Saturday, 8 September 2012

Should Israel Joint NATO?

Haaretz has published an op-ed recommending that Israel could find a structural solution to its security problems by taking membership of the Atlantic Alliance.

The arguments advanced in the article are interesting but not entirely compelling to NATO Monitor.

While it seems logical that Israel would be far less scared of Iran if it had NATO membership, there are major problems that would need to be overcome. Principle amongst these is the issue of relations between Israel and Palestine.

Would Israel, in return for the security embrace of NATO, be prepared to end the de facto siege of Gaza? Would it be prepared to allow the creation of a viable Palestinian state with properly contiguous territory on the West Bank, and working connections to Gaza?

Would Israel be willing to forego sabre-rattling military options like its periodic wars in Lebanon?

In summary, would Israel be prepared to mature sufficiently as a state to take up the serious responsibilities of a state receiving the Article V security guarantee that NATO offers? Would it be prepared to act in a completely different way, not threatening to drag its allies into war at every turn?

Would Israel gain anything from NATO membership? After all, it already has strong links with the US and other NATO allies. Haaretz lists 7 exercises in which NATO members and Israel jointly participate this year:
The seven exercises involve the special forces (an exercise known as JCET ), the navy (three exercises - Noble Dina, Noble Melinda and Reliant Mermaid ), the marines (Noble Shirley ), the National Guard (an exercise in responding to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive attack ), and a combined forces operation that includes ballistic missile defense drills (Austere Challenge, which includes the Juniper Cobra and Juniper Falcon exercises ). The latter, scheduled for October, is the one that the United States recently scaled down drastically, from a planned 5,000 troops to possibly as few as 1,200.
Would Israel share NATO's assessment of its security situation? With PM Netanyahu exploding into overblown rhetoric at every opportunity it seems unlikely. As Haaretz reports, Admiral Stavridis NATO's Supreme Commander, shares the assessment of his analysts that Israel is currently more secure than at any time since 1948. Hardly the outlook of the Netanyahu government which proclaims regularly that the second holocaust is coming.

Looked at from the Arab side, would Israeli membership of NATO be seen as aimed against Arab states or as part of a process to normalise relations between Israel and its neighbours by providing the Israel with the security it needs to allow such a process to happen?

These are questions worth exploring, as any potential solution to the security morass in the Middle East is worth exploring. But NATO is certainly a long way from going down this path.

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