Why has Israel refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty?
Israel’s nuclear weapons program has never been publically acknowledged (a policy of “ambiguity”), but defense experts generally believe that Israel has a significant stockpile of state-of-the-art atomic weapons. Egypt and other Arab countries, as well as various peace activist groups inside Israel and around the world, continue to raise this issue against Israel. But despite the negative propaganda implications, Israel’s policy against signing the NNP treaty remains unchanged: as long as Israel’s security is under constant threat, Isreal will not agree to a treaty that weakens its defense.
Israel needs a strategic deterrence capability because it is surrounded by much larger neighbors that are hostile to its very existence. Arab nations have repeatedly gone to war against Israel. In the Gulf War, Iraq launched Scud missiles against Israeli cities and has threatened attacks with gas or biological agents. Syria, Iran and Iraq have threatened the use of weapons of mass destruction.
Terrorists constantly attack Israel to undermine its stability and will to resist. In this environment, Israel has to maintain the ultimate deterrent to forstall even more aggressive acts by its enemies.
The United States has recognized this requirement and has supported Israel's refusal to bind itself to the NNP treaty so long as Israel remians ambiguous about its capability, a diplomatic nuance. Even though the US has lobbied against other small nations that desire to acquire nuclear weapons, the US has recognized that Israel's case is unique. It is easy for nations that have superior military strength, peace, and secure borders to rationalize the need to give up nuclear weapons. It is quite a different strategic calculus for Israel who is facing huge, oil-rich Arab states that have sworn to destroy her, states that have attacked her with large invading armies, that have openly supported campaigns of terrorism against her, and that continue to assert the intention to reduce or destroy the Jewish state. In this environment, why should Israel give up her most effective deterrent weapon?
Israel supports, in principle, preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, even though international support of the concept has been ineffective in curtailing Iranian and Iraqi weapons production. Israel is willing to consider eliminating nuclear weapons from the Middle East when its enemies have credibly renounced them and after a sustained period of peace that will give Israel confidence in its own security.