On top of all the problems – Hamas and Gaza, settlements and lack of peace process – Israeli Palestinian fragile relations face another obstacle. The Palestine Authority (PA) signed a draft agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) It was signed in last February and confirmed by IAEA's Board of Governors. Yet because the document (see the attached) is classified as "restricted" it has not been published.
Here it is revealed publicly for the first time. Article 2 of the draft agreement states: "The Agency shall have the right and the obligation to ensure that safeguards will be applied, in accordance with the terms of this Agreement, on all source or special fissionable material in all peaceful nuclear activities within the territory of Palestine, under its jurisdiction or carried out under its control anywhere, for the exclusive purpose of verifying that such material is not diverted to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices".
It means that IAEA inspectors have the right to visit every part of the "Palestine state" check the safety of radio-active materials, including uranium which are used for peaceful purposes.
This is the duty and mandate of IAEA, which was established in 1957 as an organ of the UN to supervise and prevent of nuclear materials and equipment for military purposes while supporting the use of it for civilian aims such as medicine, agriculture, industry and more.
The arrangements between IAEA and its state members are known as "Safeguards Agreement". These agreements derive from membership of states, in the Non Proliferation Treaty (INPT) Any state which is participating in the NPT is committed not to develop, produce, stockpile or proliferate nuclear weapons or materials and equipment related to nuclear weapons. Such a state must sign a Safeguard Agreement with the IAEA which is the "arbitrator" and thus has the obligation and the right to verify that any use of radio-active and other nuclear materials are indeed used only for peaceful purposes.
However, they have no access to military sites which according to the Safeguards Agreements are off limits to them. For that reason IAEA inspectors couldn't visits either some of Iran's nuclear sites or Syria's site where it had built its nuclear reactor, which was destroyed in 2007 by the Israeli air force.
Only the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council US, Russia, China, UK and France are permitted to have nuclear weapons. All the rest nations joined the NPT, except five. Israel, India, Pakistan never joined the NPT while North Korea withdrew from it in 2003 and South Sudan which gained its independence in 2011 is still considering.
India, Pakistan and North Korea also acknowledge that they have nuclear weapons and that conducted nuclear tests. Israel with its policy known as "ambiguity" neither confirms nor denies that it has nuclear weapons though the entire world thinks it has one of the most advanced and sophisticated arsenal. A Swedish think tank (SIPRI) estimated a few years ago that Israel has 80 nuclear bombs hydrogen bombs.
Thus IAEA inspectors are prohibited of visiting the nuclear military sites of India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel doesn't let them into its Dimona nuclear reactor.
The Palestinian Authority doesn't have nuclear reactors nor does it intend to build or purchase them. Surely it doesn't have nuclear bombs. Not to mention that Israel as the occupying force is watchful and prevents the entry of any suspicious nuclear materials even for a potential duel use to the West Bank.
Yet in the West Gaza and West Bank there are hospitals, departments of chemistry and physics at universities, in the agriculture fields and in industry which use components of nuclear materials and equipment.
Except a few nations Palestine is not recognized as a state. Nevertheless the PA joined in 2015 the NPT and this year signed as mentioned above the safeguards agreement with IAEA.
Regardless the professional issues, the PA steps in regard to the IAEA, have a political statement. It's part of the PA efforts to join as much international organs and forums preferably associated with the UN, as possible, aiming to legitimize itself and gain recognition of state.
The PA move challenges Israel, IAEA and the USA. A "state" by its sheer definition, is responsible for all the materials and equipment within its territory. Therefore it is interesting to watch how the IAEA will deal with the issue and define the areas of the "Palestine State". It's not clear from the response I got from the IAEA press office, which appears below.
Furthermore, according to the safeguards agreement, a "member state", to form its own regulatory body. Will the PA create a nuclear atomic energy commission? And if they do what will be the Israeli reaction? Surely Israel will not like it. Its dilemma, however, is not that simple. Will Israel try to prevent IAEA inspectors of entering the PA areas if and when they try to perform their duties to detect radio-active materials? And what about the US? How the Donald Trump administration will react in times when it punishes any UN agency (Human Rights Council, UNRAWA, and UNESCO) which is perceived as leading anti-Israeli policy?
PA spokesperson didn't respond.
The Israeli Prime Minister's office which is in charge of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) declined to comment.
The IAEA press office e said in its response; "Following its accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in February 2015, Palestine informed the IAEA Secretariat that it wished to conclude a safeguards agreement with the Agency to fulfill its NPT obligations. In light of that request, a draft safeguards agreement (with a small quantities protocol) was prepared for Palestine and submitted to the IAEA Board of Governors. In March 2018, the Board of Governors authorized the Director General of the IAEA to conclude and subsequently implement the safeguards agreement. However, the safeguards agreement has not entered into force yet. The submissions of the draft agreement to the Board of Governors or its implementation do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever concerning the legal status of any country or territory or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers".
Palestinian-Libyan Nuclear Deal
Here is another piece of information in regard to the IAEA, PA and nuclear weapons. In 2004 the Israeli intelligence was taken by surprised when the US and the UK announced about reaching a deal with Libya. Led by its leader Muamar Qdaffi Libya acknowledged that for a few years it sought to acquire nuclear weapons with the help of Abdul Qadder Khan, who is considered the "father of Pakistan's Atomic Bomb". Libya stated that it would dismantle its nuclear program and agreed to supply the CIA, MI6 and eventually the IAEA with its nuclear records.
The Libyan trail lead the CIA, MI6 and the IAEA to realize that Khan's smuggling network, also played a major role in the advancement of Iran's secret military nuclear program
The IAEA investigations also revealed the involvement of a small Palestinian company from the city of Ramallah in the Libyan program. The Palestinian company was a subcontractor providing components for a Libyan firm producing cables for its country's nuclear program.
The Palestinian involvement was so marginal that IAEA never bothered to mention it in its public reports. Yet, the Israeli intelligence emerged from the entire affair as being blind not only to what was occurring in the far distance of Libya but also under its nose, 10 kilometers from its capital –Jerusalem.