By: Rachelle Winokur  | 

Unpack With YUPAC: UN Passes Resolution Ordering Israel to Destroy its Nuclear Weapons

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has declared that Israel must destroy all its nuclear weapons. 

On Friday, Oct. 28, UNGA’s First Committee passed a resolution 152–5 calling for Israel to dispose of its alleged nuclear weapons and place its nuclear sites under the purview of the International Atomic Energy Agency. (Israel is widely considered to be a nuclear power despite having never acknowledged that it is, taking the approach of “nuclear ambiguity.”) This resolution, submitted by Egypt, was sponsored by the Palestinian Authority (PA), an observer state in the UN, and 19 other countries, most of whom are located in the Middle East and North Africa. Observer states, such as the PA and the Holy See, are able to participate in UN meetings but with limitations, and lack the ability to vote or propose resolutions.

Ironically, Iran wasn’t targeted in this resolution, despite rapidly progressing its nuclear energy program — considered by the international community to be a secret nuclear arms program — and stockpiling massive amounts of nuclear material. 

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has adopted seven resolutions to address Iran’s nuclear program, however, only one is in effect today: a resolution easing sanctions on Iran passed after the Iran Deal (JCPOA) was agreed to. While both the UNSC and the UNGA are subsidiaries of the UN, the UNGA’s First Committee deals with international disarmament and security, yet the UNGA has no resolutions condemning Iran for nuclear weapons and requiring their surrender. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes, although international efforts to broker deals with Iran to minimize its nuclear power would seem to indicate that the international community believes otherwise.

Iran is currently under the global eye for its brutality in crushing protests by its citizens in response to the death of a young woman while in the custody of their “morality police.” Historically, Iran has been seen as a bad actor on the global stage, yet when it comes to the UNGA, Iran’s actions are ignored.

Israel and Iran have long been at odds over many conflicting issues, mainly Israel’s right to exist. When the UN turns a blind eye to the true nature of Iran’s nuclear actions — namely, attempting to create nuclear weapons with which to threaten Israel and the rest of the world — it is implicitly endorsing them. Israel’s alleged arsenal can be best described as defensive. Israel is known for innovating protective measures for its citizens because it is constantly on the brink of being attacked simply for existing. By passing this resolution directly targeting Israel, the UN is making a clear statement on its indifference to those who seek to create weapons of mass destruction and threaten others with them. The UN is making a statement on its position on Israel’s right to protect itself: That it doesn’t have one.  

Israeli Deputy Permanent Representative of Israel to the UN’s Conference on Disarmament, Michal Maayan commented on how this resolution is what Israel’s opponents aim to use to delegitimize and destabilize the country. 

“Some actors in the region claim that a comprehensive security architecture can be initiated in the Middle East with direct engagement with Israel,” said Maayan. “Without recognition of Israel’s right to exist within safe and secure borders, without reducing regional tension and the building of the necessary trust and confidence among regional states … This position is untenable.” 

Israel, one of nine countries to possess nuclear weapons, is being singled out, despite never confirming the existence of weapons. The other eight countries confirmed to possess nuclear weapons (the United States, Russia, France, China, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, India and North Korea) haven’t been targeted. Do these countries pose less of a threat than a country whose primary goal is defense? This resolution intentionally ignores Iran’s illicit activities and its undeclared nuclear actions in Syria. The difference between these countries? Israel is actively defending itself from the very countries proposing and supporting this resolution.

Incidentally, Israel is the only Middle Eastern country and one of a handful of UN member states that isn’t part of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT). The NPT is an international treaty that is aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, promoting cooperation, and complete disarmament of nuclear weapons. It is interesting to note that Iran is a signatory of this very treaty they seem to be violating. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has stated that Iran refuses to answer questions about the origins of uranium particles in its environments, which furthers the suspicion that Iran is engaging in illicit nuclear activities.

The UN’s actions in choosing to call out Israel for unconfirmed actions while actively choosing to ignore Iran’s true intentions regarding their nuclear energy are deplorable. If Middle Eastern countries want to create a peaceful region, choosing to target Israel will not bring that to fruition. Israel deserves to be treated equally and not be scrutinized for unconfirmed possession of nuclear weapons when countries like Iran have clear evidence of undisclosed nuclear energy and aren’t being targeted. When developing a plan to create peace in the Middle East, the actions taken cannot be solely against Israel. Other countries must also be held accountable for their actions.

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Photo Caption: The United Nations Office in Geneva

Photo Credit: Mathias Reding