Friday, July 16, 2010

Israel's Paranoia, Obama's Lockstep

Israel’s mounting paranoia offers an excellent opportunity to analyze how news is slanted, by whom, and to whom.

A friend in Europe emails me news from various sources, and recently I received a story whose original source was the Near East News Agency (NENA), a collaborative of journalists working in the Near East that publishes in Italian and English. The story was about Israel’s efforts to prevent its neighbor Jordan from building an independent nuclear energy capability.

Israel is one of four countries with known nuclear capabilities not to have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the others being India, Pakistan and North Korea. Not- withstanding its own rogue position, Israel has been waging a relentless campaign to persuade the world that Iran is a mortal threat, not only to Israel, but to everyone else.

Now, just in case its campaign against the relatively distant threat should ultimately be unsuccessful, Israel now asserts that an equal threat lies next door, in Jordan, a tiny Muslim country which has been its steadfast ally.

The NENA article emphasized that Israel, with the backing of the U.S., is withholding “acceptance” of its neighbor’s plans to build two nuclear fuel plants, until Jordan promises that it will send its nuclear fuel abroad for reprocessing. (The NENA article also revealed that Jordan possesses 3% of known uranium deposits.)

Curious to know more about this story, I went to the New York Times. A May 2 Times article placed the Israel/Jordan controversy within the larger scope of U.S. efforts to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty during a month-long international conference. It pointed out that diplomats were negotiating agreements for overseas reprocessing with Jordan and Bahrain, and indicated there might also be a deal with Saudi Arabia.

The Times article quoted a participating diplomat saying that these endeavors were part of an attempt to isolate the Iranians, but that Iran and others at the United Nations non-Proliferation Conference, including Egypt, were more interested in forcing the region’s one nuclear-weapons state, Israel, to acknowledge its atomic arsenal and sign on to the nonproliferation treaty.

Egypt, in particular, wants the Middle East to be nuclear arms free, but the Obama administration only supports this idea within the context of a broad regional peace.
In other words, for Washington, a nuclear-free Middle East is contingent on resolving the situation with Iran, rather than the situation between Israel and the Palestinians.

This is worrisome because Egypt, while lobbying for a conference next year on its proposal for a nuclear-free zone, also plans to build several nuclear reactors. According to The Times, Egypt’s President, Hosni Mubarak has hinted that if there is no agreement, his country might feel that needs to develop nuclear weapons, too.

Although the Times article has broader thrust, it manages to obscure the fact that the Obama administration accumulates blunders in the most volatile part of the world. Unlike the admittedly partisan NENA story, it fails to mention fthat Washington is threatening Jordan with a loss of 600 million a year in financial support if it goes ahead with a project that makes Israel nervous. Nor does it mention that our close allies, France and South Korea, are planning to help this tiny, resource poor county ensure its future energy needs.

Without several sources for world news, American voters are blindsided, taken totally unawares by major events. Nuclear non-pro-liferation is a major policy goal of President Obama. But alternate news sources reveal not only that in this, as in so many other laudable goals, his policies are counter-productive; they document the fact that a multi-faceted world can pursue laudable goals without us.

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