While everybody is talking about Turkey becoming a member of the European Union in a few years, here's a much more urgent issue: To begin NATO accession talks with Israel. There's enough reasons to accept Israel in NATO. Most important, Israel has to be considered as a genuine Western democracy threatened by ennemies who, in many regards, are identical or at least related to the ennemies of the West in general. Via the WSJ
NATO for Israel
A better response to Iran's threats.
Sunday, February 12, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST
As diplomatic triumphs go, the referral of Iran to the U.N. Security Council by the International Atomic Energy Agency is very small beer. It came without a call to action, and even any U.N. debate was postponed to give Iran more time to embrace Russia's offer to let the mullahs enrich uranium under Moscow's auspices.
Even at that minor rebuke, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered a resumption of homegrown uranium enrichment and barred snap IAEA inspections. But if the Iranians are as smart as they are devious, they'll accept the Russian offer, let the Europeans pretend the crisis is over, and continue to build a nuclear weapon in secret. Last weekend Iran said it will again consider Moscow's offer, and all signs point to the fact that on present course Iran is going to get the bomb one way or another.
Which is all the more reason for the U.S. to promote a more serious diplomatic response suggested to us recently over lunch at the Journal by former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar: Begin NATO accession talks with Israel.
Israel's NATO membership has been mooted before, but the suggestion is especially compelling as a response to the Iranian nuclear threat. Iran's apocalyptic President Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map," and influential former President Hashemi Rafsanjani has said an Islamic bomb "would not leave anything in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world."
Those are unprecedented threats, which are all the more likely to be carried out if the mullahs think that the only retaliation would come from Israel itself. It may be that the mad mullahs aren't deterrable, since they claim to welcome mass martyrdom. But if Israel were part of NATO, the saner elements in Tehran would at least have to worry about the collective response of the West. Only last week President Bush promised that the U.S. would come to Israel's defense against Iran, but the NATO proposal has the additional virtue of forcing Europe to take a firmer stand against an Iranian bomb.
Many Europeans will object that NATO is a geographic defense pact, but it has already expanded its field of operation beyond Europe into Afghanistan. If NATO is going to continue to be relevant, it has to adapt to confront new threats to global stability, and a nuclear Iran certainly qualifies. It's fanciful for Europe to think it could stay aloof from an Iranian strike against Israel or the U.S., since the latter would surely retaliate and wider regional war would ensue. Iran is also developing ballistic missiles that will eventually have the capitals of Europe within range.
Even apart from the Iranian threat, a strong case can be made for Israeli membership. Israel is a liberal democracy, which is why nobody seriously worries about Israel's bomb. The Jewish state has also taken unprecedented steps for peace with its Palestinian neighbors over the past decade, relinquishing territory even as it became clear that there was little good faith on the other side. Ariel Sharon's Gaza withdrawal and the subsequent victory of Hamas in Palestinian legislative elections are more than enough reason for the rest of the world to now reciprocate with a gesture of solidarity regarding Israel's defense.
Unless the civilized world unites to make it clear that Iran's current combination of rhetoric and nuclear armament is intolerable, Mr. Ahmadinejad and the mullahs will likely continue to believe they can have their nuclear apocalypse at a "reasonable" price. Inviting Israel to join NATO will send a far tougher message to Iran than mere referral to that tower of delay and rationalization known as the United Nations.