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Israel: Global NATO's 29th Member

By       Message Rick Rozoff       (Page 2 of 11 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink    (# of views)   No comments

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The Partnership for Peace has included all fifteen former Soviet and all six former Yugoslav federal republics as well as all non-Soviet Warsaw Pact members. Twelve of those - Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia - became full NATO members in the decade ending last year after passing through the PfP.

In addition, the program takes in all former neutral, non-aligned states in Europe except for Cyprus: Austria, Finland, Ireland, Malta, Sweden and Switzerland. Malta withdrew from the PfP in 1996 but was reabsorbed in 2008. Pro-U.S. parties in the Cypriot parliament are waging an all-out campaign to drag their nation into the program.

Except for Malta, only recently reentering the PfP, the six nations listed above have sent troop contingents of varying sizes to Afghanistan to serve under NATO command. The only countries in all of Europe (excluding the microstates of Andorra, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City), including the Caucasus, that have not offered troops for the Afghan war front to date are Russia, Belarus, Serbia, Malta, Moldova and Cyprus.

At its 2004 summit in Istanbul, Turkey the largest single expansion of NATO in its history occurred as seven states were brought in as full members, all in Eastern Europe and including the first former Soviet and former Yugoslav republics recruited as full members of the Alliance.

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The Istanbul summit also lent itself to another, similarly ambitious, project: The Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI). [6] The ICI purposed to elevate the seven Mediterranean Dialogue partners to a status analogous to that of the Partnership for Peace and to consolidate military ties with the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Since Algeria joined the Mediterranean Dialogue in 2000, Montenegro became an independent state in 2006 and joined the Partnership for Peace the same year, and Malta rejoined the latter two years later, every Mediterranean littoral and island nation except - for the moment - Cyprus, Lebanon, Libya and Syria is either a NATO member or partner. The Mediterranean Dialogue also allows NATO to stretch down the Atlantic Coast of Africa to Morocco and Mauritania.

If the accession of new members and the Partnership for Peace provided NATO with outposts on Russia's borders (Azerbaijan, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine) and on China's (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan), the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative has allowed for the further encirclement of Iran by moving Alliance influence and military presence into the Persian Gulf.

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Of the thirteen Middle Eastern and African nations targeted by it, Israel is the one that most immediately and substantively seized on the opportunity the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative offered.

The enhanced status of the Mediterranean Dialogue led within months of the Istanbul NATO summit to Israel engaging in Alliance activities for the first time.

On February 24, 2005 Jaap de Hoop Scheffer became the first NATO secretary general to visit Israel and the next month "Israel and NATO conducted their first ever joint naval exercise in the Red Sea, signalling a strengthening of relations." An Alliance naval group visited the Israeli Red Sea port of Eilat for a week-long visit, "which included a joint exercise with the Israel Navy." [7]

As Britain's Jane's Defence Weekly reported, "The novelty in the exercise was the fact it was conducted with NATO ships, which operate regularly in the Mediterranean, but rarely visit the Red Sea." [8]

In May of the same year it was announced that "Israel plans to stage three military exercises with NATO during 2005.

"Israeli officials said the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has submitted a plan to NATO that would include the staging of three exercises with Israel's military over the next 10 months. They said the exercises would take place at NATO headquarters in Brussels...."

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An Israeli official was cited as saying, "We have no doubt that Israel will gain immensely from closer ties with NATO, and we also believe that Israel has much to offer NATO in return." [9]

In the same month a planning conference for "NATO-led military exercises in the framework of the Partnership for Peace" program was held in Macedonia and was "attended by representatives of over 20 countries, including, for the first time, two countries from the so-called Mediterranean Dialogue - Israel and Jordan." [10]

Jane's again: "Whereas Israel's geopolitical location could offer an
'external base' for the defence of the West, NATO's military and economic status could provide added security and economic benefits for the host state.

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Rick Rozoff has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Is the manager of the Stop NATO international email list at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/

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