NATO-Israel  Relations

Israel’s membership in NATO is a scenario that has been discussed in various occasions in the past. It should be also noted that several steps have already been taken to move NATO and Israel closer to one another. Some Israeli and European officials believe that it is mutually beneficial to have Israel as a full NATO member.  Some also believe that Israel’s membership in the alliance could be a long-term stabilization factor with respect to the on-going crisis in the Mashrek (Middle-East), a presumption that should be seriously considered by  European policy-makers and NATO officials.

De-Jure, the state of Israel is still not a NATO member, albeit de-facto it maintains close relations with its members, primarily Germany. Germany has maintained unique relations with Israel over the years and has shown its commitment to its national security via broad and far reaching cooperation with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

Israel is a member of the Mediterranean Dialogue (MD) which was created in 1994 to foster ties with Middle Eastern countries, e.g., Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco. In 2011 NATO extended invitations to the countries participating in the Mediterranean Dialogue to open offices at NATO HQ in Brussels.

NATO’s cooperation with Israel is on the following levels – civil emergency planning, military-to-military co-operation and joint fight against terrorism.   Prerequisite conditions for potential NATO involvement in the region are as follows:[1]   1/ a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians    2/ both parties request NATO’s help with the implementation of that agreement    3/ UN endorsement of NATO’s possible involvement

NATO has approved Israel’s participation in its activities and the IDF Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, participated in a conference attended by chiefs of staff of NATO member states held in 2013.

A research survey published in 2011 showed that 68% of Israelis support joining NATO. Furthermore, 64% of Israelis would support a NATO deployment of peacekeeping troops to the West Bank and Gaza.[2]

EU-Israel Relations


The European Union (EU) maintains close relations with the State of Israel on several levels: Political, trade, transportation, science[3], culture and sport. On account of its high level of economic development, Israel enjoys a special status in its relations with the EU.

Israel is a legitimate member in many European supranational federations and thus considers itself as a non-member partner of the Union. As a consequence of the enlargement of the EU in 2004, the Union and Israel are now closer together geopolitically than ever before. Historically and culturally, the EU and Israel share common heritage. Thus, from a geopolitical vantage point, although it is located in the Middle-East, to many Europeans, Israel is considered as a ‘European’ country.

Trade between EU and Israel is conducted on the basis of the Association Agreement (2000) which forms the legal foundation governing the relations between the two sides.  The agreement incorporates free-trade arrangements for industrial goods and concessionary arrangements for certain agricultural products in the form of tariff reduction. Consequently, The EU is Israel’s major trading partner.

The Association agreement established two main bodies for the Israel-EU dialogue: the EU-Israel Association Council (held at ministerial level) and the EU-Israel Association Committee (held at a senior official level).

The EU-Israel bilateral relations are part of the framework of the Barcelona Process[4] and the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. Israel has a developed market-economy and has implemented modern public services, foundations that make it well placed to further develop its relationship with the EU.

The EU places significant emphasis on finding a solution to the on-going Arab-Israeli conflict and thus supports initiatives to further the peace process. It does this as a member of the Quartet, as well as via its aid initiatives under the framework of the European Neighborhood Program (ENP).

By Ari R. BRYGER, PhD Researcher at Leiden University

© 2016

[1] As described by NATO General Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Herzliya Conference in Israel in 2011

[2] (Pardo and Monnet(2011

[3] Israel was the first non-European country to be associated to the EU’s Framework Program for Research and Technical Development(RTD)

[4] The Barcelona Process was launched in 1995 by EU member states and Mediterranean non-member states as the framework to manage both bilateral and regional relations between the parties