By Jonathan Benedek/TPS
Jerusalem (TPS) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with ambassadors from NATO countries earlier on Tuesday to discuss expanding cooperation between Israel and NATO against the common threat of global terrorism.
“There are so many threats that are facing NATO that are similar to the ones facing Israel,” said Danish Ambassador to Israel Jesper Vahr whose embassy is currently NATO’s contact point embassy in Israel.
During the press conference, Ambassador Vehr shared a message with Prime Minister Netanyahu on behalf of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg who said that Israel and NATO face common threats.
“Today our nations face greater, more complex threats than they have in many years,” Vehr said on behalf of Stoltenberg. “It is right that those countries that share common values of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law work together for the good of us all.”
Netanyahu concurred with Ambassador Vehr and Secretary General Stoltenberg and also expressed his belief in mutual cooperation between Israel and NATO.
“Israel has much to contribute to NATO. I believe NATO has much to contribute to Israel,” said the prime minister. “We’ve already begun that process, but I think we can extend and increase our cooperation.”
Although not a member of the NATO alliance, Israel has already played an integral role as a member of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue, a working group between NATO and seven Mediterranean countries focused on maintaining security in the Mediterranean region.
“Israel for many years has been an active member of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue, the only security forum that brings together NATO allies with Israel and Arab countries. Last month, NATO and Israel went further, agreeing to establish an Israeli mission at NATO,” Ambassador Vehr said. “Having a mission will help us to take our political and practical cooperation to a higher level.”
Official authorization for such an office had been delayed by Turkey, a NATO member that has had strained bilateral ties with Israel since 2010. Turkey’s eventual lifting of its rejection to an Israeli mission was viewed by some as a sign on Turkey’s part of reconciliation with Israel.
Prime Minister Netanyahu immediately welcomed the establishment of the office on May 4, referring to it as a critical step in the advancement of Israel’s security and as a demonstration of NATO’s desire to cooperate with Israel on security matters.
“We’re in the process of opening up the office as soon as possible,” remarked Netanyahu at the press conference. “We attach great importance to that.”
Netanyahu’s meeting today preceded an upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw scheduled for July 8-9, which NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg referred to last week as a “landmark summit” addressing “a changed security environment” around NATO.
Netanyahu assured NATO ambassadors that Israel is prepared to help the military alliance cope with global terrorism.
“In three weeks, you’re going to have an important summit in Warsaw and I believe the combat against global terrorism should be and probably is already a central part of your agenda,” Netanyahu told the NATO ambassadors. “Know that Israel stands ready to advance that agenda and I have no doubt that if we work together, we can roll back this terror.”