Jens Stoltenberg’s comment comes despite closer cooperation seen by Israel’s and NATO’s growing alliance that was demonstrated this May by Israel’s participation in a joint naval exercise.
Jens Stoltenberg, the head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), told a German media outlet on Saturday that NATO would not side with Israel in the event that the Islamic Republic of Iran attacks the Jewish state.
The NATO chief told Der Spiegel magazine that “the security guarantee [of NATO] does not apply to Israel” because the Jewish state is not a member of the 29 country alliance.
In response to the Stoltenberg’s announcement, the German Green Party politician and former head of the German-Israel parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Volker Beck, asked on Twitter: “That raises the question. What does this clarification mean for the security dialogue between NATO, EU, Germany and Israel? It points to at least very different starting points and positions of interest.”
Tensions between Israel and Iran have escalated in recent months, with Israel striking Iranian military bases in Syria, including in a May 8 attack that reportedly left 9 Iranian military personnel dead.
Stoltenberg’s statement comes despite growing cooperation between Israeli and the NATO alliance, including Israel’s participation in a joint naval exercise in late May. Earlier Israel-NATO joint naval and air force exercises took place in December.
Israel’s relationship with NATO is defined as a “partnership,” and the country has been a member of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue since it was initiated in 1994, along with six other non-NATO Mediterranean countries: Jordan, Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. The goal of the group is to enable dialogue and cooperation on security and counterterrorism issues.
However, Turkey, a member of NATO since 1952, objected to Israel’s cooperation as part of the Mediterranean Dialogue since Israeli-Turkish ties soured six years ago.
Following a Turkish-Israeli reconciliation in 2016, Ankara withdrew its longstanding veto against Israel being accepted as a partner nation to the organization, and Jerusalem opened its first ever diplomatic mission to NATO headquarters in Brussels.
In the face of Russia’s growing military presence in the eastern Mediterranean, especially in Syria, NATO’s strategic interest in the region is increasing — as is Israel’s importance to the alliance.
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