Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not be heading to Washington next week for the nuclear summit organized by US President Barack Obama.
The PM made the decision Thursday after finding out that several Muslim states intend to bring up Israel's failure to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Earlier, the PM's Office issued an official statement announcing the trip.
"In the last 24 hours we received reports about the intention of various states that will be present at the Washington conference to go beyond the issue of preventing nuclear terror," a senior source in Jerusalem said. "These states intend to exploit the occasion in order to slam Israel. The prime minister expressed his displeasure over these intentions, and he will therefore not be traveling to the summit."
"Israel is usually represented by ministers or specialists at international conferences dealing with this subject," the source added.
Minister for Intelligence Affairs Dan Meridor will be representing Israel at the conference instead of Netanyahu along with an expert team.
No plans for Bibi-Obama meeting
Officials in Jerusalem are concerned that Arab states and their supporters would seek to exert pressure on Israel over its reported nuclear capabilities. In addition, Netanyahu had not yet responded to demands made by President Obama in respect to efforts to renew the talks with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu was not scheduled to meet with President Obama during the summit; only nine world leaders of the roughly 46 in attendance are expected to meet with the president.
According to the information received by Jerusalem, eight or nine Muslim countries intend to bring up the issue at the conference. Some of the information is premised on unequivocal remarks by summit organizers.
The information prompted PM Netanyahu to reconsider his attendance at the summit, as he does not wish to make Israel the focus of public criticism over its failure to sign the NPT.
Hours after the announcement was made, The White House said Israel had informed it of the decision. White House National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said the Israeli government "has informed us" of the decision to send Meridor instead of Netanyahu to the nuclear security summit.
"We welcome Deputy Prime Minister Meridor's participation in the conference. Israel is a close ally and we look forward to continuing to work closely on issues related to nuclear security," Hammer said.
AFP contributed to this report