Israel and the Globalization of NATO
At the beginning of 2010 the North Atlantic Treaty Organization intensified its efforts so that the 28 member countries and its numerous partners spread on the five continents enhance their participation to the campaign deployed in Afghanistan. The Israeli journal "Jerusalem Post" wrote on 13 January that the government from Tel-Aviv initiated an intense campaign which aimed at influencing the new strategic concepts of the Organization, whose present content was established in 1998 after the last wave of enlargement towards the former European socialist countries and during the involvement in the war from former Yugoslavia.
The "Foreign Affairs" magazine, edited by the US Council on Foreign Relations, published in its September-October 2009 issue an analysis signed by James Goldgeier, entitled "Global NATO". The author said, "with little fanfare and even less notice" that NATO has become a global structure which spreads - through its member countries and partners - from the United States to Canada, the European Union and even further to Australia, India, Israel, Botswana and Costa Rica.
The Israeli political and military decision makers and officials never hid their particular interest of getting close to NATO and the Euro-Atlantic structures. They even had hopes of becoming the 29th member of the NATO and being included in the European Union in the near or far future. This particular interest materialized in the recent years in the intense diversity and dynamics of the relations between the Jewish state and the North Atlantic Organization. In November, Gianpaolo Di Paola - Chairman of the NATO Military Committee - visited Israel for the first time and made arrangements so that the Israeli military marines participated in NATO joint patrol missions in the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea and Black Sea. The two parts also made arrangements for humanitarian assistance given to the military presence of the Alliance in different parts of the world and for a more active participation to the Mediterranean dialogue with NATO - where Israel is involved together with other six Arab states from the Middle East and north of Africa: Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunis, Jordan and Egypt. According to the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI), launched at the Alliance's Summit from June 2004, the Mediterranean cooperation is included in the broader security cooperation in the Middle East and in the Arab area of the Arab Persian Gulf. Four countries from the region already adhered to Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, namely Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia and the sultanate of Oman expressed their intention to adhere too.
Considering the enlargement of the Alliance and the creation of new partnerships with the Asian countries around Russia and China, we can say that NATO will have enhanced presence and control in the Gulf and in the Middle and Near East.
Israeli politicians and military officials explain the interest and opening for cooperation with NATO and integration in the Euro-Atlantic structures by the "common security concepts and values" as well as by common threats that are addressed to all people: the ascent of radical fundamentalism, the defiance of global terrorism and the risk of proliferating weapons of mass destruction in the region. However, a conclusive, high-level debate with the Israeli political and academic elites did not take place until now. So far, the partnership and cooperation relations are mostly based on an active bilateralism between the Jewish state and the countries that are likely to support traditional and solid relations, without any real common strategic framework. On 16 October 2006, Israel and NATO signed a Bilateral Cooperation Agreement for several domains, being the first agreement between the North Atlantic Alliance and a non-European country from a geographical point of view though its nation is seen as being European. The former Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni said that:" NATO - Israel relations and dialog are very normal...both parts share common values and strategic views...The threats and risks of the present and of the future as well, place Israel within the concepts of the moderate western community and turn it into the defense line of a similar way of life."
While speaking at a seminar about the Mediterranean partnership, the former head of the Israeli diplomacy raised another issue which is seen by the Arabs as being one of the causes of mistrust. Tzipi Livni said:"It is no secret that Israel wants a more direct participation of NATO forces in Lebanon...Israel would be happy to have a positive participation in the implementation of local and regional initiatives of the Alliance, including in the Mediterranean region..."
The Arab analysts consider that these statements are clearly referring to the desire of the Jewish state to form a strategic partnership with NATO and even to the desire of becoming a member with full rights of the Alliance.
It would be, first of all, a possible circumstantial reference to Article 5 from the treaty of creation which stipulates that any attack against a member country is considered to be an aggression against the entire alliance. Therefore, Israel could call down any attack against it, even from radical structures like the Lebanese Hezbollah or the Palestinian Hamas in order to appeal to the stipulations of the previously mentioned article - the retroaction of the "aggressor".
Secondly, under such circumstances, the retroaction would not come individually from the Israeli state but from the international community as stated in the Treaty. Such a procedure would exonerate the Jewish state from the traditional reference of "fighting an expansionist entity".
At the same time, a real collective treaty is doubtable, even if it were built on the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative since one of the members - Israel - is seen as a state which occupied Arab territories and does not have normal political relations with most of the states from its vicinity.
All these can bring into discussion a perspective in which both Israel and the Arab community see that the relations with the Euro-Atlantic community are "changed" from the point of view of the strategic approaches referring to the peace process from the Middle East. This "change" refers to the political involvement of the North Atlantic Organization into the peace process from this part of the world. A partnership between the Jewish state and NATO - even if it is within the framework of the Mediterranean cooperation - is definitely beneficial though not sufficient for this purpose. Israel needs a clear and legal partnership with NATO but it also needs to adapt its own values and security and peace concepts to the ones promoted by the Euro-Atlantic community, mostly with regard to the issue of finding solutions to the regional conflicts. As long as the Israeli policy hopes to institutionalize a Partnership for Peace with NATO, the proper concept of negotiation and the mechanisms of the peace process between Israel and the Arabs need to be adapted in order to make the partnership work.
At present, the bilateral relationship is dominated by military cooperation even though the military structure of NATO "changes" into a political and military structure. If this reality is ignored, then the interest of the politicians from Tel-Aviv for the Euro-Atlantic partnership would be simply reduced to the desire of asking others "to solve any sort of conflict".