Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Israel joins NATO parliamentary assembly

Israel was voted in a member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly on Tuesday, after previously only enjoying monitor status. The decision was made during the spring session of the organization being held this week in Ljubjana, Slovenia.

The NATO Parliamentary Assembly is the inter-parliamentary organization of legislators from 14 member countries of the North Atlantic Alliance, and is a forum for international parliamentary dialogue.
This is an important step on the way for Israel to join NATO as a full member.

But there is a fundamental question about this possibility. Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty states:
The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
If a NATO-member Israel is attacked by Arab countries, according to a strict interpretation of this 1949 Treaty, Israel would not expect the aid of other NATO countries the same way that the European and North American members would - since it is not a part of Europe.

So while the possibility of Israel joining NATO is probably welcome and would help Israel's diplomatic efforts, it does not necessarily help Israel's defense in a fundamental way.

Also see NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer's speech in Israel in February. In this speech he makes it clear that NATO is reaching out to Arab countries as well as Israel, and it seems that NATO is trying to remake itself to be more relevant in a post-Cold War world, to be more of a political player and less a defense pact:
This Alliance is no longer the static organisation of the Cold War. In fact, the very moment the Cold War ended, that old NATO ceased to exist. NATO today is an agent of political change. NATO enlargement has been a key factor in overcoming the division of Europe. NATO’s cooperative mechanisms, such as Partnership for Peace, have turned this Alliance into the hub of a network of continent-wide cooperation – cooperation that encompasses the most diverse countries, from Switzerland to Uzbekistan. And NATO’s military involvement in the Balkans has created the conditions for long-term stability and reconciliation in a troubled region.
[...] On that basis, last June, at NATO’s Istanbul Summit, we agreed, in close consultation with Israel and other partners in this process, to try to move our relationship to another level – in short, to move from dialogue to partnership. We want to further intensify our political dialogue; to promote greater interoperability between our military forces; and to encourage greater cooperation on defence reform, as well as in the critical fight against terrorism. These are all areas where we have a lot to offer to each other, and where working together is beneficial to us all.
I am happy to note that Israel has very recently stepped forward with a list of concrete proposals for enhancing our cooperation. These proposals cover many areas of common interest, such as the fight against terrorism or joint military exercises, where Israel’s expertise is very much valued. They underline your country’s desire for a strenghtened relation, and we are looking forward to working with Israel in the framework of an individual action programme.

NATO's outreach is certainly flexible enough to allow each partner to go its way, at its own rythm. So the stage is set for a more substantial cooperation between NATO and Israel. In doing so, we also want to make sure to keep everybody on board in this Dialogue and to take account of the overall even-handedness of the process at large.

In that context, further positive developments in the Peace Process, as we seem to witness them now, should allow our nascent partnership to achieve its full potential, both in terms of bilateral and regional cooperation.

The enhanced Mediterranean Dialogue will go a long way towards putting the relationship between NATO and its Middle Eastern partners on a new footing. At a certain stage if the current positive trend continues, Allies might also have to look into the possibility to extend this dialogue to others in the region. In that regard, you will remember that NATO Heads of States and Government in Istanbul did not exclude, at some stage to cooperate with the Palestinian Authority under our initiatives, subject of course to an approval by the North Atlantic Council.

If long-term stability for the region is our common goal, we have to build bridges to the wider region as well.

This is what we are trying to do with our Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. Through the ICI, we have offered cooperation to countries of the broader region of the Middle East, starting with countries from the Gulf. Right after we launched this initiative at our Summit last June, we received a lot of positive feedback. And this was, quite frankly, no surprise. Because in the Gulf region as well, there is a growing awareness that we face common challenges, and that we need to meet them together. With Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar we have already moved to the stage where we are in the process of developing a programme of activities that will be open to them. And I am sure that other countries will follow this example.
So this is interesting and welcome news but not necessarily a clear pro-Israel vote on the part of Europe.

UPDATE: Capt. Diggs (who pointed this out to me) responds:

NATO's primary mission is to be the military arm of politics for the free world.
( "war is politics by other means", Karl Von Clausewitz )

Despite talk of politicizing NATO, it is highly unlikely. The US, as well as other members vehemently oppose this. And of course, without the US, there is no NATO.

My thoughts on the statements to arab nations is that this is some soothing diplomacy in the face of active courting by NATO, of Israel.
Israel has already worked with NATO in both war gaming and military exercises.
NATO eyes Israel as a strategic, not political, asset. They have the 6th most powerful military in the world, superb technology and innovation, and unfortunately, experience. They are also located at an extremely important geographical junction.
I would believe that NATO is eyeing the world through the lens of what is happening in the Muslim and arab world today. That being that confrontation is most likely with these arab/muslim countries.
NATO's countship of Israel despite the political heat from the arab world is quite telling.
As I said, Israel is not a political asset for NATO.

Article 5 of the NATO charter is the very foundation of NATO, and without it NATO becomes just another roundtable of jawboning politicians.

The clause statement concerning the "North Atlantic" has already been amended to include Greece and Turkey.

In short, there is no point to being a member of NATO except for the protection it offers militarily.

At least, IMO.