Both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates appeared on This Week with Jake Tapper, and Clinton sidestepped a direct question on Israel's unauthorized nuclear weapons, pointing out that terrorists present the real threat.
This is important, because one of the big arguments in the Middle East is that we invade countries who aren't supposed to have nuclear weapons if we even suspect they have them. Other nations respond that Israel has unapproved nukes, and everyone knows it.
I'm not positive, but I think this is the first time any U.S. official has 1) even indirectly acknowledged that Israel has nukes and 2) drawn the distinction between a state (Israel) that had unapproved nukes, and the non-state entities who are trying to get them:
TAPPER: Let's turn to the nuclear security summit that's about to start. Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel has said he's -- he's not going to come amidst concerns that some of the Arab and Muslim countries -- Egypt and Turkey in particular -- were going to raise the worst kept secret in the world that Israel has nuclear weapons and the fact that Israel is not a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty.
Don't they have a point?
CLINTON: Well part of the goal of the nuclear security summit is to focus on the threat from nuclear terrorism. And we don't believe the threat from nuclear terrorism comes from states. Our biggest concern is that terrorists will get nuclear material. We fear North Korea and Iran, because their behavior as -- the first case, North Korea being -- already having nuclear weapons, and Iran seeking them -- is that they are unpredictable. They have an attitude toward countries like Israel, like their other neighbors in the Gulf that makes them a danger.
So we are focusing on the two states, but we are also very concerned about nuclear material falling into terrorists' hands. And that's a concern that we all share. So part of the challenge is to bring the world together as President Obama is doing in the nuclear security summit. To have everyone sign off on an agreed upon work plan that will enable us to begin to try to tie up these loose nukes, and these loose nuclear materials. To make sure they don't fall into the wrong hands.
And Israel will be represented by the deputy prime minister. And will be at the table as we begin to try to figure out how to deal with this particular problem.
TAPPER: Is that a good thing, because it would have made the summit into a -- a side show?
CLINTON: Well that's a decision for every government to make as to who comes and who doesn't come.
So the point is that countries will be represented. And the overall goal of this nuclear security summit is to make progress. I have to say, Jake, you know this is something that Secretary Gates and I have said repeatedly. You know, the threat of nuclear war -- nuclear attack as we grew up with in the Cold War has diminished. The threat of nuclear terrorism has increased. And we want to get the world's attention focused where we think it needs to be with these continuing efforts by Al Qaeda and others to get just enough nuclear material to cause terrible havoc, destruction, and loss of life somewhere in the world.
TAPPER: President Obama officials say he's contemplating presenting a peace plan to help jump start the process between the Israelis and the Palestinians. What advice do you give President Obama when it comes to whether or not he should offer a peace plan?
CLINTON: Well I never share advice that I give directly to any president.
TAPPER: Well then, hypothetically?
CLINTON: Well -- and I don't answer hypotheticals. But I will say this. That this administration from the very first day has made it clear we are committed to pursuing a path of peace in the Middle East. And to get the two parties to get to a point where they can engage in negotiations again to deal with these very difficult final status issues.
Our goal remains the resumption -- the relaunch of negotiations. Both indirect -- eventually leading to direct, and that's our focus.