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Admit Israel to NATO, says German caucus

BERLIN (JTA ) — A German political party’s Jewish caucus has called on Germany and the European Union to admit Israel into NATO.

In light of the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Caucus of Jewish Social Democrats wants Germany and the E.U. to adopt North Atlantic Treaty Organization security guarantees for Israel and to consider gradual admission of Israel into the defense organization.

NATO "must take military responsibility, coordinated with Israel and the Palestinian Authority, through stationing foreign troops with an international mandate," according to the statement signed by Jewish caucus founders Peter Feldman and Sergey Lagodinsky.

In the statement issued Wednesday, the caucus — affiliated with the Social Democratic Party — called the suffering of Palestinian and Israeli civilians "a human catastrophe and step backwards for all who strive towards a lasting peace in the region." It called on "Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups (to) immediately and permanently halt their rocket attacks on Israel."

The caucus added that the "hate campaign against Israel and Jews around the world must stop."

There have been increasing calls among some in Europe for closer ties between Israel and NATO, whose members are committed to defend each other against external attacks.

Israel recently helped NATO prepare regional intelligence reports, and also cooperated with the organization to prevent weapons smuggling and support the war on terror. But NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told Israeli reporters in early December that the organization was not looking to defend Israel militarily.

The Jewish caucus statement came as pro-Israel activists in Berlin,  Frankfurt and Munich prepared rallies for Jan. 11. The day of solidarity with Israel follows two weeks of anti-Israel protests that drew thousands of people to the streets.

Organizers of the Jan. 11 pro-Israel rally in Berlin told JTA they have support from all mainstream political parties, the Jewish community and non-Jewish supporters of Israel, including the German-Israel Society.

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