Turks torpedo Israel Navy participation in NATO op

Exclusive: Ankara prevents first instance of active Israeli participation in one of Western military alliance’s operations.

Israeli Navy Ship 311 (photo credit: Jorge Guerra Moreno)
Israeli Navy Ship 311
(photo credit: Jorge Guerra Moreno)
Turkey has torpedoed an Israeli plan to contribute an Israel Navy missile ship to a NATO mission in the Mediterranean Sea, in what would have been the first time Israel actively participated in one of the Western military alliance’s operations.
Diplomatic and defense officials told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that Turkey had decided to prevent Israeli participation in the long-term operation – called Active Endeavor – following the Israel Navy raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010 in which nine Turkish nationals were killed.
Diplomatic officials said that ever since its success, Turkey had been seeking to scuttle greater Israeli participation in the alliance.
NATO launched Operation Active Endeavor in the wake of 9/11 and has succeeded in bringing together a number of countries to patrol the Mediterranean and share information concerning terrorism and suspicious ships.
In 2008, Israel sent a navy officer to sit at the operation’s headquarters in Naples and in late 2009, Defense Minister Ehud Barak submitted an official request to NATO to contribute a missile ship to the mission. In 2010, Israel and NATO signed an agreement that was supposed to pave the way for the ship’s participation.
“Israel’s navy anyhow patrols the Mediterranean and since we were interested in upgrading our ties with NATO, it made sense to offer to actively participate in the operation,” a senior government official said. “The Turks, though, torpedoed the move and refused to allow one of our ships to join.”
Israel’s relationship with Turkey has seen a sharp decline in recent years, most notably in the wake of the IDF’s Cast Lead offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip in 2009. The ties further deteriorated following the raid on the flotilla in May 2010.
While Israel has participated in numerous NATO activities over the past decade, it has never sent troops or navy ships to play an operational role in the military alliance’s operations.
While Turkey succeeded in thwarting the navy’s participation in Active Endeavor, it has, however, failed to prevent Israel from upgrading its ties with NATO. Defense officials said this week that the sides were on the verge of signing a new cooperation agreement that would lead to a significant upgrade in relations.
As a member of the Mediterranean Dialogue, which was created in 1994 to foster ties with Middle Eastern countries, Israel is frequently invited to participate in NATO workshops and exercises.
The senior government official said, though, that the new agreement would enable Israel to participate in top NATO forums even though it is not a full-fledged member of the alliance.
Israel is also considering a request by NATO to open an office at its headquarters in Brussels. Defense officials said that the offer was still open and that it was being “positively considered” by the government.