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As Turkey drops opposition, Israel sends representation to NATO

Israel's first Ambassador to NATO Aharon Leshno-Yaar

After overcoming years of resistance from Turkey, Israeli diplomat Ambassador Aharon Leshno-Yaar began work on Friday as Israel’s representative at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Israel, which has one of the strongest armies in the Middle East, has long sought to enhance its cooperation with NATO but faced stiff resistance from Ankara for closer engagement.

Part of the opposition from Turkey emanated from the state of bilateral relations, which saw five years of estrangement prompted by an Israeli naval operation to intercept a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. The operation went awry as eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American were killed on board, plunging relations to one of their lowest levels in recent decades.

But the Turkish Parliament this summer ratified an agreement that ended the rift, and the two countries have fully re-established diplomatic ties.

One of the first dividends of the rapprochement was Turkey’s abandonment of its opposition to Israeli representation at NATO.

“Israel’s first ambassador to the 28-member NATO military alliance on Friday presented his credentials to its secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg as the Jewish state opened a permanent mission at the organization’s Brussels headquarters,” the Times of Israel reported on Friday.

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