Reconciliation with Turkey will eliminate barriers placed by its President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, allowing NATO to integrate Israeli cybersecurity, battlefield medicine capabilities, electronic upgrades and a host of products NATO sees as assets.
By Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff
Israel’s efforts to reconcile with NATO member Turkey will help enhance Israeli intelligence sharing and other security cooperation with the alliance, a NATO diplomat said on Tuesday.
Israel and Turkey were once close regional allies, but diplomatic relations between them broke down in 2010 after the Israeli naval raid on the Gaza-bound vessel Mavi Marmara in which 10 pro-Palestinian Turkish activists were killed. The incident caused Turkey to chafe at Israel’s contacts with NATO. But with both countries now working to mend fences, Turkey last month acquiesced to Israel setting up representation at NATO’s Brussels headquarters.
Hosting envoys from NATO countries in Israel on Tuesday, including the Turkish charge d’affaires standing in for the ambassador who was withdrawn during the bilateral crisis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered to further close ranks with the alliance.
“Israel has much to contribute to NATO. I believe NATO has much to contribute to Israel. We’ve already begun that process, but I think we can extend and increase our cooperation,” Netanyahu said.
Israeli officials declined to elaborate on the issue, but one of the foreign diplomats who took part in the meeting, cited Israeli intelligence, as well as the country’s cybersecurity and battlefield medicine capabilities, as assets to NATO.
“There is a host of areas where we could start doing more [but] cooperation has been stifled,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity. “Turkey, to put in frankly, has blocked many [Israel-NATO] activities. Now there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Where Israel might have previously cooperated in such fields with NATO members on a bilateral basis — for example, by giving the United States intelligence on Islamic State militants in the region — its closer involvement with the alliance would streamline the process for all 28 members of the North Atlantic Treaty, the diplomat said.
“It means that it [Israeli input] is easier to share through the NATO command structure, if we have that framework,” said the diplomat, who nevertheless cautioned that this framework required Israel and Turkey finalize their reconciliation deal.
Both sides have said the deal could be imminent, though it remains unclear how they might reach terms on Turkey’s long-standing demand that Israel lift its naval blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Israel says the measure is required to prevent arms smuggling by Palestinian terrorists.
“There are creative solutions to be found, and I think that both sides have the political will to find a solution,” a Turkish official told Reuters, describing an agreement with Israel as “very close.”
Israel’s role in the NATO-sponsored Mediterranean dialogue has allowed it to hold security contacts with several Arab countries with which it does not have formal bilateral relations — a boost to Netanyahu’s vision of outflanking archenemy Iran through regional cooperation.
“In the Middle East, terrorist groups spread chaos and violence, posing a threat to our security and our way of life,” Danish Ambassador to Israel Jesper Vahr, the point man for NATO envoys in Israel, said in public remarks on Tuesday.
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