Why isn’t Israel a member of NATO? Geopolitical reasons for the exclusion (2024)

During the Israeli offensive in Gaza, Israel, for the most part, has been able to count on the support of the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Though not a formal member, Israel has fostered a close bond with many members, especially the US, as a critical ally in one of the world’s most turbulent regions.

NATO was established as a collective defense alliance for North America and Western Europe, primarily focusing on the North Atlantic region. Israel, being located in the Levant, is outside the geographical scope of the alliance. While it has had close security cooperation with the US and other Western countries, Israel has not sought formal membership in defense alliances like NATO. Turkey, a neighbor of Israel, on the other hand, joined NATO in 1952.

Despite this, the military alliance and Israel are close allies. The NATO website describes their relationship:

“For more than twenty years, Israel has been an active NATO partner through the Mediterranean Dialogue, the only security forum that brings together NATO Allies with Israel and Arab countries. In 2017, Israel established a permanent and official mission to NATO headquarters.”

Press Coverage: "Occupation aircraft decimate a residential square, leaving homes and their inhabitants in ruins in #Bureijcamp."#Gaza #Israel pic.twitter.com/EkNQZjMFFk

— Quds News Network (@QudsNen) November 2, 2023

Israel’s conduct in its invasion of Gaza has come under scrutiny in some NATO nations, however. While nearly all are backing the Israeli government, Turkey has broken rank and explicitly criticized the Israeli government. Since the military assault on Gaza began, millions of Turkish citizens have shown solidarity with the Palestinian cause and people in massive protests.

Spain and Belgium, also NATO members, have continued to fund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) after the United States and the United Kingdom suspended funds to the organization after allegations from the Israeli government that workers had participated in the attack on 7 October. While these countries have condemned the alleged participation, the governments see UNRWA’s work as too crucial during the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in Gaza to stop the sending of aid. Last week, twenty-six of twenty-seven European Union members passed a ceasefire resolution; the only opposition came from Hungary, which is a NATO member.

What is happening in Palestine and Israel right now?

It has been six months since Israel’s military invasion of Gaza began following the attacks carried out by Palestinian resistance groups led by Hamas, which is backed by Iran. The attacks carried out on 7 October were a violent manifestation of the deteriorating situation for Palestinians in the region and claimed the lives of more than 760 Israeli civilians. According to the Swiss-based humanitarian organization Euro-Med Monitor, the Israeli assault on Gaza has killed over 38,000 people, of which 34,570 are thought to be civilians.

#Infographic| Statistics on the Israeli Genocide in the Gaza Strip (07 October 2023-23 February 2024) pic.twitter.com/MLCV2vMf5z

— Euro-Med Monitor (@EuroMedHR) February 23, 2024

More than 70,000 injuries have been reported, and nearly one hundred percent of the population has been displaced and on the brink of famine.

WFP was forced to pause food distributions in the north of #Gaza just as reports warn of a worsening crisis.

To avert famine, WFP urgently needs safe unhindered passage to areas of greatest need.

🔗https://t.co/ttZUKp9TQm pic.twitter.com/qMF5SyQSJi

— World Food Programme (@WFP) February 26, 2024

The wider context

Israel has fought numerous wars against its Arab neighbours, furious with the sudden birth of a Jewish state in lands given away by the British Empire at the end of the Second World War. Israel’s final major war with outside powers was waged in 1973, the Yom Kippur war, and has since occupied a considerable portion of Palestinian territory in the face of international law.

Today it is 106 years since Britain issued its infamous #BalfourDeclaration, which gave our land to another people and reduced us to the "non-Jewish" population. [1/3] #NeverForget #Balfour106 #Palestine pic.twitter.com/Xr8S6Pf2aM

— Palestine in the UK (@PalMissionUK) November 2, 2023

The closest to a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians occurred with the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. Israel agreed to hand governance of Gaza and the West Bank to a Palestinian Authority in return for Palestinian recognition of Israel. Since then, peace has drifted further apart with the current Israeli leadership in its most extreme right-wing incarnation.

“The Jewish people have an exclusive and inalienable right over all areas of the Land of Israel,” stated the new Israeli governing coalition. “The government will promote and develop the settlement of all parts of the Land of Israel — in the Galilee, the Negev, the Golan and Judea and Samaria,” referring to the occupied West Bank. While his allies in Washington DC have reaffirmed their commitment to the two-state solution, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the proposal. On 18 February, he said in a speech that “Israel will continue to oppose the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.” He put the question to the country’s legislative body, the Knesset.

In a historic decision, the Knesset united overwhelmingly in support of my proposal, with 99 of 120 members voting against the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.

This landmark vote underscores our collective resolve: We will not reward terrorism by unilateral…

— Benjamin Netanyahu - בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) February 21, 2024

However, for many Palestinians, international legal theorists, and those supportive of the Palestinian cause, returning to the status quo of Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank is unacceptable in a post-war scenario. Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, has described the actions of Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories as apartheid. This is the prioritization of rights to one group over another on the basis of one’s racial-national-ethnic identity, most prominently recognized in South Africa between 1948 and 1994. This view is supported by numerous human rights groups around the world, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Bringing it all back to NATO, nearly all members of the alliance have come out in support of Israel, discussing the right of the country to defend itself. Palestinians can rely on no such support, and as with all conflicts, it is the civilians that are the greatest victims of the violence.

Why isn’t Israel a member of NATO? Geopolitical reasons for the exclusion (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Twana Towne Ret

Last Updated:

Views: 6519

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (44 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Twana Towne Ret

Birthday: 1994-03-19

Address: Apt. 990 97439 Corwin Motorway, Port Eliseoburgh, NM 99144-2618

Phone: +5958753152963

Job: National Specialist

Hobby: Kayaking, Photography, Skydiving, Embroidery, Leather crafting, Orienteering, Cooking

Introduction: My name is Twana Towne Ret, I am a famous, talented, joyous, perfect, powerful, inquisitive, lovely person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.