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Israel or NATO?

In my latest for The National Interest, “NATO & Israel,” I argue that the flotilla crisis may force us to choose between Israel and our transatlantic Allies.

Turkey, a founding member of the NATO alliance and heretofore Israel’s only friend in the region, is apoplectic.

[...]

All the major European powers have criticized Israel’s actions, with Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy, and David Cameron all issuing stern statements. More interestingly, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has weighed in with uncharacteristically stern words

[...]

Thus far, the Obama administration is keeping its powder dry, issuing a cautious statement expressing “deep regret at the loss of life in [the] incident, and concern for the wounded” while also stressing “the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances around this morning’s tragic events as soon as possible.” That’s exactly the right position for the world’s superpower—and perhaps Israel’s only remaining friend—to take at the outset. But the facts are quickly coming in and it will be time to make tough calls.

In the meantime, stalling for time isn’t going to please anyone. Certainly not the Turks, who have already declared themselves “deeply unsatisfied” with the response.

Does it matter? American administrations have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel and against the international community dozens of times in the past. But the stakes are higher now.

Much more at the link.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. DC Loser says:

    The obvious snarky answer is “of course we’d choose Israel!” Since when does NATO have its own bloc of voters in the US?

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  2. I think Israel or the UN is a better question.

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  3. I think Israel or the UN is a better question.

    Explain please?

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  4. DC Loser says:

    Just look at the current official US reaction to the episode. We’re reduced to begging the Israelis to conduct its own “unbiased” investigation into the matter, and to ask to have a US observer be let in. How pathetic.

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  5. PD Shaw says:

    Instead of worrying about which ally is going to defreind us, maybe we should consider which positions are being taken that are more consistent with U.S. interests in the subject of boycotts.

    It seems as though Israel is taking a stronger position on the blockade that is consistent with traditional U.S. policy dating back to at least the Civil War, if not the conflict with the Barbary Pirates. Also, the U.S. as the largest naval power is more likely to be the party in Israel’s position, utilizing the blockade.

    OTOH, one could imagine blockade issues arising in a few places like the Taiwan strait, where the U.S. may be more sympathetic to the blockaded party.

    I think the first situation is more likely.

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  6. PD Shaw says:

    BTW/ I believe it was traditional at one time that the legality and effect of a seizure during a blockade was adjudicated by the prize court of the capturing state (in this case, Israel).

    Apparently there was some attempt in the early 20th century to create an international prize court, which failed, apparently because the U.S. and Great Britain didn’t want to give up the authority to judge their own captures.

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  7. Tlaloc says:

    I think Israel or the UN is a better question.

    That’s not a question its a solution. Israel is nothing but a problem for us. Good riddance.

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  8. Tlaloc says:

    Instead of worrying about which ally is going to defreind us, maybe we should consider which positions are being taken that are more consistent with U.S. interests in the subject of boycotts.

    Or we could concern ourselves with which position is actually legal…

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  9. Highlander says:

    That is an easy choice.

    The European’s are in the process of becoming Islam’s bitches. Militarily they are weaklings and getting weaker. Israel could on a good day whip the lot of them’s rears.

    If it comes down to it, I say we go with the Jews.

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  10. PD Shaw says:

    Or we could concern ourselves with which position is actually legal…

    Would you care to enlighten us on what the law is? Is Israel legally obligated to submit some legal dispute to either NATO or the U.N.?

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  11. Wayne says:

    If the U.S. ever did get into big trouble, who would stand by us and who would flee?

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  12. G.A.Phillips says:

    I think Israel or the liberals is an even better question.

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  13. steve says:

    “If the U.S. ever did get into big trouble, who would stand by us and who would flee?”

    Israel has a population of about 7 million. Canada has about 30 million. I would take Canada any day. Denmark has about 5.5 million. Both of these countries have performed very bravely in Afghanistan. They have lost more troops for the size of their population than we have. At this point, I am not sure what Israel brings us in assets.

    I would also point out that Israel has a reputation for being very risk averse when it comes to the potential loss of life of their soldiers. I really dont see them fighting for us unless it is in Israel or an adjacent nation.

    Steve

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  14. Robinsolana says:

    This smells like war to me.
    Time is not on the side of Israel.
    Neither is Obama.

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  15. davod says:

    “In the meantime, stalling for time isn’t going to please anyone. Certainly not the Turks, who have already declared themselves “deeply unsatisfied” with the response.”

    At some stage commentators need to stop viewing the propaganda and start looking at facts.

    Turkey has been moving away from the West ever since Erdogan became Prime Minister.

    “As Robert Pollock explains in today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal, Ankara’s march towards Islamic extremism began almost a decade ago, with the election of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. Since then, Turks have been fed a steady diet of anti-Semitic (and anti-U.S. propaganda), inflaming public sentiment against two of the nation’s most important allies:”

    IHH a Turkish based group, and one of the organizers of the flotilla, was classified as a terrorist organization by the US in 2008.

    In From The Cold comments ” The question really isn’t “who” lost Turkey. Ankara lost its way years ago. The question now is what happens to its relationships with the U.S., Israel and NATO. As we noted previously, Tel Aviv has gone out of its way to preserve its long-standing relationship with the Turkish military, which remains the cornerstone of the modern, secular state. We would hope that our own Defense Department is doing the same thing.”

    WRT to the blockade. The Israelis have a right under international law to protect themselves.
    Egypt is a partner to the blockade of Gaza

    WRT to hardships caused by the blockade. US Rep “Wolff said the United States “is deeply disturbed by the recent violence and regrets the tragic loss of life,” considers the situation in Gaza

    “untenable”

    and will continue to urge Israel to expand the scope and type of goods allowed into the territory to meet humanitarian needs.”

    The DNI released a figure of $49 billion as the FY 2009 National Intelligence Budget for 2009.For $49 billion you would think the US might have been following this more closely and therefore be supporting Israel’s position. I know there is some justification for the argument that our intelligence agencies could not get reliable intelligence on Iraq and Iran, but what is the excuse for not having any recent data on IHH in Turkey. Heck, there is enough open source info about there plans to break the blockade.

    Danish reporter Steffan Jensen comments on the supposed blockade privatations of the people of Gaza – The photographs are excellent.

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  16. Wayne says:

    Steve
    The question wasn’t who would you like to stand by us but “If the U.S. ever did get into big trouble, who would stand by us and who would flee?”

    If I had a choice, I would choose Russia or China. In “reality” the chances are they won’t be fighting next to us but against us.

    It is like being in a fight. I prefer to have a friend who is not a great fighter but doesn’t run away when the odds doesn’t look good instead of having a friend who is a good fighter but will run on you as soon as it gets harry.

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