Washington — Israel’s prime minister will not attend President Obama’s Nuclear Security Summit next week.
No official reason was given for Benjamin Netanyahu’s last minute cancellation. An Israeli delegation headed by Dan Meridor, one of five deputy prime ministers, will attend.
Various media quoted Israeli officials as saying that Netanyahu backed out when he was made aware that Muslim nations at the summit would make an issue of Israel’s nuclear arsenal.
Muslim nations routinely make an issue of Israel’s nuclear capability; there was no notice that the topic would be out of bounds at this summit.
Israel maintains a policy of opacity, and will neither confirm nor deny the existence of its arsenal except to say that it will not be the first to launch a nuclear strike in the region.
Netanyahu was not scheduled to meet with Obama during the visit.
Netanyahu and Obama met a little more than two weeks ago at the White House for discussions that failed to resolve a diplomatic impasse over Israel’s announcement of plan for 1,600 new housing units in a Jewish neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem. Netanyahu had come to Washington to address the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
The nuclear summit will deal with issues of nonproliferation and will include the participation of representatives from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Earlier this week, Obama said the United States would adopt a new nuclear policy that would commit the country to avoid using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, even if such states attacked America with nonconventional arms such as biological or chemical weapons.
Iran, which will be excepted from the new policy because it is in violation of the treaty, is expected to be a major topic of discussion at the conference.
Israeli officials had indicated they were not concerned that no Obama-Netanyahu meeting was planned; they noted that Israel will be one of some 40 countries represented at the conferenc