Friday, August 26, 2011

NATO mulls marriage with Israel

Israel wishes to participate in NATO’s future wars, judging by the content of a diplomatic cable released this week by WikiLeaks.

Dating from November 2009, the document from the American embassy in Tel Aviv summarizes a briefing given by Claudio Bisorgniero, NATO’s deputy-secretary general, during a visit to Israel.

Fresh from talks with Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, Bisorgniero noted that Israel wishes to sign a status of forces agreement (SOFA) with the alliance. Such an accord lays down the rules covering a country’s troops when they are operating abroad.

The notion of a SOFA (a silly acronym) between Israel and the alliance has been advocated by the Zionist lobby for a few years now. Less than a fortnight before the cable was drawn up, the policy journal Europe’s World published an article by Matthew Mark Horn from the American Jewish Congress on Israel’s relations with NATO. He indicated that a status of forces accord would allow Israel join NATO operations more swiftly than it has to date.

Horn, a former official in the US defense department, hinted at his frustration over how it took two years of negotiations before an Israeli officer could be posted to the headquarters of Operation Active Endeavor in Naples. Originally, that Mediterranean-patrol mission was part of NATO’s response to the atrocities on 11 September 2001; its remit has subsequently been expanded to serve a reactionary agenda of stopping impoverished foreigners from sailing to Europe.


Bisorgniero described Israel’s idea of a SOFA as “sensitive”, according to the cable. It could be problematic, he suggested, for NATO to conclude such an agreement with Israel, unless similar arrangements could be found with some Arab countries. Since 1994 NATO has been involved in a process called the Mediterranean dialogue with states neighboring members of the alliance. Along with Israel, those states are Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan and Mauritania. Israel has used this forum for dialogue to forge greater ties with the alliance than all of the others, however.

It is telling that the cable does not allude even once to Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2008 and 2009. NATO gave its tacit approval for that act of aggression earlier this year. When Gabi Ashkenazi, the Israeli military chief who oversaw Cast Lead, visited Brussels in January, he was treated to a farewell dinner to mark his imminent retirement as head of the world’s “most moral army.”

No guilt over massacres

Under Ashkenazi’s leadership, that army wiped out 22 members of the al-Dayah family -- including 12 children and a pregnant woman -- when it bombed the family’s Gaza home in early 2009. NATO commanders may be feeling a sense of affinity with Ashkenazi this month as they have tried to excuse an even bloodier massacre in Libya. On the night of 8 August, NATO attacked residential areas in Zliten, a city in the district of Misrata. According to the Libyan authorities, 85 people were killed. Thirty-three of them were children; 32 them of them women, some reports say.

Don’t feel bad if you have not heard of that massacre; it received scant attention in the Western press. The BBC’s Matthew Price visited the scene of the attack and admitted that he saw the corpses of women and children in the morgue. But he also sought to lend credence to the NATO narrative that it had struck a “legitimate target” (the words of its propagandist Roland Lavoie), where Gaddafi loyalists were sheltering. “The front line is not far away,” Price reported. “From the site, plumes of white smoke can be seen rising from where the fighting is taking place. It would make sense that soldiers would need somewhere to rest in the area.”

NATO’s killing of children does not elicit even the faintest pang of conscience among its commanders and their lackeys in the media. It would be logical, then, for NATO to make sure its flirtations with Israel lead to a proper marriage.

·First published by The Electronic Intifada, 25 August 2011.

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