NATO IDF 248.88.
(photo credit: IDF [file])
In the age of global terrorism, NATO should expand into the Middle East and Asia to include countries such as Japan, Australia and Israel, former Spanish foreign minister Ana Palacio said on Sunday.
Terrorism is a global phenomenon that needs a wider range of nations than the 26 European and North American ones that are its members, she told an audience at the sixth annual Herzliya Conference.
"No nation can do this alone. An effective counterterrorism strategy is essential," she said. It must expand to include nations "willing and able to eliminate Islamic fundamentalist terrorism," she said.
"NATO has to reinvent itself," she suggested.
But not all the experts were certain that the best step was a formal membership in NATO. Lord Charles Guthrie, a former chief of General Staff of the British Army, warned that Israel might find such membership restrictive. It could also achieve a similar effect by bilateral arrangements of cooperation and intelligence. "It would be quite sensible to keep your freedom," Guthrie said.
Israel in the last year has improved its relationship with NATO, but has not asked for formal membership.
Guthrie and other panel members spoke of the need for Israel to improve its relationship with Europe, even as it recognized advances within that relationship in the last year.
Ambassador to the EU Oded Eran called on the cabinet to hold an "in-depth discussion, which will provide us with a set of goals and directions." In the past, he said, Europe's policy toward Israel has been "at best ambivalent, a cold shoulder and even hostile."
For a long time, Israel has acted as if there was no one to talk with in Europe. "Now, when the EU is turning into a key player in numerous dialogues, we have to change that assumption," he said, adding that's particularly true given that the EU is taking an active role is discussions between the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority.
"The EU is more active than the US," said Eran. "What is lacking is a government discussion regarding that change."
Josef Joffe, publisher-editor of Die Zeit said he believed that terrorism had made Europe take a second look at its romantic view of the Palestinians. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan has also helped, he said.
"That is why Ariel Sharon's tragedy brought forth such an outpouring of sympathy, which I would never have expected. I think that Sharon has left Israel a solid foundation on which to proceed," Joffe said.