Giampaolo Di Paoloa NATO 248.88 .
(photo credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
The Navy will dispatch a missile ship in the coming months to participate in a NATO mission to patrol the Mediterranean Sea and prevent weapons smuggling, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and NATO Military Commander Admiral Giampaolo Di Paoloa decided Wednesday night.
Di Paola arrived Wednesday in Israel for a three-day visit as a guest of Ashkenazi. This is Di Paola's third visit to Israel in the past four years both in his current position as well as in his last post as top military commander of Italy.
During their meeting on Wednesday, Ashkenazi and Di Paoloa discussed ways to upgrade Israeli-NATO military ties as well as the plan to include an Israeli Navy vessel in Active Endeavour, a NATO mission established after the 9/11 attacks under which NATO vessels patrol the Mediterranean to prevent illegal terror trafficking.
The timing of Di Paoloa's visit was considered significant since it came at a time that the IDF is under increasing criticism in wake of the Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead as well as a decision by Turkey - a NATO member - to ban Israel from joint aerial exercises.
Since its inception after 9/11, NATO forces have hailed over 100,000 merchant vessels, and boarded some 148 suspicious vessels.
This will be the first time that IDF troops actively participate in a NATO operation in the Mediterranean Sea as part of the Active Endeavor maritime counter-terror operation.
The decision to send an Israeli Navy ship was made recently by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Ashkenazi and commander of the Navy Adm. Eliezer Marom. It has not yet been decided which ship would participate in the operation.
Ashkenazi and Di Paoloa also discussed additional ways to upgrade Israeli-NATO relations.
Also on Wednesday, Ashkenazi and other members of the General Staff presented Di Paoloa with the IDF's multi-year plan Tefen. Di Paoloa expressed his astonishment with the IDF's ability to compile such a complicated plan. He also noted that NATO and the IDF were facing similar threats - NATO in Afghanistan and Israel in its war against Hamas and Hizbullah.
Di Paoloa will visit the IDF's elite Engineering Corps Yahalom as well as the Air Force's Palmahim Base where he will be briefed on the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead.