Israel opens NATO office for the first time

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Israel’s opened its first office at the Brussels headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) this week.

Senior Israeli diplomat Roni Leshno Yaar formally submitted his credentials to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at a ceremony reportedly attended by 100 high ranking officials including IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj Gen Yair Golan and NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller.

Gottemoeller said: “Here in NATO, we understand that Israel shares our values, and is an active and beneficial partner for Mediterranean dialogue.”

Leshno Yaar emphasised the importance of strengthening ties between Israel and NATO, given their joint interests and common threats in the Mediterranean.

Israel announced in May last year its significant upgrade of ties with NATO, which included an official representative at NATO and a permanent office in Brussels. At the time, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the move represented “an important step in helping Israel’s security. It is an additional testimony to Israel’s position and the desire of many factors to cooperate with us in the field of security”.

Israel is not a member of NATO but is now one of around 40 partner nations for NATO, including the likes of Australia, India, Japan and Russia. The 28 NATO members, including the UK, are bound by the treaty to militarily defend one other.

Israel has traditionally enjoyed strong military and security cooperation with NATO. Israel is part of the Mediterranean Dialogue, a NATO-led outreach programme involving seven allied countries in the Mediterranean region.

In a related development, at this week’s NATO gathering for defence officials in Brussels IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Golan met the head of the Turkish Armed Forces General Hulusi Akar, in what is the highest level military meeting between the two countries since Israel and Turkey signed a reconciliation deal last year, ending a six-year diplomatic hiatus. Golan is also reported to have met Arab military leaders on the sidelines of the event.