Romania crash search 311 AP.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The tragic crash Monday of the Yasour helicopter that killed six IAF servicemen and a Romanian soldier revealed to many Israelis something few were aware of: the closeness of Israeli-Romanian ties.
One senior Foreign Ministry official said Tuesday that Romania, along with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria, are the strongest friends Israel has in the European Union and on the Continent.
This friendship, the official said, is manifest not only in the
country’s willingness to let the IAF train in Romanian skies, but also
by diplomatic support Bucharest gives Israel in international forums and
inside the EU institutions.
“Whenever there is an issue about us in the EU when there is not a consensus, Romania always sides with us,” the official said.
Romania’s president, prime minister and foreign minister all visited
Israel last year, an expression of the close relations, and Foreign
Minister Avigdor Lieberman visited Bucharest in April.
Before that visit, Lieberman characterized the relationship between
Israel and Romania as “special and strong,” and said Israel “remembered
that Romania was the only one of the former Eastern bloc countries that
did not cut off diplomatic ties after they were established in 1948.”
There are also strong economic ties, with hundreds of Israeli investors active in Romania.
Regarding the military ties, the IAF first began training over Romanian
skies in 2004, and signed an agreement in 2006 allowing Israel to deploy
fighter jets in Romania. The IAF sent jets to Romania in 2007.
Following Operation Cast Lead and the sharp deterioration in ties with
Ankara, Israel began looking for other countries where its pilots could
train, since it became obvious that the days of being able to fly in
Turkish skies were numbered.
Indeed, after the Gaza flotilla incident, Turkey banned all Israeli military aircraft from its airspace.
It was widely believed, but never officially confirmed, that Israel was
training over Romania, as well as in other countries in the region, such
“Romania is one of the countries that allows us to train,” one senior government official said Tuesday.
“This has been going on for many years, and there are many other countries that allow us to do so as well.”
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov avoided a direct answer last
month when asked by The Jerusalem Post, during a visit, whether Israel
had approached Sofia about conducting IAF exercises over Bulgaria to
make up for Turkey’s refusal not to allow Israeli military planes in its
Mladenov said Bulgaria and Israel have “very good security and defense
cooperation, and that an Israeli-Bulgarian defense cooperation
memorandum was signed earlier this year.”
As to whether that memorandum included an agreement for IAF training in
Bulgaria, he said, “I would imagine that it would include a lot of