Presence of Israel as an observer at the NATO summit
NATO: Turkey against Israel
2012-05-10 by President Aznar, Ambassador John Bolton, Robert Agostinelli, President Alejandro Toledo, Lord David Trimble, Lord Weidenfeld, Fiamma Nirestein, Marcelo Pera, William Shawcross, Andrew Roberts and Carlos Bustelo
The Atlantic Alliance is getting ready to celebrate its 63rd anniversary with a Summit of Heads of State and Government in Chicago to be held on May 20-21. NATO has been in essence an organization that stood for freedom and the liberal order against the assault of communism during the Cold War years. With the demise of the Soviet Union, NATO strived to export stability to its neighboring states, as in the Balkans where it first developed combat missions to enforce peace between the warring sides of the civil war that led to the breakup of the former Republic of Yugoslavia.
In order to serve as an engine of stability, NATO also launched a series of talks aimed at bringing nearer the political, economic and security-related standpoints of allies to their neighbors in Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean region. And it is precisely here where Israel enters the picture.
In fact, NATO and Israel have intensified their mutual technical collaboration and made it formal via a bilateral cooperation agreement. They had exchange officers and had also designed military exercises in which Israeli units were invited to participate. It is undeniable that, from the military standpoint, both sides benefit greatly from this policy. For example, many of the troops belonging to NATO countries and to be deployed to Afghanistan have gone through a counterinsurgency training on Israeli soil.
However, this growing and positive relationship did not help to put an end to the traditional cynicism regarding the State of Israel exhibited by many of the allies. For example, there are no options to advance faster in the bilateral relationship due to members’ reluctance to upset the North African countries that are also involved in the so-called Mediterranean Dialogue. Worse yet, the Western allies have allowed to be hijacked by the growing anti-Israeli stance of NATO’s sole non-Western member, Turkey. The Islamist government in Ankara was always against the idea of NATO developing deeper ties with Israel; Turkey halted NATO’s development of naval exercises together with Israeli ships and just vetoed the presence of Israel in the next summit in Chicago on the basis that it still has not received an official apology from Israel for the assault on the Mavi Marmara.
As you may recall, the Mavi Marmara was one of the ships that belonged to the wrongly denominated "Freedom Flotilla," whose goal was to break the blockade on the coast of Gaza and therefore had to be intercepted by IDF commands that were violently confronted and had to fight for their own lives. That action resulted in eight deaths.
That Turkey exploits the incident falls within Turkish President Erdogan’s foreign policy logic, ambitiously seeking to turn Turkey into a decisive regional power in the Levant and the Arab world. However, it was less logical that the NATO allies would avoid scolding the Turkish government for its behavior fueling and backing up radical activists that had assaulted a neighbor like Israel, with which NATO was not only on good terms, but it was ready to engage in a closer relationship. Clearly Ankara’s behavior, inciting violence against Israel, was not the one expected from a faithful and loyal ally.
Turkey’s veto of Israel’s participation at the Chicago summit is not only reprehensible, it is also a matter of huge embarrassment for the rest of allies and NATO. First, as the investigations of the United Nations have shown, Israel properly acted in self-defense so it goes against all logic for NATO to collectively adopt the position of Turkey’s Islamist government. Second, and more importantly, Israel is, in the current strategic context, a high-value asset to NATO and to the security of its members.
Take into consideration, for example, that all of NATO’s southern periphery is rocked by instability due to changes brought about by the so-called "Arab Spring." From Morocco to Yemen, there is an Islamist wave advancing positions and, in other instances as in Libya and Syria, there is overt violence. Israel is the sole island of stability in this sea of change and risks; it is the only democracy to hold a strategic dialogue that benefits the security interests of the allies.
It is the same in the case of the threat coming from Iran and that affects both Israel and Western nations alike. One can categorically say that the only thing standing between us and the Iranian bomb is Israel. With perseverance and patience, the Jewish State has shown the world the dangers of the Iranian regime, which has led us to adopt the necessary measures to deter the ayatollahs from acquiring a nuclear bomb.
If NATO were serious and would actually do honor to the rhetoric – that of being an organization in defense of democracy, freedom, and the dignity of man – with which adorns its decisions and actions, then there would be no doubts: We should go in favor of Israel, an integral part of the Western world, even if geographically located in the Middle East. Thus, we should reject Turkey’s veto, a nation that, thanks to its current leaders, is increasingly becoming less of an ally and more of a problem.