NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg enters the new NATO headquarters building in Brussels, Belgium, May 7, 2018.
(photo credit: FRANCOIS LENOIR / REUTERS)
NATO will not side with Israel if the Islamic Republic of Iran attacks the Jewish state, the head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization told a German magazine on Saturday NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told Der Spiegel, “The security guarantee [of NATO] does not apply to Israel” because the Jewish state is not a member of the 29 country alliance.
In response to Stoltenberg’s announcement, Volker Beck – the German Green Party politician and former head of the German-Israel parliamentary group in the Bundestag – asked on Twitter: “That raises the question: What does this clarification mean for the security dialogue between NATO, EU, Germany and Israel? It points to at least very different starting points and positions of interest.”
Tensions between Israel and Iran have escalated in recent months, with Israel striking Iranian military bases in Syria, including an attack on May 8 that reportedly left nine Iranian military personnel dead.
Stoltenberg’s statement came despite growing cooperation between Israel and the NATO alliance, including Israel’s participation in joint naval and air force exercises in December and a joint naval exercise in late May.
Israel’s relationship with NATO is defined as a “partnership.”
The country has been a member of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue since the body was initiated in 1994, along with six other non-NATO Mediterranean countries: Jordan, Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.
The goal of the group is to enable dialogue and cooperation on security and counterterrorism issues.
However, Turkey, a member of NATO since 1952, has objected to Israel’s cooperation as part of the Mediterranean Dialogue since Israeli-Turkish ties soured six years ago.
Following Turkish-Israeli reconciliation in 2016, Ankara withdrew its longstanding veto against Israel being accepted as a partner nation to the organization, and Jerusalem opened its first ever diplomatic mission to NATO headquarters in Brussels.
In the face of Russia’s growing military presence in the eastern Mediterranean, especially in Syria, NATO’s strategic interest in the region is increasing – as is Israel’s importance to the alliance.