Israel given partial go-ahead to join NATO activities

Israel given partial go-ahead to join NATO activities

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has helped broker a new agreement to allow Israeli participation in some NATO activities in 2013. (Photo: Reuters, Francois Lenoir)

December 23, 2012, Sunday/ 12:04:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

According to an agreement brokered by office NATO's Secretary-General, Israel would be excluded from NATO's major military activities, including joint exercises, for the year 2013.

The agreement, led by the initiative of NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has pleased Turkey, who has sought to prevent Israel's involvement in NATO exercises under the Mediterranean Dialogue platform for 2013, according to diplomatic sources speaking to Today's Zaman on Sunday.

Relations soured between Turkey and Israel after eight Turkish nationals and one Turkish American were killed when the Israeli navy attacked an international humanitarian aid flotilla, of which the Turkish Mavi Marmara was a part, attempting to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza in May 2010. Following the attack, Turkey vowed to pursue every kind of opportunity from within international platforms to squeeze Israel diplomatically.

Turkey's determination to limit Israel's role as a NATO partner, however, has raised eyebrows in the West. In reprisal of Turkey's attempts to block Israeli participation in 2013 NATO exercises, Israel's Western allies have showed a determination to block other partner states under the Mediterranean Dialogue, including Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia on whom Turkey places importance.

To solve the emerging rift between NATO allies, Rasmussen introduced a new formula within the organization. Israel joined the Mediterranean Dialogue initiative in 1995 with Morocco, Mauritania, Tunisia and Egypt. Later on, Jordan and Algeria were also accepted.

Tit-for-tat vetoes between NATO allies over the agreements for next years exercises have prevented any cooperation that may assist in the integration of NATO partner states, some of whom have experienced dramatic shifts in the Arab Spring, further into the international community.

Deciding that such a deadlock would harm NATO's reliability in the eyes of its partners in the Mediterranean Dialogue group, Rasmussen has begun a new initiative to limit Israeli participation in NATO exercises to only dialogue programs such as seminars and workshops held by the alliance, isolating it from military operations. Sources also added that Israel would be barred from participating in workshops or seminars that are to take place inside Turkey.

“The countries supporting Israel have realized Turkey's determination, they see that their reprisal is of no use and it is only slowing down NATO activities. And with the recent decision from the secretary-general, Turkey has acquired what it wanted,” the diplomatic sources claimed.

Turkey denies Patriot link in consenting to partial Israeli participation

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post daily reported on Sunday that Turkey's consent for Israel's participation in a limited number of programs under a NATO partnership was a result of a compromise from an earlier position.

“At the last minute -- and I think it was dependent on the Patriots -- it was approved,” an anonymous Israeli source was quoted as saying in the daily, claiming that the compromise came after Turkey and NATO agreed to the deployment of Patriot air-defense missiles, which will be used in the case of a missile attack on NATO-member Turkey's territory from conflict-torn Syria.

Diplomatic sources speaking to Today's Zaman meanwhile claimed that the Israeli side forced the connection erroneously from the facts at hand, and said that Israel's participation in a limited number of NATO programs doesn't amount to a success for its government.

Turkey had previously determined to block Israel from any kind of activities, regardless of whether they involve the countries' militaries or not.

Deterioration in ties between Turkey and Israel, who earlier enjoyed solid relations at all levels, began at the end of 2008. While on the verge of concluding a peace agreement with Syria mediated by Turkey, Israel launched a sudden and devastating bombardment of the Gaza Strip, collapsing talks with Syria and leaving Turkey feeling deceived. Then came the Davos summit in Switzerland in January 2009, at which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke out against Israeli President Shimon Peres for the Gaza assault, eventually cutting off the leader before walking out of the forum.

The raid by Israeli soldiers of the Mavi Marmara that led to the deaths of nine Turkish civilians in May 2010 was a final blow to the previously friendly relations between Turkey and Israel.

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