By Janine Zacharia and Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, May 30, 2010; A07
JERUSALEM -- Israel on Saturday sharply criticized an action plan on nuclear weapons agreed to by the United States and 188 other countries, rebuffing its most novel proposal -- a conference in 2012 to discuss ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction.
The action plan stressed the "importance" of Israel joining the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but did not mention Iran's expanding atomic program, the Israeli government noted.
The agreement, reached a day earlier, had put U.S. officials in an awkward position: Rejecting it would have spelled failure for a month-long conference on the NPT, which has curbed the spread of nuclear weapons for 40 years. But accepting it created a new source of tension between the allies, just days before a visit to Washington by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
In a statement Saturday, the Israeli government called the plan "deeply flawed," adding that "it ignores the realities of the Middle East and the real threats facing the region and the entire world."
The plan "singles out Israel, the Middle East's only true democracy and the only country threatened with annihilation," the statement said. "Yet the terrorist regime in Iran, which is racing to develop nuclear weapons and which openly threatens to wipe Israel off the map, is not even mentioned."
Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with President Obama on Tuesday to discuss Iran, the peace process with the Palestinians and the NPT resolution.
The U.S. delegation at the NPT review in New York had fought to excise all mentions of Israel in the final document. But on Thursday evening, as delegations prepared for a last round of talks, the conference president informed them that the latest draft of the text was a take-it-or-leave-it document, officials said. Final NPT documents require a consensus.
Many diplomats had expected U.S. officials to withhold approval of the final document because of the mention of Israel. But the U.S. government was apparently reluctant to be viewed as the spoiler at a conference that focused on one of Obama's priorities.
National security adviser James L. Jones said Friday that the U.S. government "deplores" the decision to single out Israel and would "not permit a conference or actions that could jeopardize Israel's national security."
Sheridan reported from New York.