Despite critiques of Syria by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, shown here, Israel's own chemical weapons stockpile must be questioned. (Image Source: Reuters)
Recently, the world powers have been attempting to deal with the matter of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, especially in light of its use in the massacre in Ghouta east of Damascus in August 2013. Movements are now being made to have Syria sign and ratify the United Nations Chemical Weapons Convention, and destroy its chemical weapons arsenal. But one question that looms is, why did Syria develop chemical weapons in the first place? A probable answer lies to the southwest of the Syrian border: Israel, a nation who may also possess a chemical weapons stockpile.
It is an open secret that Israel possesses various weapons of mass destruction. The Israeli government itself maintains a policy of neither confirming nor denying possessing chemical or nuclear weapons, but has not ratified the UN conventions associated with weapons of mass destruction, remaining one of the few to do so. However, it is likely that the Israelis started developing WMDs in the 1970s in order to deter nearby nations from attacking it, following two decades of wars with Egypt, Syria, and Jordan.
The first technical confirmation of nuclear weapons came from nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, who exposed the Negev nuclear research facility as the source of Israel's nuclear arsenal to British newspapers. It is believed that a secret storage facility in nearby Dimona is the source of Israel's chemical stockpile as well. While Israel signed the UN Chemical Weapons Convention, it refuses to ratify it, citing neighbors who have supposedly continued to develop chemical weapons.
In turn, the Syrian government, while not outright stating that as the reason, likely saw Israel's WMD stockpile as a threat, and had built the chemical weapons stockpile as a deterrent against Israel's use of the same. Consequently, we saw a form of Mexican standoff against between Israel and Syria: Neither one would relinquish their chemical weapons and ratify the UN Convention. Not helping matters is Egypt also not signing and ratifying the Chemical Weapons Convention, though it is known that Egypt does not possess any chemical weapons, nor the capacity to build them.
Now, with Syria being pushed to give up their chemical weapons to prevent a United States-led military strike in response to the Ghouta massacre, the pressure is on to Israel to address their stockpile. The Israeli government said it is willing to consider ratifying the Chemical Weapons Convention, but it is waiting on more than Syria to back of on WMD production. Its veiled statements on the matter this week likely refer more to Iran, whose nuclear production has come under scrutiny over the last decade despite signing and ratifying the UN Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, than to Syria and Egypt.