convey was that Israel, like India, could maintain its favored relationship with the U.S. while remaining outside the NPT.  He went even farther in calling the agreement a “historic declaration.”  This naturally didn’t sit well with the U.S., which could see all manner of countries, nuclear and wanna-be, lining up for similar treatment.  Not to mention, both Arad and Steinitz were explicitly undermining Obama’s call for NPT to be accepted throughout the Middle East.

Not surprisingly, the Obama administration immediately denied that there had been any agreement between itself and Israel about nuclear cooperation.  And just like that, Israel’s civilian nuclear power dreams went up in smoke.  Needless to say, this sort of thing makes a president very cranky.  So that’s why Uzi Arad was canned.  Considering the level of threat Arad had already posed to U.S. intelligence given the Rosen-Aipac spy scandal, there was surely little love lost between Arad and this administration and the latter would have shed few tears at his firing.  Haaretz also notes that poor Uzi has also lost his top level security clearance for his indiscretion.  So his career inside the security establishment seems over, at least for now.  But people like Arad in Israeli politics seem to come back like a bad penny.

The irony of Bibi being off today to none other than Washington to meet the president who originally promised (or so Israel believed) the nuclear cooperation deal isn’t lost on many Israelis or on Obama.  Couldn’t be worse timing to have such a incident clouding such a meeting.

One final word, Arad claims that he let this news slip accidentally in a briefing he gave to Israeli journalists.  If you believe this I have a bridge I want to sell you.  In fact, Arad has to say this because if he leaked the material knowingly, then he could  (and probably would) be prosecuted.  By claiming it was an accident, he makes it harder for the prosecutor to build a case against him.  The attorney general, in considering bringing charges, decided not to.  So as I wrote yesterday, Anat Kamm gets up to nine years for leaking documents far less damaging to Israel’s interests than what Arad did.  The latter almost single-handedly sunk Israel’s chance of a civilian nuclear power industry.  What did Kamm do?  Revealed that a general aided and abetted commission of a war crime for which he was not, and will never be prosecuted.  In Israel, justice isn’t blind.  It looks out for the powerful and tramples the lowly and the weak.

This article first appeared at Tikun Olam

Richard Silverstein

Richard Silverstein

Richard Silverstein is an author, journalist and blogger, with articles appearing in Haaretz, the Jewish Forward, Los Angeles Times, the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, Al Jazeera English, and Alternet. His work has also been in the Seattle Times, American Conservative Magazine, Beliefnet and Tikkun Magazine, where he is on the advisory board. Check out Silverstein's blog at Tikun Olam, one of the earliest liberal Jewish blogs, which he has maintained since February, 2003.

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