Plans to convene a conference on creating a nuclear-free Middle East collapsed this week with Israel's refusal to attend.
The meeting was to be held in Helsinki, Finland, by year's end but has been indefinitely postponed. Israel has said there is no point discussing a ban on nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction until there is a full peace between it and the Arabs.
In Israel's view the conference was a cover for forcing the Jewish state to dismantle its — unacknowledged — nuclear arsenal and open its facilities to international inspection.
Israel is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has refused to sign, explaining it would not discuss, much less open, its nuclear program with countries — or their representatives — that did not recognize its existence.
Egypt has long led an Arab and Third World campaign to force Israel to sign the NPT and open its nuclear facilities to inspection and destroy any nuclear weapons it may have.
The official reason for cancellation will be Syria's civil war, the nuclear dispute with Iran and general instability in the Middle East, but the real reason is Israel's refusal to participate, according to wire reports. The meeting was agreed upon in 2010 and to be sponsored by Russia, Britain and the United States, but it was understood it could not take place if Israel refused to attend. Although the United States is a sponsor of the conference, President Obama has said he would oppose efforts to isolate Israel and any actions that threaten its security.
Look for Iran to use this as an excuse to refuse to open its nuclear facilities to international inspection although, unlike Israel, it is obligated to do so as an NPT signatory. The Israeli government points out that, "The real problem with WMDs in the Middle East does not relate to Israel but to those countries that have signed the NPT and brazenly violated it: Iraq under Saddam, Libya, Syria and Iran."
Look for Iran to continue raising the Israeli nuclear program as international pressure grows for it to abandon its own nuclear ambitions.
Senior western defense officials were quoted this weekend in the Sunday Times that a conventional attack may not be adequate to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities and it may be necessary to send in nuclear-armed ballistic missiles. The report is unconfirmed but it could have originated among Israeli security officials who have reportedly cautioned against an Israeli strike on Iran.