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Israel Won’t Ratify Chemical Arms Treaty Before Its Neighbors Do, Officials Say

With Moscow and Washington now discussing a diplomatic deal that would rid Syria of its chemical weapons, officials in Jerusalem are preparing for the possibility that Israel will be asked to submit to supervision of the chemical weapons that foreign reports say it possesses.

In the past few days, Foreign Ministry officials note, senior Russian officials have repeatedly drawn a connection between Syria’s chemical weapons and Israel’s military capabilities. President Vladimir Putin, for instance, told Russian media outlets that Syria’s chemical weapons exist as a response to Israel’s military capabilities, while Russia’s ambassador to Paris told Radio France that Syria’s chemical weapons were meant to preserve its balance of deterrence against Israel, “which has nuclear weapons.”

Israel signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993, but never ratified it. Consequently, it hasn’t agreed to submit itself to international inspections or to refrain from steps that would violate the convention.

Syria, which has one of the largest chemical weapons arsenals in the world, has never even signed the convention, nor has Egypt, which also has a chemical weapons program. Iran, which suffered chemical weapons attacks from Iraq during their war in the 1980s, signed the convention in 1993 and ratified it in 1997. Nevertheless, senior figures at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem claim that Iran secretly maintains a large stash of chemical weapons.

Both Syria and Egypt used Israel as their excuse for not signing the convention. In various international forums over the years, Syrian and Egyptian officials have said their countries would agree to sign only if Israel signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and opened its nuclear reactor in Dimona to international inspectors.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told Haaretz on Wednesday that Israel would not ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention as long as other states in the region with chemical weapons refuse to recognize Israel and threaten to destroy it.

“Unfortunately, while Israel signed the convention, other countries in the Middle East, including those that have used chemical weapons recently or in the past, or are believed to be working to improve their chemical capabilities, have failed to follow suit and have indicated that their position would remain unchanged even if Israel ratifies the convention,” Palmor said in a written statement. “Some of these states don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist and blatantly call to annihilate it. In this context, the chemical weapons threat against Israel and its civilian population is neither theoretical nor distant. Terror organizations, acting as proxies for certain regional states, similarly pose a chemical weapons threat. These threats cannot be ignored by Israel, in the assessment of possible ratification of the convention.”

Read more at Haaretz.com

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