Israeli Leader Livni Says Israel Seeks ‘Formal Partnership’ With NATO
Livni Decries Iranian Drive For Weapons Of Mass Destruction
To Bolster Israel And Missile Defense, Bolster Israeli-NATO Ties: Analyst
NATO Needs Missile Shield Protecting Europe And Israel, Asmus Says
Israel, as the true democratic nation in the Middle East now threatened by a hostile Iran, wishes to upgrade its relationship with NATO and gain the umbrella of protection that NATO can provide, Israeli leader Tzipi Livni stated.
Her comments came as the United States is proposing to build a defensive system in Europe against ballistic missiles that might be launched by Iran, complementing a missile defense system against shorter-range enemy missiles that would be fielded by NATO.
Livni noted that Iran "seeks weapons of mass destruction, supports terrorism worldwide, and at the same time calls for the destruction of a fellow member of the United Nations," referring to Israel. "We also face the threat of global terrorism deriving from states or organizations," she noted.
Therefore, "It is time to upgrade the bilateral relations between Israel and NATO," according to Livni, the Israeli vice prime minister and minister of foreign affairs. She expressed her view in a brief published by Congress Monthly, magazine of the American Jewish Congress, in the latest issue.
While Israel already has a relationship with NATO, it is time to bolster that alliance, she asserted.
The attacks on Israel by extremist fundamentalist Muslims aren’t an isolated phenomenon, she stated, but rather of a whole in a mosaic of worldwide conflict between moderates and extremists, a planet-spanning divide that demands a broader approach than just actions in the Israeli-Palestinian area.
"It is now clear that the true conflict in the region is not between Israel and the Palestinians or between Jews and Arabs, but between moderates and extremists," she explained.
"The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is inseparable from the global issue of extremism," she argued. And meeting this challenge will require "increased global cooperation," which "must go beyond the local level."
In this effort, "There is no one better to lead the way than NATO," she stated. Therefore, NATO must broaden its horizons to meet this threat. "Extremism is not a local problem; it transcends borders and nations," Livni worte. "This is not an Israeli problem, nor a European issue: it is a global threat, which must be dealt with in a global manner, with unity and determination."
She is not alone in calling for closer ties between Israel and NATO, or for full NATO membership for Israel.
For example, the wisest way to increase the imperative for construction of a ballistic missile shield against Iranian weapons is to admit Israel into NATO, an analyst argues.
Attempting to bomb Iranian nuclear materials production facilities into rubble would be fraught with risks and probably would be unsuccessful, according to Ronald D. Asmus, executive director of the German Marshall Fund Transatlantic Center in Brussels, in an essay republished by Congress Monthly. He was expressing his own views.
Another approach, attempting to contain Iranian military ambitions while simultaneously working for regime change there, would be a sensible move, but likely would take a very long time, Asmus predicted. Meanwhile, Iran would be able to use those atomic materials to build nuclear weapons, if it so chose, he added.
Another move, therefore, should be pursued: to make Israel a member of NATO, or at least to bolster Israeli-NATO ties, he argued.
While that would mean NATO would have to be prepared to defend Israel from attack, such a capability would be required anyway, because NATO clearly must be able to defend Europe from Iranian bellicosity, Asmus stated.
"While working to prevent Iran from going nuclear, the West must think now about what to do if we fail," Asmus asserted. "One important element has been missing from the debate: NATO."
It would make sense for NATO to be moving to create a shield against Iranian missiles anyway, he continued. "Let us not forget that it is European capitals that would be within striking distance of Iranian nuclear arms," he wrote.
Iran has developed steadily longer-range missiles, fired a missile from a submerged submarine, and insisted on producing nuclear materials in the face of global demands to cease production. And Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said Israel should be wiped from the map.
Some observers have downplayed Ahmadinejad’s comments, saying he can’t really be serious, or saying that Ahmadinejad isn’t all that powerful in the Iranian government.
Time for a second opinion, according to Asmus.
"It would be a mistake to dismiss … Ahmadinejad’s rantings about Israel as mere posturing or a bluff," Asmus cautioned. "One lesson from Sept. 11  is that we should not limit our strategic imagination or underestimate our enemies in the Middle East. When someone says he wants to wipe you off the map, he might just mean it."
So it is time to take Iran and its threat seriously, and attempt to counter and eliminate that threat, Asmus argued.
"If … the West decides that a military [bombing] strike to deny Iran the nuclear option is too risky and instead opts for a policy of deterrence and long-term peaceful regime change, it must also take steps to ensure Israel’s protection for that interim period," he continued.
"The best way to provide Israel with that additional security is to upgrade its relationship with the collective defense arm of the West: NATO," Asmus asserted. "Whether that upgraded relationship culminates in [NATO] membership for Israel or simply a much closer strategic and operational defense relationship can be debated," he wrote.
Aside from NATO, the United States clearly is committed to defend Israel against any attempt to attack it or wipe it off the map, Asmus noted.
And he said that despite "the anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic voices that one can hear in Europe, there is little doubt that European leaders such as Angela Merkel [in Germany] and Nicolas Sarkozy [in France] would also stand tall and defend Israel against an Iranian threat," Asmus predicted.
Thus it would be logical for NATO to establish closer ties to Israel or to admit it into full NATO membership, to make the security guarantee of the trans-Atlantic military alliance plain for all to see, including the leaders of Iran.
If that were to eventuate, the question then would be just how NATO would mount a credible defense for Israel from Iranian missiles.
Enter the U.S. plan to install a Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) ballistic missile shield, with a radar in the Czech Republic and silos filled with interceptor missiles in Poland.
While Asmus didn’t specifically mention the GMD plan, it would be the system that would be required to knock down Iranian missiles. NATO also is developing a missile shield system, but one effective against shorter-range weapons.