Italy Quits Durban II
We were not surprised (see JINSA Report #848) when Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini announced at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers that Italy would not participate in Durban II, saying "aggressive phrases of an anti-Semitic nature" in the draft documents were "totally unacceptable." He said the statements "must be eliminated," and that Italy would not participate unless the draft document was changed.
The U.S. Navy Returns to Haifa
In the heyday of the mid-1980s, 40 to 50 ships of the U.S. Sixth Fleet annually visited Israel. Thousands of sailors and Marines shopped, ate and toured in Haifa and beyond. They made themselves useful and loved, adopting schools and community centers. The USO - an early project of JINSA and partly the result of a very early JINSA Flag & General Officers Trip to Israel - was overseen by the "Mother of the Sixth Fleet," Gilla Gerzon, who made it one of the best-loved facilities in the USO system.
The American military and the Israeli public have always been close. We remember the American general who took a Patriot missile battery to Israel from Germany during the first Gulf War talking about the welcome his troops received in Israel - and how they responded. "The Israelis set up phone banks to enable the soldiers to make free calls to their families in the U.S. They cooked for us; they took us home for dinner. And we didn't have one single serious incident of military discipline while we were in Israel - hundreds of young soldiers and not a single incident. Because they felt they were with family."
The frequency of visits declined in the 1990s, in part because of the wars in Yugoslavia and deployments related to the Gulf War. But it was the so-called "second intifada" and the bombing of the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen that caused the U.S. Navy to halt port visits to countries across the region, including Israel - although the American consul in Haifa was quoted in The Jerusalem Post as saying "the safety of Haifa's port was still deemed adequate by the U.S."
Now, they're back! The combined efforts of the city government and the U.S. Embassy convinced the Navy to make Haifa a port of call for the Sixth Fleet once again. Last week, the USS Vella Gulf (CG-72), an Aegis guided missile cruiser, docked in Haifa to begin five days of R&R. Haifa Municipality spokesman Roni Grossman said, "It's significant that there is a renewed connection between Israel and the American Navy. Now we're doing everything we can to show the sailors a good time."
We have no doubt the U.S. Sixth Fleet will once again find the people of Haifa - and all of Israel - welcoming them back as friends, allies and partners in the region. And that our service personnel will serve, as they always do, as a terrific example of the American people.