Israel bolstered its defense ties with NATO on Monday after announcing that the navy would participate, for the first time, in a summertime exercise with the Western military alliance in the face of the growing Iranian threat to obtain nuclear power.
Israeli Navy missile boats will take part in the Black Sea drill, dubbed "Cooperation Mako."
There has been speculation that Israel might apply for full NATO membership although senior IDF officers ruled out the possibility claiming that membership in NATO would impair and limit Israel's operational ability.
"We would not be able to operate independently against the Palestinians or any other entity if it does not coincide with NATO regulations and directives," a high-ranking officer told The Jerusalem Post.
Several months ago, Israel received a high-level delegation of NATO officers stationed in Germany with the alliance's AWAC early warning surveillance squadron. They brought an AWAC plane to Israel to demonstrate its capabilities for the Israeli Air Force.
At the time, the head of the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force said that the AWAC plane, which contained unique surveillance capabilities, was brought to Israel as part of a larger effort to enhance security cooperation between NATO and Israel in the war on global terrorism.
On Monday eight NATO warships docked at Haifa port and were scheduled to remain in the country until June 4. Officers said that the goal of the visit was to better familiarize Israel with NATO capabilities and to explore the possibility of future cooperation. The ships came from Germany, Spain, Italy, US, Britain, Turkey, Greece and Holland and make up, officers said, a quality force capable of fast deployment.
Israel is a member of NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue - a 10-year-old forum for political consultations and practical cooperation between countries of the Mediterranean area including Morocco, Algeria, Egypt and Jordan.