Monday, August 2, 2010

Fisk on Israel, the EU, and NATO

With a sarcasm that may not be entirely unjustified, Robert Fisk blasts Israel's close political-military ties to NATO and the EU. It's no doubt the case, as Fisk writes, that Britain spends millions of pounds annually on weapons licenses for Israel and that NATO conducts military exercises with Israeli soldiers (as indicated by the recent helicopter crash in Romania in which several IDF members were killed).

Let's suppose, however, that NATO and the EU were to hold Israel more at arm's length. Would that affect its military capabilities? Almost certainly not, not as long as the U.S. is committed to $3-billion-plus in annual military aid to Israel aimed at ensuring that Israel maintains what is called in Washington policy circles its "qualitative military edge," or QME. The U.S.-Israel military relationship, and its untouchability in U.S. politics, makes the EU and NATO angles a sideshow. The problem is not so much that the U.S. gives Israel a huge amount of military hardware as that this connection is treated as effectively separate from U.S. diplomatic efforts in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In attempts to put pressure on Israel to stop settlement construction, for instance, the U.S. begins with one hand tied behind its back, since Israel knows that the U.S. would never threaten to cut down assistance or do anything else that would jeopardize Israel's QME. (Occasionally in the past the U.S. has withheld loan guarantees, but this sort of action has been very rare.) If you deprive yourself ab initio of your main source of leverage, you aren't going to be able to exercise much leverage: that's pretty obvious.

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