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The international police agency Interpol has accepted Israel into its European branch, five years after Israel made its request, a police official said Monday.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld called the decision a "breakthrough," noting that 70 percent of Israel's international police operations take place in Europe. The agreement came during Interpol's general assembly over the weekend in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Up to now, Israel has been part of the Asia region. The five-year wait reflected traditional European concern of angering Arab nations. Israeli efforts to join European sections in other international groups have met similar delays. Also, Israel was recently admitted to the International Committee of the Red Cross after a decades-long struggle.
Beyond the operational police aspects, the Interpol decision reflects a changing world reality, starting with the terror attacks by Islamic extremists in the United States on September 11, 2001, said Meir Rosenne, a former legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry and ambassador to Washington.
"After September 11 and the bombings in Madrid and London, Europeans became increasingly aware that there's no fight against international terrorism without international cooperation," he said. "Israel has a large experience in the war against terrorism. Israel's official cooperation with European polices will allow them to fight terrorism more efficiently."