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Chicagoland Jewish Community Reacts to 2012 NATO Summit

Israel was not invited to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization‘s two-day summit in Chicago, following the collapse of diplomatic relations with other Middle Eastern nations.

The relations between Israel and Turkey have become increasingly hostile following the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla incident, where pro-Palestinian activists, sailing from Turkey, attempted to reach Gaza. Israeli forces halted them at sea.

The conflict resulted in the death of nine Turks, including one American citizen, when Israeli military commandos attempted to prevent terrorists from breaching Israel’s borders.

While Israel is an ally in the war against terrorism, the state did not participate in NATO’s military missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo, according to NATO officials.

English: Flag of Israel with the Mediterranean...
Flag of Israel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While the Jewish State did not participate in the NATO summit, representatives from more than 60 countries and international organizations took part.

Members of Chicago’s Jewish community have voiced concern about the conference and worked to implement additional security measures for the duration of the summit.

“We have off-duty Chicago police officers working security for us and we have met with our local Precinct Commander,” said Temple Sholom Executive Director Boni Fine.

Located in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago, Temple Sholom is a diverse congregation representative of the surrounding community. The synagogue, affiliated with the Reform Movement, planned to run all their programs as scheduled and recommended that individuals prepare for expected street closures, heavy traffic congestion and transit delays.

“I do not feel the conference plays a role that justifies the expense and security that are going to be needed,” said Fine. “I think it’s going to be a net drain of income on Chicago.”

When asked about NATO’s role in modern foreign policy, Fine said the international alliance is no longer economically or politically relevant. Members of Chicago’s Jewish community have expressed conflicting viewpoints, including Jeffrey Meyer.

“NATO helps establish larger security goals that nations other than the United States support,” said Jeffrey Meyer, a young Jewish community activist. “They have a greater chance of being implemented or maintained on a global scale.”

NATO is an intergovernmental military alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty established in 1949. There are currently 28 member states across North America and Europe that agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party.

“While I am proud that a summit of such global proportions is being held in the United States, I do not support our continued involvement in NATO for reasons of eroding national sovereignty,” said Jewish Studies major Lauren Levy at University of Florida.

Levy expressed concern over the summit and believes that NATO’s interests are not aligned with that of the United States or Israel.

“Quasi-communist countries are sometimes given a platform for their objectives while the U.S. is often left paying the brunt of the expenses – with taxpayer money – on NATO’s objectives,” Levy said.

According to reports by Jewish Indy, a small online news site, NATO is prepared to cooperate with Middle Eastern nations, including Israel. Some members have opposed previous attempts to foster constructive conversation with the Jewish state. Opponents affirm it could hinder relations with other Muslim countries, including Afghanistan, which remains NATO’s top priority.

“While NATO is still worried about appeasing Muslim nations like Turkey, Jordan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, their mission is not to defend Israel as the world’s only Jewish State,” said Levy.

Fine says it is important for Israel to maintain both its Middle Eastern and global contacts.

“I believe Israel should be at the table,” said Fine. “I think they’re a major democracy in an area that has not had a lot of experience with democracy.”

One of issues raised recently has been whether Israeli soldiers should be deployed along the borders of a future Palestinian state under a permanent peace agreement. While opinions are mixed, there is overwhelming opposition to the proposition throughout Chicago’s Jewish community.

“It’s necessary to ensure security in Israel, but the Israeli military shouldn’t pose an overwhelming presence that could hinder future Israeli-Palestinian relations,” said Meyer.

Fine noted trust as a key factor in public policy, both domestically and in the Middle East. She credits the floundering relationship between Palestine and Israel to moderate Palestinian politicians who fail to distance themselves from more radical positions.

“I know for many Israelis and Americans to look to a future of peace is obviously a paramount goal,” said Fine. “You just can’t negotiate with a state or organization or people that see the destruction of your country as a major goal.”

Representative Robert Dold (R-IL) currently represents thousands of members of the Jewish community living in Chicago’s northern suburbs and is a supporter of pro-Israel policy.

“Though the United States can play an important role in the peace process, it is ultimately up to Israel and the Palestinian Authority to forge a lasting peace agreement through direct negotiations,” said Dold. “No country, including the United States, can or should impose its own solution.”

One of the major political divisions throughout Chicago’s Jewish community is President Barack Obama and his relationship with Israel. While individuals like Fine are supportive of the administration’s rapport with the Jewish State, others are not.

“I don’t believe our current administration is doing enough to deter Iran from reaching nuclear capacity,” Levy said. “My stance is that we need to be prepared for war with Iran at all times, and while it is not my wish to go to war, I would support it if necessary, such as if they do not comply with international inspections or if they seek war with Israel.”


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