A day before President Donald Trump's address to a joint session of Congress, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer spoke at the National Press Club Newsmaker.
I questioned Chuck Schumer about Israel's nuclear weapons arsenal:
Watch the full exchange here.
Sam Husseini: You voted for the 2002 Iraq War Resolution, claiming Iraq was vigorously pursuing nuclear weapons. Do you acknowledge that Israel has nuclear weapons? [another question directed at Nancy Pelosi] ....
SH: Senator Schumer -- on Israel's nukes -- do you acknowledge --
Chuck Schumer: I didn't get your question.
SH: Do you acknowledge that Israel has nuclear weapons, sir?
CS: I'm not -- you can -- go read the newspapers about that. [walks away from podium]
SH: You can't acknowledge that Israel has nuclear weapons, sir?
CS: It is a well known fact that Israel has nuclear weapons, but the Israeli government doesn't officially talk about what kinds of weapons and where, etc.
SH: Should the U.S. government be forthright?
CS: Ok, that's it.
Jeff Ballou (National Press Club President, news editor at Al Jazeera): Ok, we'll move on.
There are a number of problems with Schumer's response.
Roger Mattson, author of Stealing the Atom Bomb: How Denial and Deception Armed Israel notes: "First Schumer tried to duck the question, then, trying to be forthright, he went further than anyone of his stature has gone before, at least to my knowledge. Too bad the moderator did not realize you were plowing new ground, or maybe he did realize that and cut [it] off intentionally."
Another is that Israel does not simply not "officially talk about what kinds of weapons and where" -- it refuses to acknowledge that they exist at all. This has been echoed by U.S. administration after U.S. administration which have refused to acknowledge the existence of Israel's nuclear weapons arsenal. See: "The Absurd U.S. Stance on Israel’s Nukes: A Video Sampling of Denial."
Grant Smith of Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy has noted: "DOE Classification Bulletin WPN-136 on Foreign Nuclear Capabilities’ forbids stating what 63.9 percent of Americans already know -- that Israel has a nuclear arsenal.” See: "Israel Silently Lapping Field in Mideast Nuclear Arms Race."
Smith suggests: "So a final question would be: 'Since aid to non-NNPT countries is subject to the Arms Export Control Act sanctions, why do you keep passing it?'"
More coming on this issue.
Thanks to Ingrid Monkiewicz and Andrew Stewart.