BEIRUT: Israel will be participating in NATO activities in 2013 despite opposition from Turkey, according to a report Saturday by the Jerusalem Post.
Officials told the conservative Israeli daily that the approval was granted after Turkey’s request to station NATO Patriot missile batteries along the border with Syria.
They believed this was being used as leverage to encourage Ankara to improve ties with Tel Aviv, which have deteriorated over the past several years, particularly with the 2010 Israeli raid on a flotilla off the coast of Gaza killing nine Turkish citizens.
Turkey, which has been a full NATO member since 1952, has been opposed to Israeli participation in the organization’s military activities.
Until now, Israel, considered a NATO “partner,” has participated in NATO seminars, exercises and training.
But Turkey has objected to further participation, officials told the Post.
Any of NATO’s 28 full members can veto a proposal.
Turkey’s recent request for the Patriot missile systems would include Israeli participation, whose timing could be noteworthy.
“At the last minute – and I think it was dependent on the Patriots – it was approved,” an Israeli official told the Israeli daily on condition of anonymity.
Unidentified Turkish diplomatic sources told the Post that “Turkey’s position did not change on this matter.”
Meanwhile, the Israeli official said the new participation in NATO activities “is not a total solution” to the strained relations between the two countries.