Israel is the country in the Mediterranean region by far the closest with NATO, and this relationship is becoming closer still. In 2005 Jaap de Hoop Scheffer became the first NATO Secretary General to visit Israel. The next month Israel and NATO conducted their first ever joint naval exercise in the Red Sea.
This corresponds with a broader tendency of NATO to ‘go global’, with a Partnership for Peace for Eastern Europe and a Mediterranean Dialogue for Mediterranean countries. But Israel is more than a close partner. Some even think of a full NATO membership for Israel but this is unlikely to happen. Most NATO members are not attracted to the idea that if Israel were attacked by any of its potential enemies the NATO charter would oblige them to come to help. Not only because they could be drawn into an unwanted war but also because it would trouble their relationship with the Arab countries, endangering their oil supply.
The 1994 Mediterranean Dialogue, which linked countries like Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, and Tunisia in security discussions with NATO, was followed in 2004 – after 9/11 – by the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. This framework offers multilateral cooperation in combating terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and also the improvement of interoperability among military forces in the region.
The special position of Israel is reflected by the fact that in 2006 – shortly after the Lebanon War – it became the first country to sign an Individual Cooperation Program with NATO. This program includes an ongoing strategic dialogue between Israel and NATO on terrorism, intelligence sharing, nuclear proliferation, rescue operations, logistiscs and, not unimportantly for both the Israeli and the European arms industry, procurement of military material. It provides Israel with access to the NATO computer and intelligences systems. To celebrate these close ties, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer went to visit Israel in early 2009 – the midst of the Gaza war.
Also very convinient for the arms industry is that Israel adopted the NATO Codification System. This is a 13-digit numeric code that NATO alliance uses to identify everything in its inventory, from weapons systems to spare parts and computer systems. This standarised system opens the road to closer collaboration on the joint development of weapon systems.
Options include the development of an updated anti-terrorism doctrine (including cyber-terrorism), a domain to which NATO is a newcomer. Under the European Union FP7 financing program Israel is participating for €3.6 million in counter-terrorism R&D. With EU taxpayers’ money the experience of repressing Palestinians is used for EU control strategies.
NATO considers Israel as an ally against Iran, nuclear proliferation and terrorism. By now Israel has joined NATO’s naval control system in the Mediterranean and contributes to Operation Active Endeavour by joining NATO forces in patrolling the Mediterranean. Officials from the Israeli Foreign Ministry have been attending the recent NATO forums on the new Strategic Concept.
A recent attempt by Israel to open a NATO office was blocked by Turkey however. Turkey also contradicts Wall Street Journal reports that Israel should share information gathered by a U.S.-led radar system, to be stationed in Turkey as part of the NATO missile-shield project.
Sept.18, 2011 Turkey blocks Israeli bid for opening NATO office
Feb. 11, 2011 Should Israel Join NATO?
1 May, 2010 War and Peace, Israel and NATO – Between Membership and Partnership
17 January, 2010 Israel: Global NATO’s 29th Member