Israel also facing questions about chemical weapons

An Israeli woman carries a boxed gas mask while holding a child outside a government distribution center in Tel Aviv.
(Ariel Schalit / Associated Press)

JERUSALEM -- Israel has cheered the Syrians’ promise to hand over their chemical weapons and sign the Chemical Weapons Convention, but it is increasingly worried that the international pressure building may soon focus on Israel, which has refused to ratify the treaty and is believed to possess chemical weapons.

Israel signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993, but it never ratified the agreement.


Israeli officials insist that their government is willing to ratify the treaty, but only after others in the region follow suit. Syria and Egypt notably have refused to sign the accord outlawing the use of chemical weapons.

Israel’s regional enemies have insisted they need chemical weapons to counter the threat of the nuclear weapons Israel is believed to possess. No other Middle East nation is thought to have such an arsenal.

In recent days, some Russian diplomats have linked Israel’s military capabilities with Syria’s, hinting that Israel should be required to ratify the treaty if Syria agrees to.

Israel officials say they will consider it, but only when it become clear that everyone else in the region will do so.

“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,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said.

“If things change, we would need to consider very carefully ratifying the treaty, but Syria alone isn’t enough,’’ he said.

Israel has never acknowledged possessing either chemical or nuclear weapons.

An article this month in Foreign Policy revealed a 1983 CIA intelligence estimate that Israel was likely developing a nerve agent at the Dimona Sensitive Storage Area in the Negev Desert.


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