(photo credit: Reuters)
Since Israel is fairly remote from any part of the north Atlantic, it would be reasonable to wonder why it should have any sort of connection with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). But then NATO has itself traveled a fair distance since 1949 when, after much discussion and debate, the North Atlantic Treaty was signed by ten western European nations plus the United States and Canada, with the aim of deterring Soviet aggression at the very start of the Cold War. The kaleidoscope of political change in the past 65 years has radically altered NATO’s nature and scope. Two landmarks define these changes: the end of the Cold War, which rendered NATO’s defensive strategy against the Soviet Union obsolete, and the 9/11 terrorist attack on the US in 2001, which redefined the enemy and the nature of the battle and which, incidentally, shifted the focus of NATO’s attention from Europe to the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and beyond − which is where Israel enters the picture.
NATO, which has on seven occasions added new members and now comprises 28 nations, has also broadened its operations to encompass both a “Partnership for Peace” program with states of the former USSR, and also a number of “dialogue programs.” Among these is the Mediterranean Dialogue, set up in 1994 and intended to link Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia in security discussions.