NEWSReports & Articles

UN gears up to call Israel out on nuclear weapons

Jerusalem24 – The United Nations General Assembly’s First Committee voted 152-5 on Friday 28 October for a draft resolution calling on Israel to discard its nuclear weapon arsenal and place its unsafeguarded nuclear facilities under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

A final vote is still pending.

Although the UN mandated its Secretary-General to study the question of Israeli nuclear power in 1987 and called for the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region of the Middle East as far back as 1974, the present resolution, entitled The Risk of Nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, makes explicit mention of Israel as the only nuclear power in the Middle East.

Israel is believed to be one of a total of nine countries with nuclear armaments, although Israel has never confirmed nor denied this.

A previous resolution in 2020 called upon “all States that have not yet done so” to sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), without mentioning Israel by name.

“Renounce possession”

Israel has consistently voted against resolutions seeking to reign in or condemn its nuclear weapons capabilities, and was one of five countries which voted against the draft resolution. A further 24 countries, mostly NATO allies and EU members, abstained.

The resolution, submitted by Egypt and sponsored by 20 states including Palestine, chastises Israel for being the only state in the Middle East not yet party to the NPT and one of only four states worldwide to have never been a signatory.

Pending the establishment of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, the resolution calls on Israel to place all of its nuclear activities under the supervision of the IEAE, and to not “develop, produce, test or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons, [and] to renounce possession of nuclear weapons”.

The resolution provides for the Secretary-General to report on the resolution’s implementation to the General Assembly at its next session in September 2023.

Breakdown of the vote on the draft resolution.

Non-Proliferation vs. Prohibition

On the same day, 124 countries supported a resolution calling for greater adherence to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which outright bans the use, possession, testing, and transfer of nuclear armaments and entered into force on 22 January 2021.

Organizations such as the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons have been lobbying for the TPNW as a replacement for the NPT which they say doesn’t protect humanity from the catastrophic outcome of a nuclear weapon’s detonation.

91 countries are currently signatories, versus 191 for the NPT.

According to Ramesh Thakur, Director of the Centre for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament at the Crawford School of Public Policy and former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, “there is no legal incompatibility between the Ban Treaty and the NPT.”

“The legal obligations of the treaty cannot apply to non-signatories and the possession of nuclear weapons by nine nuclear-armed states did not suddenly became illegal with the treaty’s entry into force on 22 January 2021,” writes Thakur.

“Equally, however, the claim that a UN-negotiated treaty, following a UN-authorized process and conference, has no implications for the legality and legitimacy of nuclear-weapon possession and practices is also implausible. Non-signatory possessor states may be placing themselves ‘outside the law’ [and] punitive consequences could follow in due course.”

Related Articles

Back to top button