JERUSALEM, Israel - President Barack Obama is working behind the scenes against Israel's nuclear weapons program, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton told Israel's Army Radio on Tuesday.
According to Bolton, the Obama administration has been working with the Egyptian government to force Israel to compromise its nuclear deterrent, estimated to be between 150 and 200 nuclear weapons.
"Egypt and the Obama administration are negotiating right now on an Egyptian proposal for a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East, which certainly sounds good, except when you think about it," Bolton said.
"There is only one country that resolution is targeted at and that is Israel," he said.
For years, successive U.S. administrations - aware of the vulnerability of the tiny Jewish state surrounded by a sea of less-than-friendly Arab neighbors - have supported Israel's longstanding policy of ambiguity on its nuclear weapons programs.
"When I was in the Bush administration, we refused to even talk about these kinds of ideas," Bolton said. "I'd be quite worried about the possible outcome here."
"The president is not happy with Israel's nuclear capabilities," Bolton said. "I think he would be delighted if Israel gave up its nuclear weapons."
"The only unknown answer at this point is exactly how much pressure he would exert on Israel to do just that. Part of that pressure is being exerted right now by even considering the possibility of a conference on a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East," Bolton said.
A Nuclear Free Middle East?
The former ambassador also noted the U.N.'s invitation to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. Ahmadinejad delivered a lengthy speech at Monday's session. Click here to watch Ahmadinejad's speech on YouTube.
"This [Ahmadinejad's visit] is nothing exceptional for the U.N.," Bolton noted. "This is the way the U.N. is day in and day out. This is not some isolated problem we could fix with the U.N. by banning the likes of Ahmadinejad. This is the way the organization works."
"The only good thing I could say about it is that he [the Iranian president] typically says such ridiculous things that I'm not sure he doesn't pose more problems for his own position by coming than by not coming," the former ambassador said.
In an op-ed piece in the New York Daily News on Wednesday, attorney Anne Bayefsky, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and executive director of Human Rights Voices, criticized the U.N.'s invitation to Ahmadinejad.
"Yesterday, the U.N. handed the world's leading would-be nuclear proliferator - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - a platform to open a U.N. conference about preventing nuclear proliferation.
"A year ago, fully aware of Ahmadinejad's genocidal ambitions, the U.N. handed the same man a stage to open an 'anti-racism' conference," she wrote.
Bayefsky then expounded on why she feels "yesterday's embarrassment…lies more at the feet of the president of the United States than those of the president of Iran." Click here to read the full article.
Prior to Monday's session, Egyptian Ambassador Maged Abdel Aziz said the key to dealing with Iran's nuclear program would be the establishment of a nuclear-free Middle East.
"Success in dealing with Iran will depend, to a large extent, on how successfully we deal with the establishment of a nuclear-free zone in the region," Aziz said.
Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled plans to attend the U.S.-sponsored nuclear security summit after a coalition of Middle Eastern states, led by Egypt and Turkey, planned to use the occasion to target Israel's alleged nuclear weapons program.
"Israel participates in the effort to prevent nuclear technology reaching the hands of terrorists and on this basis we agreed to take part in the summit," a statement from the Prime Minister's Office said.
"But reports surfacing in the last 24 hours indicated the intention of various states to assail Israel regarding the NPT [Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty].
Netanyahu appointed Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor, who also serves as deputy prime minister, to lead the Israeli delegation in his stead.
The Jerusalem Post contributed to this report.