President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett renewed a decades-old agreement on Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program during their meeting in Washington last week, Axios reported on Wednesday.
It is believed that Israel first produced nuclear weapons in the late 1960s, and current estimates put Israel’s arsenal somewhere between 90 and 300 warheads. Every US president since Nixon has agreed not to press Israel to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. In return, Israel agrees not to declare its nuclear arsenal and operates the program covertly.
The ambiguity allows the US to give Israel aid, which is technically illegal due to the existence of Israel’s nuclear arsenal. Under foreign assistance laws, the US cannot provide aid to nuclear-armed states that refuse to sign the NPT.
The irony of the arrangement is that Israel constantly accuses Iran of operating a secret nuclear weapons program. And one of the main Israeli talking points is that if Iran ever acquires a nuclear bomb, it would trigger a regional arms race.
Israel is not just waging a propaganda war against Iran. The accusations come along with covert attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities and brazen assassinations of nuclear scientists.
The US entertains the Israeli narrative, and pressure from Israel is what led to the Trump administration withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA. Iran remains under heavy US sanctions, and this economic warfare is justified by the idea that Tehran is racing to develop a bomb when that is not the case.
The JCPOA puts strict limits on Iran’s nuclear program. But instead of favoring a US return to the deal, Israel is doing everything to sabotage negotiations. One reason the Israelis say they are against the JCPOA is that it has an expiration date. But that ignores the fact that after the JCPOA, Iran would still be bound by the NPT.