Israel growing in strategic importance for NATO

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The IDF hopes to see NATO ships alongside Israel Navy vessels helping to protect the eastern Mediterranean in the future, Lt.-Cmdr. Ortal told The Jerusalem Postlast week.

As the liaison officer, Ortal represents Israel’s naval forces at NATO ’s Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM ) in London, the central command of all NATO maritime forces.
“The area of the eastern Mediterranean is becoming very attractive, especially in terms of the gas fields and the platforms there, which will be a strategic focus in terms of possible threats,” she said. “There is therefore shared interest in protecting this area.”

NATO has a “big interest in shared partnership” with Israel, a strategic partner in the region, she said.

“NATO would be very happy if Israeli ships joined NATO vessels because they know the professionalism and capabilities of the Israel Navy are very high,” Ortal said, adding that while NATO has “high standards, it wouldn’t be hard for them to accept Israeli vessels.”

Israel’s relationship with NATO is defined as a “partnership”; it is a member of the Mediterranean Dialogue – a forum initiated in 1994 for political consultations and practical cooperation by six other non-NATO countries of the Mediterranean region: Jordan, Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.

One of the main goals of the Mediterranean Dialogue is to create a basis for dialogue and cooperation in the field of security and counterterrorism, but after the breakdown of ties with Turkey six years ago, Ankara exerted efforts to isolate Jerusalem from military cooperation with NATO .

Following the reconciliation between the two countries in June of last year, Ankara withdrew its longstanding veto against Jerusalem from being accepted as a partner nation to the organization.

Last January, Israel opened its first ever diplomatic mission to NATO headquarters along with several other countries belonging to the Istanbul Initiative, which is comprised of Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE .

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