Why Israeli nuclear weapons must not be mentioned
Written by Haitham on 23. February 2008, 1710hrs // Part of Haitham’s adventure in Asides // Other posts by Haitham

This “witness statement” is a good read:

The FO’s case to the information tribunal
The Guardian, Thursday February 21 2008

I, Neil Wigan, of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London SW1A 2AH, the United Kingdom, make this statement in support of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Appellant in these proceedings.

Personal Background

1. I am currently the head of the Arab, Israel and North Africa Group at the FCO. I am responsible for bilateral relationships with countries in the above regions, including Israel. I have held this post since February 2006. Prior to holding this post I was head of the Political Section in the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, a post which I held from August 2002 until January 2006.

The disputed information

2. I was shown a copy of the document which is the subject of this information request for the first time on Monday 15 October 2007. I have considered the marginal, handwritten notes on the document and have read those of them which are legible to me. I am not aware who wrote the notes.

3. On page 3 of the document, I refer to the marginal references in the first paragraph to Israel. The reference to Israel is linked (by a hyphen) to a sentence which reads: “No other country has flouted the United Nations’ authority so brazenly in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction”. I interpret this note to indicate that the person who wrote it believes that Israel has flouted the United Nations authority in a manner similar to that of the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein.

4. I have read the remaining marginal notes in the document and those do not appear to me to relate to Israel. As such my concerns in relation to the marginal notes on the document are limited to those adjacent to the first paragraph on page 3 referred to above.

5. I believe that if these comments were released into the public domain, this would seriously damage our bilateral relations with Israel. In my view, Israel will, in seeing these comments believe that the FCO has firstly, compared the Israeli regime to that of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and secondly, suggested that Israel has flouted the authority of the United Nations in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. Although the author of the marginal notes is unknown, I believe that the Israeli government would consider it likely that they would have been written by a senior figure. The assumption could, and I believe would, easily be made that these marginal notes represent the views of the FCO in relation to Israel.

6. Both the comparison with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and an implied accusation of a breach of the UN’s authority by Israel are potentially very serious. In my view it is inevitable that the relations between the UK and Israel would suffer if the reference in page 3 of the Williams draft were allowed to enter the public domain.

7. I am confident of this because of my extensive experience working in that region.

During the last five years or so working in both the British Embassy in Tel Aviv and as Head of the Arab, Israel and North Africa Group at the FCO here in London, I gained much experience of handling difficult bilateral issues concerning Israel, anticipating potential issues, and trying to minimise the damage from them.

I have seen that far more minor matters than this have been of great concern to the Israeli authorities. Unfortunately there is a perception already in Israel that parts of the FCO are prejudiced against the country. These notes would therefore confirm this pre-existing suspicion and would increase the damage.

During the last five years there were approximately 10 substantial incidents and 20 more minor ones relating to Israeli concerns over perceived attitudes about their regime within the British government.

8. I am certain that the release of this information would be given a large amount of attention in the media in the UK. Any news in relation to Israel is high profile at present, and in particular, and (sic) criticism of Israel receives a huge amount of media coverage. This would give the comments high profile. Not only that but in my view the Israeli government would also raise this with the foreign secretary and would brief the United Kingdom, Israeli and international media about the existence of the comments and Israeli concerns in relation to them.

9. That would be particularly damaging at this time. The region of Israel and Palestine is currently experiencing a time of extreme regional fragility and relations are particularly delicate.

Furthermore, in November this year there is a major conference taking place which will lead to a key period of diplomatic relations between those nations and the UK. The conference is a US sponsored conference on the Middle East peace process. The FCO will play a