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Israel opens first ever office at NATO headquarters, highlighting closer international ties

Posted by Tip Staff - January 19, 2017
Israel opened its first ever office at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Thursday, Ynet reported. IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Golan was in town for meetings with senior NATO officials, and Roni Leshno Yaar became the first Israeli representative to NATO. NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Goettemoeller said, “here in NATO, we understand that Israel shares our values, and is an active and beneficial partner for Mediterranean dialogue.” Golan met with the head of the Turkish Armed Forces, Gen. Hulusi Akar. Several high-ranking Arab officials were also at the meeting, including from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco, and Tunisia, and spoke with Golan on the sidelines of the meeting. More than 100 officials participated in the meeting, including high-ranking NATO figures.

While Israel is not formally a member of NATO, the United States considers Israel to be a “major non-NATO ally.” When Israel confirmed that it would be upgrading its ties with NATO last May, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “I think that this is also an important expression of Israel’s standing in the world. The countries of the world are looking to cooperate with us due to – inter alia – our determined fight against terrorism, our technological know-how and our intelligence services.”

At her confirmation hearing to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.) condemned the organization’s “outrageous bias against our close ally Israel.” While Haley acknowledged that “international diplomacy is a new area for me,” she also said that her service as governor gave her the ability “to unite those with different backgrounds, viewpoints, and objectives behind a common purpose.” Saying that the UN “could benefit from a fresh set of eyes,” she promised to “bring a firm message to the UN that U.S. leadership is essential in the world.”

Haley also conceded that while some UN programs have been successful, she stated that “any honest assessment also finds an institution that is often at odds with American national interests and American taxpayers.” This was especially true given the UN’s animosity towards the Jewish state, Haley stated. She backed up her charge with numbers: In the recently concluded General Assembly session, “the UN adopted twenty resolutions against Israel and only six targeting the rest of the world’s countries combined.”

Over the past ten years, she added, the UN Human Rights Council “has passed 62 resolutions condemning the reasonable actions Israel takes to defend its security. Meanwhile, the world’s worst human rights abusers in Syria, Iran, and North Korea received far fewer condemnations. This cannot continue.” Given this context, Haley said, “the events of December 23,” when UN Security Council voted for an anti-Israel resolution (which the United States chose not to veto), “were so damaging.”

Noting that in 2015 she became the first governor to sign anti-BDS legislation, Haley asserted that she “will not go to New York and abstain when the UN seeks to create an international environment that encourages boycotts of Israel. In fact, I pledge to you this: I will never abstain when the United Nations takes any action that comes in direct conflict with the interests and values of the United States.”

Haley also observed that the United States contributes 22 percent of the UN’s budget before asking “are we getting what we pay for?” Haley praised Congress for exploring “ways the United States can use its leverage to make the United Nations a better investment for the American people. I applaud your efforts, and I look forward to working with you to bring seriously needed change to the UN.”

In subsequent questioning by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Haley elaborated her views on the U.S.’s abstention last month. “I think that was the moment we should have told the world how we stand with Israel, and it’s a kick in the gut that we didn’t,” she said. She also told Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) that she “absolutely” supports moving the U.S.’s embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) introduced a bill on Tuesday that would improve legal protections for states that enact legislation to fight boycotts of Israel.

The bill, called the Combating BDS Act, has 19 cosponsors from both parties. Its provisions would apply to state legislation addressing businesses or other entities that participate in boycotts against Israel or “Israeli-controlled territory.” Fifteen states have passed laws that prevent state-funded programs, such as pension funds, from being invested in companies that support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

“This legislation is an important step forward in reassuring Israel that we are protecting our shared national security interests, while also protecting our joint economic interests,” Manchin explained in a statement. “This bipartisan legislation gives state and local governments a legal way to combat the shameful boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. Israel has been our strongest ally in the Middle East and we need to send them a strong signal that we will do everything in our power to fight the BDS movement.”

Manchin introduced similar legislation last year along with then-Sen. Mark Kirk (R – Ill.).

“This legislation supports efforts by state governments and local communities to use the power of the purse to counter the BDS movement’s economic warfare targeting Israel,” Rubio added. “This bipartisan bill is all the more timely after the United Nations Security Council’s passage of Resolution 2334, a deplorable one-sided measure that harms Israel and effectively encourages the BDS movement’s campaigns to commercially and financially target and discriminate against the Jewish state.”

When Aboud Dandachi,  a Syrian Sunni Muslim now living in Istanbul, created a website  in late 2015 dedicated to the Israeli and Jewish organizations and individuals helping Syrian refugees, the world raised an eyebrow. Why was a Syrian thanking Israel? Actually, Dandachi’s gesture of gratitude is hardly the only one that Israeli humanitarian volunteers and aid workers have received over the years for helping refugees. According to a UN report, 130 million people are affected by conflict and disaster across the globe. Israel, though a small country, has a big presence when it comes to humanitarian aid  and has rallied round refugees from Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Rwanda, Chechnya, Indonesia, Haiti, Burma, Ivory Coast, Eritrea, Kenya, Palestinian Authority territories and many other places. (via Israel21c)

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