Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Israel, Arms and the End of NATO?


As usual with the prospect of peace talks, the stress is ramped up just prior to the start. Israel’s decision to proceed with the building of 120 new homes “for safety reasons” on the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit is a bricks-and-mortar reminder to the Palestinians that regardless of negotiations, peace or war, Israel has the power and cannot be stopped. So don’t expect too much from the coming negotiations.

When I was blogging about my time in Israel last year, I came out against the call of boycott against Israel, much to the disapproval of many of my facebook friends. Sanctions usually hit the average person and leave the elites richer. I am certainly against cultural sanctions as it is very easy to impose a siege mentality upon the Jewish residents of the region. Of course, it should also be pointed out that most Palestinians are under real siege conditions; a situation exacerbated by the cooperation of the Egyptian authorities when it comes to Gaza.

What really struck me what I was there were the numbers of arms traders and their financiers that were in Israel. I was sitting next to them on aircraft, over-hearing the chit-chat of gun-dealers in bars and restaurants. These experiences have led me to the conclusion that peace is not a viable outcome in Israel / Palestine for the simple reason that too many people are making large fortunes out of the current state of low-level warfare that is encouraged to exist. In my opinion this is the core reason why peace is impossible. It does not matter how many marches are made, petitions signed or Jaffa oranges left unsold. The arms business dwarfs every other consideration.

There are no easy or quick solutions to address this state of affairs, especially in this time of recession. But to remain silent is to acquiesce to the continued injustice, humiliation and brutality that Israel inflicts upon their nearest neighbours.

These is one path that I would advocate however: an arms embargo. I know it wouldn’t make much difference. The USA would be more than happy to take up any slack and it is that one nation that has the power to make any difference. Robert Fisk has already established how the US military directly transfers weapons to Israel (the bill being picked up by the American taxpayer) so any effect of a military embargo by the European Union would be very small. At least at first.

Where it may really bite would be, after giving due notice, would be if the European Union would boycott those arms-dealers who continued to trade with Israel. This might not be as radical as it first appears. NATO, in recent years especially, has just become a giant arms fair owing to the necessity for new member nations to “standardise” equipment. In other words, buy new kit for Western Europe and North America. It is this continued trade that is keeping NATO in existence when in terms of the 21st. century, the organisation is an anachronism.

What would make more sense is for the EU to become more self-sufficient in terms of military defence with the establishment of a European-wide Defence Force. Naturally this would also require expansion of domestic production and supply.

With the failed adventures in the Middle East and Afganistan, the future of NATO is in doubt already. The continued state of the Near East might just be excuse that Europe needs to go it alone.

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