Israel Upgrades NATO Ties as Turkey Withholds Veto

YERUSHALAYIM -

Five years after Turkey blocked Israel’s expanded participation in NATO, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced on Wednesday that Israel will upgrade its status with a permanent mission to the Brussels headquarters.

The development resulted from Turkey’s decision to withdraw its objection to the enhanced Israeli status, The Times of Israel reported.

“I announce that Israel will accept the invitation; we will open an office soon,” Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting.

“I think that this is also an important expression of Israel’s standing in the world. The countries of the world are looking to cooperate with us due to – inter alia – our determined fight against terrorism, our technological know-how and our intelligence services,” Netanyahu added.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement late Tuesday that NATO had invited Israel to “open an office at NATO headquarters in Brussels and complete the process of accrediting its representatives to NATO.”

NATO issued a statement that put matters somewhat differently, saying that “the North Atlantic Council has agreed ‎to accept the request that an official Israeli Mission be established at NATO headquarters.

“Israel is a very active partner of the Alliance as a member of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue, established in December 1994,” the statement continued. “NATO has invited all partners to open diplomatic missions to the Headquarters of the Atlantic Alliance in Brussels.”

An Israeli source told AFP that the invitation was a result of pressure by other NATO members on Turkey to drop its veto.

“It’s a Turkish confidence-building measure vis-a-vis Israel,” said Tommy Steiner, an expert on NATO-Israel ties at the Institute for Policy and Strategy near Tel Aviv.

“Since the introduction of the new [NATO] partnership policy in 2014 Israel was formally invited,” he said. “But Israel never did that because there was a Turkish veto on such a measure.”

However, Steiner noted that the move did not mean Israel would become a full-fledged member of the mutual-defense pact.

“Israel is not going to be a full member, it’s not on the cards,” he said. “Israel will be officially accredited to NATO, it will have a permanent mission at NATO headquarters as a partner.”

Israel already participates in military exercises with NATO members other than Turkey, especially the United States. It is currently a partner in NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue, along with six other countries on the Mediterranean: Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan, Mauritania and Morocco.