US government sued over aid to ‘nuclear’ Israel

© Kevin Lamarque
A Washington DC non-profit group is suing the US government challenging its authority to provide Israel with foreign aid, arguing that its status – a nuclear power which didn’t sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty – means that aiding it contravenes US law.

“This lawsuit is not about foreign policy. It is about the rule of law, presidential power, the structural limits of the U.S. Constitution, and the right of the public to understand the functions of government and informed petition of the government for redress,” stated the complaint filed By Grant F. Smith, Director of the Institute for Research: Middle East Policy (IRmep).

The lawsuit filed last week in DC federal district court names President Barack Obama, the CIA director and secretaries of Commerce, Defense, Energy, State and Treasury as defendants.

The complaint challenges the authority of the president and federal agencies to deliver foreign aid to Israel, as it is non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) with a nuclear weapons programs.

The lawsuit argues in the mid-1970s during investigations into illegal diversion of weapon-grade uranium from a US contractor NUMEC to Israel, Senators Stuart Symington and John Glenn amended the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act to ban any aid to clandestine nuclear powers that were not NPT signatories.

“If you wish to take dangerous and costly steps to achieve a nuclear weapons option, you cannot expect the United States to help underwrite that effort indirectly or directly,” said Senator Symington at the time.

Israel has never officially admitted to having nuclear weapons, instead repeating over the years that it would not be the first country to “introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East.” However, it is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, and to be the sixth country in the world to have developed them, allegedly having built its first nuclear weapon in December 1966.

It is also known as one of four nuclear-armed countries not recognized as a Nuclear Weapons State by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the others being India, Pakistan and North Korea.

Speaking to RT, Miko Peled, an Israeli peace activist said the US has laws regarding who they may and may not sell weapons to.

“A nuclear power that refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation agreement is one of those,” said Peled. “Countries who regularly conduct human rights abuses, and use the weapons to kill civilians is another one of those, and Israel falls under all these categories.”

“Israel has nuclear weapons. It has been confirmed by Shimon Peres who was the prime minister and defense minister, and who was the father of the Israeli nuclear project. Everybody knows it exists. It is a game people play; they don’t talk about it,” he added.

The timing of the complaint comes as the Obama administration and Israeli government are negotiating a new 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to provide foreign aid of $4-5 billion annually.

“Congress will soon pass and the President will sign into law the final installment of the current FY2009-2018 foreign aid package,” stated the complaint. “The U.S. Treasury will provide an interest-bearing cash advance in October 2017 that Israel can use to fund its own military-industrial programs and purchase U.S. arms.”

The complaint points out that in 2008, former President Jimmy Carter told reporters that Israel has “more than 150 nuclear weapons.”

In reporting President Carter’s remarks, the BBC also reported that “most experts estimate that Israel has between 100 and 200 nuclear warheads, largely based on information leaked to the Sunday Times newspaper in the 1990s by Mordechai Vanunu, a former worker at the country’s Dimona nuclear reactor.”

In 2012, according to the complaint, the Department of Energy under the Department of State passed the Guidance on Release of Information relating to the Potential for an Israeli Nuclear Capability.

That guidance, the complaint said, meant the State Department and Department of Energy “unlawfully conspired to codify ‘nuclear ambiguity’ through a new secret gag law targeting any US federal government employee or contractor from publicly communicating about Israel’s nuclear weapons program under threat of immediate employment loss, fines and imprisonment.”

Peled was not surprised about the gag law.

“Israel wants to keep it secret, and America is in collusion with Israel on all of these issues. There is an ongoing unofficial, perhaps official agreement on the part of the United States to completely ignore any crimes committed by the state of Israel,” stated Peled. “If we look for example at the way United Nations Convention on Genocide is defined, Israel has been committing genocide for the last seven decades. America shouldn’t be selling weapons based on that as well.”

The complaint gives as an example of the effect of the gag the saga of Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear analyst James Doyle who wrote candidly about Israel’s nuclear weapons for a magazine in 2013.

“After a congressional staffer read the article, which had passed a classification review, it was referred to classification for a second review. Doyle’s pay was then cut, his home computer searched and he was fired,” quoted the complaint.

The complaint further alleges the primary purpose of the gag law is to unlawfully subvert Symington and Glenn arms export controls.

Smith argued in the complaint the administration has three legal avenues to deal with a nuclear Israel under the Symington and Glenn amendments - either cut off foreign assistance, change the Symington and Glenn amendments to exempt Israel, or just grant a waiver.

Such Symington and Glenn waivers have already been granted to two other countries in a similar position – Pakistan and India, Smith said.

“But if you are Israel, and you don’t want an arms race in the Middle East, then you pretend it’s unknown that you have the weapons,” Smith said.

Further in his interview with RT, Peled said the lawsuit “is very valid.”

“The United States is getting away with murder by complicity to the crimes that Israel commits against Palestinians,” said Peled. “This is not from today, this is going back decades. So I think the lawsuit is a bit late in the game but better late than never. It is time to talk about these issues.”