The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has suggested
that the Israel
Defense Forces (IDF), for the first time, take part in multinational
military exercises and participate in anti-terror activities such as
patrols in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
A military summit was to be held in Brussels on Wednesday,
with the participation of the chiefs of staff of 26 NATO members and
countries that have ties with the organization. For the first time, Israel will send a senior IDF representative
to the summit: operations directorate chief Major General Yisrael Ziv,
who was sent at the last minute in place of Chief of Staff Lieutenant
General Moshe Ya'alon.
NATO plans to upgrade what it calls the "Mediterranean
dialogue" it is conducting with Israel and six Muslim nations: Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauretania. This
means that policy discussions will be conducted by leaders of a higher
rank, and that the level of joint military operations will be raised
through coordinated military exercises, the war on terrorism and weapons
of mass destruction, and joint planning for civilian disaster readiness.
The IDF's first-ever role in NATO military exercises
is part of the organization's decision to invite the armies of the "Mediterranean
dialogue" countries to take part in the exercises.
Seven exercises were proposed to the IDF, including
training that will take place in Ukraine in June 2005. NATO sources said experience has taught that it is worthwhile
to start with sending officers from countries new to alliance activities
to view multinational operations as a way of learning the methods.
Diplomatic, not just military, dialogue is also on
the agenda. Foreign Minister Silvan
Shalom was invited to participate with his colleagues from the other
"dialogue" nations, in a meeting with the NATO foreign ministers
council which will meet in Brussels in December 2004.