NATO’s Operation Active Endeavour has been operating in the Mediterranean Sea since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. The force is comprised of 10 vessels of different kinds, backed by submarines and aircraft, which work to prevent naval acts of terrorism and arms smuggling. The naval force monitors suspicious ships and, when necessary, raids them. NATO also escorts ships of the alliance until they leave the Mediterranean Sea at the Straits of Gibraltar as there is intelligence information that the ships are at risk. The majority of the ships that make up the force are from the navies of the members of NATO who have a shore on the Mediterranean Sea – Greece, Italy, Spain and Turkey, but are also helped by more major navies of NATO in the region. â€¨
Israel relayed a request to have an Israeli ship join the force over â€¨two years ago, but approval was delayed time after time, and Israel remained outside the multi-national force. The Israeli security establishment â€¨believed that the reason, among other things, was the diplomatic â€¨sensitivity created in wake of criticism of Israeli’s actions in the Second Lebanon War and in Operation Cast Lead.
The news about the approval to join the special naval force was relayed to Israel Navy Commander Maj. Gen. Eliezer (Cheney) Marom in the course of his visit to the U.S. last week. Maj. Gen. Marom was there to take part in a global meeting of navy commanders. â€¨
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Sources in the Israeli security establishment affirm that the approval, given at this time, reflects NATO’s esteem for the Israel Navy’s capabilities under Marom’s command, to help prevent international acts of terror. â€¨ In the framework of this cooperation, an Israeli Navy officer was also stationed in the position of liaison at NATO’s naval headquarters in Naples, Italy. The decision to include a vessel, one of the Israel Navy’s most advanced missile boats that will join NATO’s active task force, is expected to be made soon. â€¨
Mark of Esteemâ€¨
The idea of having Israel join NATO had been raised occasionally in recent decades as part of the thinking about security guarantees for Israel – and no less, in order to acquire a sense of security and belonging to the world of its citizens – in the framework of a comprehensive arrangement in the Middle East. Today, this idea seems distant, as does a comprehensive arrangement. In Israel’s international situation today, with legitimacy for its military actions shrinking, the inclusion of an Israeli ship in the alliance’s naval police force is greeted as big news in Israel