Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir with one of the soldiers wounded on February 17, 2018.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir will head to Brussels next week to represent Israel at a meeting of the NATO Military Committee, the alliance’s highest military authority, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit confirmed to The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
The meeting will see senior officers from NATO armies attend, as well as representatives from NATO’s Middle East Dialogue, including Egypt and Jordan.
Zamir’s working visit to Brussels comes as tensions between the United States and Iran are at an all-time high, and as NATO member Turkey continues to push forward in purchasing the advanced S-400 missile defense system from Russia.
Despite repeated warnings from both the United States and NATO allies that buying the Russian system alongside F-35 stealth fighter jets would threaten the security of the Lockheed Martin-produced jets by learning how to spot and track them, Turkey is sticking to its guns with the purchase.
On Saturday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was quoted by Reuters as saying that Ankara’s purchase of the systems from Russia was a “done deal.”
He also said that Turkey would jointly produce S-500 defense systems with Moscow.
The top uniformed officer in NATO and the head of American forces in Europe, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, warned in March during testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee that Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 presents a problem not only to the F-35, but to all American aircraft.
“My best military advice would be that we don’t then follow through with the F-35 – flying it or working with an ally that is working with Russian systems, particularly air defense systems, with one of our most advanced technological capabilities,” Scaparrotti was quoted by Defense News as saying.
Scaparrotti was replaced by US Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters on May 5. Wolters assumed the dual roles of NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) and head of US European Command (EUCOM).
A former pilot who served in Afghanistan and in Iraq, Wolters will oversee NATO’s biggest reinforcement of its collective defenses in Eastern Europe since the Cold War, due to tensions with Russia.
In his role as SACEUR, Wolters is responsible for all NATO military operations.
EUCOM’s area of responsibility includes 21 million square miles across Europe as well as Russia and Israel.
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.
Six other non-NATO Mediterranean countries have also joined the dialogue: Jordan, Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.
One of the Mediterranean Dialogue’s main goals is to create a basis for dialogue and cooperation in the field of security and counter-terrorism.
Earlier in May, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, along with the 29 permanent representatives of the North Atlantic Council, marked the 25th anniversary of the Mediterranean Dialogue in Ankara, Turkey.
The event was attended by the ambassador of the Republic of North Macedonia and senior diplomats from the nations participating in the partnership forum.
“Through the Mediterranean Dialogue, NATO has developed a unique network of partners across the region,” Stoltenberg opened the event by saying. “It has helped to boost trust and cooperation between members.”
He stressed that NATO is “dedicated to promoting security across the Middle East and North Africa through the continued fight against terrorism.”
This includes “NATO’s membership in the Global Coalition to Defeat [ISIS] and by training local forces, [particularly] in Iraq,” he added.