A two-headed snake has been loitering about long enough in the region. And its presence has not been a very comforting one. At least not to the hosts on whose land this menacing creature wanders about, spewing venom in its path. The snake? None other than the state of Israel.

On the one hand, its leaders are bleating about the threats from Iran and its nuclear potential. Remember, they did the same thing about Iraq some years back through their proxies in the United States government, leading the then American president George W. Bush and company to embark on an adventure that opened a Pandora’s Box of misery that continues to haunt us even today. On the other hand, this snake is pursuing its policy of grabbing and annexing what little land the Palestinians can hang on to through aggression, targeted killings, executions, burnings of civilians and their dwellings — all “in the interest of national security”.

This two-headed snake has long learned to play the game craftily. It started by portraying itself as a victim as it began its journey in a strange land and slowly began pushing out the lawful residents, albeit with massive support from western nations who were continually reminded about the collective guilt of the first Holocaust during the Second World War and who were goaded into making amends for their past deeds. They defied all democratic norms and sided with this monster. It did not matter that their victims — the Palestinians — had nothing to do with the events of the past. It was simply an expedient solution.

The Arabs have tried to battle and even reason with this monster, but to no avail. In the latest such attempt, a resolution was initiated by Egypt to declare the region a nuclear weapons-free zone and urged Israel to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The resolution would have applied less stringent supervisory conditions on Israel in comparison to those recently agreed upon with Iran. Since Iran had already sealed an agreement with the world powers on greater nuclear transparency, this vote became the first attempt to ask Israel to follow suit.

Prior to the vote, the representative from Qatar, which heads the group of Arab countries at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), submitted a proposal named ‘Israel’s nuclear capabilities’, which asked Israel to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty and place its nuclear facilities under United Nations inspection. Qatar reminded the audience of the potential dangers of allowing Israeli nuclear facilities to be the only ones in the Middle East not under international supervision or inspection.

The Iranian delegate said that Israel’s nuclear capabilities, including its stockpile of atomic weapons, was of great concern to the countries in the Middle East. “This regime is continuing to advance and develop its nuclear programme contrary to all international norms and Iran is worried about the negative ramifications that Israel’s nuclear programme has on the security of the region,” he said.

Earnest campaign

But the monster would have none of that. It did not want any of its nuclear weapons programme to be placed under any sort of international monitoring. Instead, it began an earnest campaign of lobbying and arm-twisting to ensure that the resolution did not see the light of day. On Thursday, the IAEA’s General Conference voted down the resolution, which called for international supervision of Israel’s nuclear facilities.

Israel gloated in the aftermath of the results, calling it a great victory following the culmination of a massive international campaign in the previous few months against the resolution. Those predictably siding with Israel were the US, Canada, Australia and European Union members while Russia, China, Turkey and South Africa sided with the regional countries in backing the resolution. Thus secrecy is ensured for the Israelis, who can go about developing their nuclear bombs, weaponry that could one day be turned against their neighbours.

Calling the vote “a great victory for Israel in the international arena”, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a strategy was developed early on with the joint efforts of the National Security Council at the Prime Minister’s Office, the Foreign Ministry and the Atomic Energy Commission to defeat the resolution.

Not content with basking in victory, this two-headed snake then proceeded to storm the Al Aqsa Mosque, situated in occupied Jerusalem and the third holiest shrine of the Muslim world. It fired tear gas shells and stun grenades on the congregation assembled for prayers in a blatant bid to create a response that could be quickly put down by superior Israeli firepower and then quickly explained to a compliant media as “a quelling of rebellion by terrorists”.

This ongoing policy of aggression by a nuclear power that has been granted the freedom to operate unchecked certainly doesn’t bode well for peace.

Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.