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Israel to open permanent office in NATO headquarters

May 5, 2016 4:09 P.M. (Updated: May 5, 2016 4:09 P.M.)
Israeli soldiers stand guard in front of Palestinian stone throwers during clashes in Bethlehem. (AFP/Thomas Coex, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- NATO gave Israel the green light this week to open a permanent office in the Belgium headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) after Turkey lifted its veto.

“The North Atlantic Council has agreed ‎to accept the request that an official Israeli mission be established at NATO headquarters,” NATO said in a statement on Tuesday. “The ambassador of Israel to the European Union will therefore be the head of the mission of Israel to NATO.”

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement late on Tuesday that the decision was the result of “prolonged Israeli diplomatic efforts.”

"I welcome the NATO announcement,” the statement quoted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as saying. “This is an important step in helping Israel's security.”

Netanyahu further added that this was a sign of “the willingness of many organizations to cooperate with us in the field of security.”

The decision was seen by some experts as carrying more of a symbolic than strategic weight, website Defense News reported on Thursday.

“It’s not as if Israel is becoming a NATO member. It certainly doesn’t commit NATO allies to come to our aid if under attack, which in any case is something we don’t need or want,” the news website quoted DeZaki Shalom, a fellow at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, as saying.

While not one of NATO’s 28 members, Israel has been described by the international military coalition as a “very active partner,” notably through its membership in the Mediterranean Dialogue group since 1994.

However, the establishment of an Israeli office had previously been blocked by Turkey, as such move requires unanimous consent from all NATO members.

Turkey and Israel’s relations were strained after Israeli forces killed ten Turkish activists in a 2010 raid against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, although the two countries have warmed up in recent years.

According to Defense News, Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar, and Kuwait have also been authorized to open permanent offices in NATO headquarters in Brussels.
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