Israel would also like to ensure that any such conference address the full range of WMD threats, to include chemical and biological weapons, as the NPT final document text states.
Neither Egypt nor Syria has signed the treaty calling for the elimination of all chemical weapons, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and both are widely suspected of having retained for decades arms banned by the pact.
Israel, which has signed but not ratified the chemical arms accord, is also one of 23 nations not party to the Biological Weapons Convention. Egypt, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates have signed the bioweapons treaty, which bans the production or retention of disease-based arms, but they have not ratified the agreement.
"I think Israel is very interested to speak with its neighbors about issues of arms control and nonproliferation, [and] how to limit the danger of weapons of mass destruction proliferation in the Middle East," Chen Kane, a senior research associate at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said in a Tuesday interview. "The question is which forum and what... topics are going to be discussed. And this is not going to be only a one-way discussion."
That prospect might already have some nations in the region spooked. Potter noted that the Arab League appears "to have major reservations about this conference," specifically noting reluctance expressed by Syria, Iran, and Algeria. "So it's not at all clear that you'll gain the support of key players as this moves forward."
"Basically the whole point is not about the [final document] text, but more an issue of political will," Khaled Shamaa, an Egyptian diplomat, said at the Carnegie conference. He spoke alongside Brom during the panel discussion.
From the perspective of Israel's neighbors, Jerusalem has been a freeloader on an international regime -- the NPT agreement -- aimed at preventing others from acquiring nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, the United States has indulged its ally and held others in the Middle East to a double standard, Shamaa said.
"As long as Israel rejects the NPT as an instrument," one must question why Jerusalem "is so adamant about states in the region complying with that treaty," he said. "The status quo of one state being a free rider on a legal regime in the region does not help to strengthen that regime."
Despite Israel's admonitions, it has not ruled out taking part in a conference and has even shown some early signs of openness to discussing this type of zone. The main concern for Jerusalem, according to several issue-watchers, is to ensure a constructive discussion at the event, one that would not devolve into Israel-bashing on the part of Arab states and Iran.
"If all these elements will be assured, I would stay that [there is] a fair chance that Israel will consider coming to it," said Brom, a senior fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
Uncertainty remains, though, about how plans for the gathering will unfold in the context of a stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process. President Obama on Thursday delivered a major address intended to kick-start Middle East talks, but continuing rancor in that arena could well spill over into the WMD-free zone initiative, experts said.
At the same time, Arab nations are mulling the possibility of reintroducing a resolution at the U.N. nuclear agency this fall calling on Israel to join the nonproliferation treaty, a move that might spoil any nascent plans for the 2012 conference.
The International Atomic Energy Agency's 151-nation General Conference narrowly rejected such a measure last September after a vigorous U.S. diplomatic lobbying effort in support of Israel.
The Egyptian-spearheaded effort to hold the WMD conference also comes amid heightened anxiety throughout the region about the prospect that Iran might build a nuclear arsenal of its own. While Cairo is primarily concerned about Jerusalem's stockpile next door, it is increasingly eyeing a potential threat from Tehran, one that might someday prompt Egypt to acquire its own atomic arms.
Despite widespread views to the contrary, the government in Tehran insists that its nuclear energy efforts are purely peaceful. However, one former Iranian diplomat suggested that the only way to force Israel to ultimately eliminate its nuclear stockpile is for other nations in the region to acquire their own atomic arsenals.
"I believe Israelis would be ready to consider this initiative seriously when [and] if other countries like Iran and Egypt and Turkey then gain capability on [the] nuclear issue," Seyed Hossein Mousavian, a visiting research scholar at Princeton University, said during the Carnegie panel discussion. "When they gain, then Israel would be ready to leave the monopoly."