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Karsten D. Voigt


Thank you very much for inviting me to this conference. It already has become clear during this last hour that the relationship between Europe and Israel is overburdened with historical memories, and therefore I would begin with a couple of remarks on the relationship between the historical memory and the national security strategy. Because they have an impact, insofar as Israel’s relationship with EU and NATO is concerned, as Janusz Reiter already alluded to, the difference is not only in geostrategic conditions, but also the difference, insofar as historical memories and historical experiences are concerned, lead to different blueprints for foreign security policy. And if you want to develop more common ground between the EU and NATO on one side and Israel on the other side, which I won’t, you first have to emphasize why we differ.


I will do that by emphasizing why, for example, Germany and Israel are differing, and why they both do it for very good reasons. Both have very different conclusions from World War Two. In the memory of Germans, the abuse of our own military power has influenced us strongly in our memory. Therefore, we wanted to integrate our power into multilateral structures like NATO and the EU. This has created a security policy culture, based on military restraint, which for fifty years was welcomed by all our neighbors. Now our neighbors see this as not an element of restraint but of egoism. Therefore, we are changing that attitude and are now sending troops to areas like Afghanistan, North Africa and Kosovo, where we never could have imagined sending troops earlier on.


Israel has a very different historical memory, and a very different geostrategic situation. Therefore Israel, afterwards, have taken a different path. This is also true and in so far as the issue of national sovereignty is concerned. Germany afterwards did not experience a correlation between national sovereignty on the one side, and security and political influence on the other. Germany has had influence in the EU and made to long before it got full sovereignty. One of the preconditions that we could get for sovereignty was that we integrate fully into NATO and the European Union. Israel, on the other hand, since its creation, has put the emphasis on national sovereignty and self-reliance. And in some cases it has added to this self-reliance and national sovereignty, an element of bilateralism, especially in the security field of cooperation with the United States and in certain areas with Germany. It was never willing to sacrifice substantial elements of its national sovereignty, which I understand.


Our concept of self-restraint and integration, and our willingness to hand over elements of our sovereignty to multilateral institutions like NATO and the EU, has led Germany now to a situation in which we, for the first time in centuries, are surrounded by countries who are friends, who want to become friends, or at least get some press of being friends. This is the best situation which we are in. And therefore automatically, many Germans, without seeing and analyzing the different historical memory in Israel, without seeing the different geostrategic situation in which Israel is living in, automatically transfer this experience to Israel, and measure Israeli policy with that background, and their own experience, which I think is wrong.


By the way it is some … I don’t see the same tendency on the other side. Israel’s geostrategic situation in its neighborhood is very very different from that of most European countries. Therefore, I think it is not realistic to make successions which would imply that Israel would give up its emphasis on national sovereignty and self-reliance.


But I ask myself the question whether it could not be in Israel’s interest that the close and dynamic cooperation with those two important institutions, which include larger and larger proportions of the European continent, and which exert influence beyond the boundaries of the continent, the EU and NATO? Membership in the EU would imply to give up important elements of sovereignty. That, I think, is not something that most Israelis would be willing to have, but we could do a lot, short of full membership. We already have an Association Treaty, which can be interpreted in a dynamic way. This is what was explained by you.


We are now moving in the direction of a Neighborhood Policy, and you know in the context of Turkey, something that has been developed as a concept, which is not supported by my government, but which could be of some interest for Israel, this is that of a privileged partnership, which technically includes everything short of full membership and short of giving up full sovereignty. And therefore I think we should not … we should simply try to explore it, whether we could find common ground in that direction.


The same is also true, I don’t want to mention all of the details, but I think that also this is true in the field of NATO. In the field of NATO, it is not a substitute for a bilateral relationship with the United States. When I first, as president of the NATO parliamentary assembly, went to Israel in 1996, I was greeted warmly, I was welcomed, I was treated nicely, but I didn’t find many Israelis who were really interested in NATO. Not to talk about NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly.


And by the way, you also underestimate the importance of the European Parliament, in my view. It is not so decisive as the Commission and the Council, but increasingly it plays a role as well, and I think that some Israelis complain about resolutions in the European Parliament, but whether they are doing enough to influence these decisions, and whether they are conscious of the culture which … of relationships between national states, the European Parliament, the Commission and the … are not quite so.


But anyhow, when I went here to Israel, I thought I made a gesture, and offering them a closer relationship first with the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, but in my mind was a closer relationship with NATO, but I found very limited interest. I hope, and I expect this has changed, because it is either saying it is not an alternative to EU membership, bilateral relationship with a couple of countries, or best with the United States. But I think that first of all, you have to see that one already can influence a cultural security inside NATO, by having not only a relationship on a bilateral level, but also having later, a relationship to shape in NATO headquarters, and in NATO policies institutions.


I think that you are already taking part in the cover of exercises, you have an interest in rescue and search operations, and I can think that one should elaborate again on this and develop an idea around a very concrete field, you will become closer to NATO, it might be in a type of partnership for peace cooperation, it also might be a very specific cooperation which only applies to Israel. Also, for the foreseeable future, short of full membership.


Israel has already taken part in the Mediterranean dialog between the NATO states and the neighbors in this region. Israel is taking part in the same dialog in the Mediterranean as in the EU context. I think that while I don’t estimate these two for a while, it is one of the few elements where you have a multilateral contact on a regional basis with your Arab neighbors, and even this could be exploited further.


So, let me emphasize by saying, we start from Germans and Israeli… as I mentioned from the beginning, from the very different historical background, relating to the same experience, like the Poles, but the Poles and the Germans have now ended, by creating ???, which is a deployed station in Chechen(??), … stating earlier on, it’s the German - Polish - Danish brigade, and the German soldiers nowadays move along on foreign soil, they’re not attacked but welcome. I don’t think we can translate this into experience with your Arab neighbors, but I think one can do a lot more with multilateralism by changing, using multilateralism as a force to change your environment, and more ??? direction, and if NATO can help, if you can help, we are willing to help, but it can only happen if Israel sees it in its own interest.

Thank you very much.
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