In the early 1990s, Eitan Ben-Zur of the Israeli foreign office tried to explore the possibility of a deal with North Korea to halt its missile shipments to countries in the Middle East that pose a threat to Israel. The deal would have included indirect Israeli economic assistance to Pyongyang in order to compensate it for the financial losses it would incur from the cessation of those sales. The Ben-Zur initiative was supported by Shimon Peres, the then-Israeli foreign minister.
In the end, the deal was not concluded, due to a disagreement between the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Mossad about its feasibility. Another barrier to the initiative was Washington’s objection to Jerusalem’s involvement with Pyongyang at a time when the US was trying to reach its own agreement with North Korea on the nuclear issue. Washington was disturbed by the Jerusalem-Pyongyang contacts, despite the fact that Israel’s sole focus — missile shipments to the Middle East — was not perceived by the Americans as a critical issue.
Decades later, Washington is negotiating with Pyongyang on an agreement that will include complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of its nuclear and long-range missile programs. Once again, as occurred during the 1990s negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang, the agreement is not expected to view military exports to the Middle East as a core issue.