A few weeks ago, I was wondering what was going through Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s head when he decided to attend next week’s nuclear summit in Washington, where representatives of 47 countries, including many of heads of state, will gather to talk about nuclear terror, and in the process produce what local officials say will be some record-breaking traffic gridlock.
Let’s see: the trip would mean another possible confrontation with U.S. officials over the vexing issues of Jerusalem and settlements and maybe demands that he answer the questions they posed during his March visit.
It would mean setting himself up to be an international punching bag for countries eager to change the subject from nuclear proliferation in countries like Iran to Israel’s long-reported nuclear arsenal and policy of nuclear ambiguity.
Arab countries have always loved the issue of Israel’s nuclear weapons and the fact they are tacitly accepted by Washington. Recently the Arab League demanded that the UN designate the Middle East a “nuclear free zone, and it’s been a pet issue of the Egyptians, who lack their own nuclear capability but no doubt want to change that. What better way to deflect U.S. pressure to get tough on Iran than to point a finger at Israel’s weapons and what they regard as Washington’s hypocrisy?
It was a sure bet the Israel issue would be brought up at the summit, Bibi or no Bibi. But his presence no doubt would have made the spotlight on the issue a little brighter and produced one more sore spot in a U.S.-Israel relationship that is troubled, to say the least. It was hard to see the potential gain in the trip for him, and I guess that’s the same conclusion the PM’s inner circle came to.
Last night word came that Bibi was canceling. Laura Rozen at Politico has the first comprehensive report:
One columnist who more or less predicted this outcome last week: Doug Bloomfield, writing in the Jerusalem Post
Atlantic blogger Jeff Goldberg, responding to an Israeli report that the country’s nuclear scientists are no longer getting visas to come here, believes something more ominous may be afoot – a change in the “special relationship” between Washington and Jerusalem on the issue of Israel’s reported arsenal. Read his report here.