Turkey has blocked an Israel Navy vessel from taking part in a NATO mission in the Mediterranean Sea, according to defence officials speaking to the Jerusalem Post. This would have been the first time Israel actively participated in one of the Western military alliance’s operations.
Turkey most likely prevented Israel’s participation in the long-term operation – called Active Endeavour – due to its Navy’s involvement in the Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010 in which nine Turkish nationals were killed. In recent years Israel’s relationship with Turkey has soured – most notably in the wake of Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in 2009. Ties reached a historic nadir in May 2010 following the flotilla incident.
NATO launched Operation Active Endeavour in the aftermath of September 11 and has succeeded in bringing together a number of countries to patrol the Mediterranean and share information concerning terrorism and piracy. While Israel has participated in numerous NATO activities over the past decade, it has never sent troops or navy ships to play an operational role.
Despite Turkey’s opposition, Israel is still planning to upgrade its ties with NATO. Defence officials said this week, cited in the Israeli media, that the sides were on the verge of signing a new cooperation agreement that would lead to an upgrade in relations. Israel is also considering a request by NATO to open an office in its headquarters in Brussels.