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Dr Musa A Keilani: They deny what they do
September 26, 2012
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

The denial by Israel’s atomic commission of the charge made by King Abdullah II that Israel was behind efforts to disrupt the kingdom’s nuclear plans fails to be convincing. The Israel Atomic Energy Commission’s head, Shaul Chorev, says that Israel has zero problem with Jordan having nuclear energy, denying that the commission had done anything to disrupt the kingdom’s programme.

It is plain that the Israeli government will not be using its atomic commission for such political work at the diplomatic level to pressure countries not to cooperate with Jordan on the kingdom’s creation of a civilian nuclear energy programme. The Israel Atomic Energy Commission might not even be aware of what the Israeli government is doing in this respect.

Israeli government officials are speaking about the issue only on condition of anonymity.

“We were consulted and we always said that of course if this was done according to NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) regulations and supervision and everything, then fine, we have no objection,” Agence France-Presse quoted an unnamed Israeli official as saying.

Why should any official seek anonymity to make such a plain and open statement? Obviously, Israel has something to hide.

Jordan, which is paying a heavy bill for its energy imports and needs nuclear power to run its electricity generation and desalination plants, hopes to have its first nuclear plant running before the end of the decade. It is not acceptable that any country campaigns against the Jordanian programme. As a signatory to the UN nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Jordan fully enjoys the right to produce, use and export its own energy.

The king was very explicit in his comments in an interview with Agence France-Presse early this month.

The king said, “Strong opposition to Jordan’s nuclear energy programme is coming from Israel.

“When we started going down the road of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, we approached some highly responsible countries to work with us,” he said. “And pretty soon we realised that Israel was putting pressure on those countries to disrupt any cooperation with us,” the king added.

“A Jordanian delegation would approach a potential partner, and one week later an Israeli delegation would be there, asking our interlocutors not to support Jordan’s nuclear energy bid,” King Abdullah said.

“Against this backdrop, I feel that those who oppose our peaceful nuclear programme for all the wrong reasons are furthering Israeli interests more efficiently than Israel could ever do,” the king said.

It is plain that Israel does not want any Arab country having a nuclear programme, even for peaceful purposes. It destroyed Iraq’s sole nuclear plant in 1981 and attacked what was said to be an atomic facility in Syria in 2007.

Israel has a particular concern over Jordan’s nuclear programme but that has little to do with the kingdom’s plans for a nuclear reactor to produce electricity. It is concerned over Jordan’s plans to mine and enrich its uranium deposits.

Since Jordan announced the discovery of at least 65,000 tonnes of uranium ore in the deserts near Amman in 2007, Israel has been trying to pre-empt Jordan from enriching its uranium. It has enlisted help from its allies to pressure Jordan into all plans for enrichment. Washington says that Jordan could mine the uranium ore, but should not convert it into fuel. It says the kingdom should purchase its reactor fuel on the nuclear market.

The US has also made it clear that it will refuse to help Jordan if it makes use of its own uranium.

The US position makes it problematic for Jordan because the USA plays a leading role in the so-called Nuclear Supplier Group which monitors the sale of nuclear technology.

However, the US stand overlooks the reality that mining and utilising the uranium ore to fuel its planned power plants that could meets its own needs and also export power to its neighbours is one of the key means for Jordan to address its economic problems in the medium term.

Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, should be seen as the ideal partner for Obama’s declared plans to promote the non-military use of atomic energy as an alternative fuel resource.

The kingdom has co-operated with the US on every front and remains one of the strongest US allies in the Middle East. It is committed to maintaining its state of peace with Israel and to all efforts to solve the Palestinian problem on the basis of a two-state solution that protects the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. It has been and is playing a supportive role in the US “war against terrorism.”

It is strange that Israel also seems to be overlooking the potential of co-operation with Jordan’s plans to mine and enrich uranium for strictly peaceful purposes.

Following the 2010 rupture in its relations with Turkey and the 2011 ouster of the Egyptian regime of long-time president Hosni Mubarak and in view of the crisis in Syria and unrest in Lebanon, Israel should be re-considering its approach and strengthen the bilateral relationship.

Israel stands to gain nothing by deliberately undermining Jordan’s quest for energy independence.

The US and Israel should realise that Jordan’s nuclear programme presents an opportunity to develop a model of transparency in nuclear work not only in the Middle East but around the world. Any other coercive approach against Jordan will be shortsighted and counter-productive.

The author, a former Jordanian ambassador, is the
chief editor of  Al Urdun weekly in Amman

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