US president Barack Obama reaffirmed his administration's commitment to supporting Israel's policy of
nuclear ambiguity, whereby its possession of nuclear weapons is neither confirmed nor denied. debkafile's Washington sources report that President Obama repeated this pledge in a 20-minute telephone call to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Monday, May 3, almost a year after he gave it the first time during Netanyahu's visit to the White House on May 18, 2009.
High-ranking American sources told debkafile that Obama needed to reassure Israel his commitment on this score was solid and unchanged for four reasons:
1. Because of administration steps on the Middle East taken this week prior to and during the UN conference on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Wednesday, May 5, the five Security Council permanent members vowed to work together towards a nuclear-free Middle East. Two days earlier, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the conference that the United States "is prepared to support practical measures towards the objective of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction."
2. There was talk in the corridors of the conference, some published by Egyptian sources, that the US and Egypt were formulating a joint Middle East nuclear policy for bringing about the dismantling of Israel's nuclear stockpiles.
3. It became clear to the White House that if Netanyahu got the notion that President Obama was retreating from his nuclear commitment to Israel, he could forget about progress in the Middle East proximity talks which his special envoy George Mitchell is working hard to jump-start this week.
4. And if that commitment were to be withdrawn, the entire Middle East would conclude that the Obama administration had also retreated from its "unshakable" pledge to support Israel's security.
A few hours after the Obama-Netanyahu conversation, former US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton said Tuesday that American-Egyptian cooperation on the Middle East nuclear issue was aimed squarely at Israel. His exact words were: "There is only one country that resolution is targeted at and that is Israel."
Therefore, the Israeli prime minister had needed to hear from the president in person that his year-old pledge was still valid and that the joint American-Egyptian effort for nuclear-free Middle East had a single target, Iran and its nuclear program.
According to debkafile's sources, that effort is led by Gary Seymour, WMD coordinator at the National Security Council, and Nabil Fahmy, for many years the Egyptian Ambassador to the United States. He is currently the dean of public administration at the American University in Cairo and head of the Center for Studies on Nonproliferation in the Middle East.
Our Middle East sources confirmed that Fahmy is the live wire of Egyptian policy in these areas.
Obama further promised Netanyahu that any US deal with Egypt or any other country on the nuclear issue would stipulate that Israel would not be called on to alter its nuclear stance until such time as a comprehensive Middle East peace is attained between Israel and its neighbors and all countries of the region dispose of their conventional and WMD arsenals.
Our sources in Jerusalem say that, even though Prime Minister Netanyahu welcomed President Obama's assurances and thanked him, there is still great unease in Israel's ruling circles over the very fact that the administration is actually discussing Israel's nuclear issues with Egypt.