Politicians ban Israeli colonel

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A Norwegian military staff college invited an Israeli officer to speak at a conference on special operations, including Israel’s controversial invasion of Lebanon in 2006. The Defense Ministry wanted the invitation to be withdrawn. The entire conference has now been cancelled.

The Norwegian Defense Command and Staff College (FSTS) organized the conference on special operations. A special forces colonel from the Israeli military was among those invited to speak, reports Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

The Defense Ministry, however, asked the college to withdraw. “In this particular situation, we considered it entirely inappropriate that a special forces colonel should talk about experience gained in the 2006 invasion of Lebanon,” Espen Barth Eide, state secretary at the defense ministry, told NRK.

“We cannot see that we can learn anything from this Israeli operation,” said Barth Eide, of the Labour Party. “It was an operation that Norwegian authorities deplored when it took place in 2006.”

After NRK began asking questions, not only was the Israeli colonel’s participation cancelled, but the conference itself was cancelled, also in light of the current situation in the Middle East following Israel’s highly controversial attack on an aid convoy to Gaza.

“In this case, good judgement should have indicated that it was not a good idea to include him (the Israeli colonel) in the program,” Barth Eide told NRK.

Earlier this year NRK confirmed that the Israeli and Norwegian defence communities wanted to increase their military cooperation.

“Clearly, there are sections of the Norwegian military who want this,” says Bård Vegar Solhjell, parliamentary leader of the Socialist Left party (SV). “However, what is important is that this is not the view of the political leadership which directs the military.”

Lieutenant-colonel Palle Ydstebø, who took part in arranging the conference,  says the Israeli colonel wrote a critical analysis of the 2006 Operation in Lebanon while taking higher military education in the US. He says that the colonel was invited as a private individual, not as a representative of the Israeli military.

“If we had invited a representative of the Israeli forces, I would have understood why people would react,” says Ydstebø to NRK.

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