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Nicosia,
07 December, 2019
 
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Greece-Israel, beyond the elections

Maintaining close ties with Athens and Nicosia is a strategic choice for the state of Israel

Athanasios Ellis

Athanasios Ellis

The divided Israeli society has once again failed to reach a clear decision. The results of Tuesday’s elections have cast the country back into a cycle of negotiations. Center-left Benny Gantz and conservative incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu are weighing their options, while former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman is pursuing the role of potential kingmaker.

But what the rest of the world – friends and rivals, partners and competitors – want to know is if and to what extent Israel’s relations with other countries will be affected. By all indications, Greece is exempt from this puzzle of uncertainty and possible upsets since there seem to be no differences between the main Israeli players as far as relations with Athens are concerned.

Israel’s new ambassador to Greece, Yossi Amrani, said as much in his first appearance here, at an event co-organized by the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) and the American College of Greece’s Institute of Global Affairs. He stressed that maintaining close ties with Athens and Nicosia is a strategic choice for the state of Israel and will continue to be so whoever the winner of the elections is.

He added that this cooperation safeguards stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, while the expansion of this trilateral alliance with the addition of the United States (3+1) is an extremely significant development that can also serve as a model of cooperation for other countries as well.

The bilateral cooperation between Greece and Israel and the trilateral one which includes Cyprus have their own reasons to exist and they serve their own purposes. Some appear convinced that they – as well as the cooperation between Greece, Cyprus and Egypt – are aimed against Turkey.

This, however, is not the case. The countries involved have said that they would like to see Turkey involved in such regional cooperations for security and energy – and they mean it. For this to happen, though, Ankara needs to stop making threats and behaving in a provocative manner. Even if the attitude of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan played a role in spurring these pacts at the beginning, they have acquired their own long-term dynamic.

In the meantime, it does not matter whether a right- or left-wing government is in power in Israel. Erdogan’s accusations are not directed at Netanyahu alone; he had attacked Shimon Peres with equal vehemence at Davos 10 years ago.

The last decade has shown us that Greek-Israeli cooperation – which extends beyond security and energy into areas like tourism, innovation and agriculture – transcends leaders, parties and ideologies, and has acquired a strategic dimension for both countries. It is one of those partnerships where everyone acknowledges the advantages and invests in it.

Greece has proved this beyond doubt in recent years, with prime ministers of every ideological stripe – from George Papandreou and Antonis Samaras to Alexis Tsipras and Kyriakos Mitsotakis – working toward strengthening the bond. Likewise, whatever the final result in Israel, the Jerusalem-Athens axis will remain strong and will continue to be a component in the regional landscape that no one can ignore.

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