NSC seeks to place Israel in NATO

Exclusive: Interministerial committee to complete paper by end of February.

nato flag 298.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
nato flag 298.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In an effort to establish more effective deterrence in the face of Iran's race to obtain nuclear weapons, government ministries are, for the first time, working on drafting a position paper that will include guidelines and a strategy for turning Israel into a full-fledged member of NATO, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The paper is being drafted by an interministerial committee made up of representatives from the Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry and headed by the National Security Council. The committee plans to complete the paper by the end of February and present it to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for approval. Meanwhile Monday, in an exclusive interview, former Spanish prime minister Jos Mar a Aznar told the Post that "Israel needs to join NATO as soon as possible." According to Aznar, the Iranian threat serves as "an excellent occasion to enforce [Israeli] deterrence by making Israel a member of NATO." The former Spanish leader and current president of the FAES Spanish think tank said that if Israel became a member of NATO, "the perception in Iran would change, knowing that it's not only Israel [they are dealing with], but all of NATO." Aznar said that NATO needed to change its focus to counter the growing threat of global terrorism. "The threat today is terror and we need to restructure NATO to deal with this threat," he said. Aznar said he believed diplomatic efforts and sanctions - at the current level like those passed last month - would not succeed in getting Iran to suspend its nuclear ambitions. Later, speaking at the Herzliya Conference, Aznar said: "We must do everything we can to prevent a nuclear Iran, but we must also prepare to seek a possibility to make a nuclear Iran act appropriately." He hinted that he would understand if Israel decided to take unilateral military action to stop Iran, claiming that "Israel has what to be concerned about." Sen. John Edwards of South Carolina, who is running for president of the United States on the Democratic ticket, told conference members via satellite that one day Israel could be a member of NATO. In the interim, he said, "We ought to find a way to upgrade Israel's cooperation with NATO." He added that the United States should lead the charge to strengthen that relationship. General Lord Charles Guthrie of Craigiebank, former chief of the UK Defense Staff, said he favored Israel joining NATO even though he doubted that it could happen any time soon. "Israel hasn't been invited to join NATO, and realistically it is unlikely that she will be invited until the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is resolved. But it would be a huge advantage if Israel could join," Guthrie said. As a democratic country, Israel was a natural ally for NATO, with whom it shared many similar strategic concerns, he commented. Israel would benefit diplomatically, strategically and technically by joining NATO, Guthrie said, adding that it was not true that NATO membership would militarily restrict Israel or prevent it from taking unilateral military action. The United Kingdom went to war in the Falklands even though it is a NATO member. The problem lies more with the military contributions that Israel would have to make to NATO actions elsewhere in the world, such as in Afghanistan and Somalia. "Would Israel want to send troops to other countries and perhaps give up lives for those missions?" he asked. But the editor and publisher of German weekly paper Die Zeit, Josef Joffe, said he believed joining NATO would restrict Israel militarily. He said that NATO would likely make such restrictions a requirement for membership. With that in mind, why would Israel want to join NATO, he asked. From a technical perspective, "Israel would make a wonderful partner for NATO. It would beat anything the Europeans could field," said Joffe. He added that Israel had more tanks than Germany or France, but NATO was unlikely to admit Israel because it didn't want to be bound in a strategic alliance with a country that had so many ongoing military conflicts. "From a rational perspective, would NATO leaders want to fight Israel's wars?" he asked. "What NATO country wants to put its soldiers in Israel?"•