On Jerusalem’s Doorstep
Almost two millennia ago, Jesus Christ warned of a time to come when Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies (Luke 21:20). In that great prophecy of end-of-the-age events, He pointed to this singular phenomenon as being the precursor to the unleashing of untold suffering on mankind, the likes of which has never been experienced in history.
Surely, those who are even partially aware of the importance of that famous prophecy must begin to make a connection with events now taking place in the Middle East.
What is building before our eyes as an expanded UN-sanctioned international military force takes up position in Lebanon has serious implications—implications made even more frightening considering the history of the nation that volunteered to lead this force on the ground—Italy—and that which offered its services to patrol the Lebanese coastline—Germany. Between them, these two nations make up the bulk of the European contingent in Lebanon. Italy’s contribution of 3,000 troops is the largest in the UN force; Germany’s force of 2,400 Navy personnel is the second-largest. Italy is set to take over France’s leadership of the mission in February.
Just what are Italy and Germany up to?
Well, for a start, both are itching to be viewed as serious players on the world stage. In the case of Italy, this is a goal that Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema and Prime Minister Romano Prodi share in common.
A few years ago, I stood with a handful of journalists in a reception room of the presidential palace in Valetta, Malta, and listened to Mr. Prodi, then head of the European Commission, declare his vision for Malta. He alluded to that island nation becoming a stepping stone for the southern and eastern hegemonic goals of the European Union. Those goals have always incorporated the extension of EU influence to the Middle East. Witness EU involvement in the Middle East peace process since the Madrid conference of 1991. Under former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, Germany was particularly aggressive in asserting itself, on behalf of the EU, in the diplomatic process between the Palestinians and Israel. Even Pope John Paul ii, in a radio interview given in Poland in the mid-1990s, monitored by one of our European representatives at the time, declared his desire to move his office eventually to Jerusalem.
So this is Prodi’s moment. Never mind the fact that, apart from its seizure of Ethiopia in the 1930s and what Stratfor calls “a handful of toe-dipping efforts in Albania,” Italy “has not led a major military operation since the time of the Romans” (August 22). With France—after initiating the cobbling together of an international consensus on the Hezbollah/Israeli imbroglio and negotiating the original cease-fire agreements—spurning the ongoing leadership of the UN peacekeeping force, Prodi seized the opportunity to grandstand Italy into that role.
But, as Stratfor observed, “By seizing the mantle of the peacekeeping force from France, the Italians are literally grabbing hold of a time bomb” (ibid.). The fact is that, though Italy has contributed its forces to numerous UN operations, its general performance has reflected disorganization and a lack of discipline.
Why, then, would Israel accept Italian leadership in what is, for the Italians, an untried role in this crucial, most delicate and vitally important peacekeeping endeavor?
Stratfor’s conclusion is this: “Surely Israel knows that an inefficiently run peacekeeping operation might lead to an even-less-stable Lebanon, requiring Israel to act to defend its interests.” As if Israel wants the international force to fail.
This possible explanation does not take into account Italy’s willing partner in this peacekeeping force—Germany. Military cooperation between Germany and Israel tracks back to the conclusion of secret accords between Franz Josef Strauss, Germany’s defense minister at the time, and his wily contemporary in Israel, Shimon Peres. Negotiations between the two began as far back as 1957. By 1962 they matured into a secret agreement for Germany to supply Israel with armaments and military training for the Israeli Defense Forces.
Foisted off onto the public as Germany’s obligation to “protect Israel” being its due penance for the Holocaust, German Middle East policy is in fact geared to achieving, by diplomacy, trade and military assistance, that which Rommel was denied in battle: the extension of German hegemony into the oil-rich Middle East.
Following the union of East and West Germany in 1990, Germany’s foreign policy has increasingly taken on globalist tendencies—the same tendencies that for some time have characterized its aggressive business strategies. Ever since the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s, that tendency for global hegemony has been steadily reflected in the extension of Germany’s military activities outside the continent of Europe.
Now, with the Israeli war cabinet having endorsed the use of German forces in the UN-mandated efforts in Lebanon, Germany is able to quietly ease into position in the Middle East, a position it will not yield up regardless of the outcome of the Hezbollah/Israel conflict.
By stationing its navy off the coast of Lebanon as part of this latest UN initiative, Germany now has its navy deployed throughout the whole of the Mediterranean, one of the world’s most strategic waterways, from Gibraltar to Suez.
How our failure to learn the lessons of history returns to smack us in the face! The very nations that only 60 years ago fought as a tyrannical fascist/Nazi axis, seeking to seize power over the Middle East, are now literally parked on the northern doorstep of the tiny, embattled nation of Israel, only a short hop from Jerusalem!