The Greece - Turkey - Israel triangle

Πέμπτη, 14 Οκτωβρίου 2010 10:47

For a considerable length of time Turkey was a quasi-ally of Israel, while Greece kept the Jewish State at a distance; being the last among the EEC members to recognize it – paradoxically twelve years after even its then arch-enemy Egypt had done so; and, avoiding a too-close relationship with it after granting it diplomatic recognition in 1991. Turkey’s Israeli connection was in line with her more or less firm, at the time, Western orientation; and served Ankara well, both in modernizing her military and in facing threats within and on her borders, such the Kurdish rebellion. Athens’ polite coolness towards Israel, on the other hand, was mainly motivated by the fear that the Arab states would reverse their position on the Cyprus issue – favourable, on the whole, to the Greek side, but which proved neither unwavering, nor, more importantly, particularly effective, and was, in any case, unrelated to the issue of Israel’s diplomatic status; and also, initially, by the – illusory as it turned out – hope of protecting the substantial Greek community in Egypt.
Turkish-Israeli ties have, of course, gravely deteriorated since January last year – basically as a result of Turkish diplomacy being tainted by the ruling AKP party’s Islamic ideology. And only time will tell, whether we are witnessing a tactical readjustment of Turkish policy – in which case one can expect an improvement in relations between the two countries, although hardly a return to their previous intimacy; or its radical reorientation, with much wider implications..
Meanwhile, Greek-Israeli relations have taken a marked – and welcome – turn for the better. The Prime Ministers of the two countries have exchanged official visits and have initiated a process of multifaceted cooperation, which, as Mr. Netanyahu explained in an interview to the Athens daily “To Vima”, will extend to fields ranging from tourism, industry and agriculture to mutual security – possibly leading, according to a number of commentators, to a real strategic relationship. With this strengthening of ties perceived by the Israelis as offering them the added advantage of a widened access to the EU – with which they aspire to develop their relations to the maximum; and by the Greeks, besides the other benefits it affords, as a way to secure the support of the influential Jewish Diaspora, as well as to bolster the position of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, whose flock of 100,000 is mainly made up of Palestinians – and whose dealings with the Israeli authorities have not always been the easiest.
This Greek-Israeli rapprochement is not unrelated to the Turkish-Israeli spat, in the sense that the Israelis are today much more open to a relationship, which here-to-fore they had rather played down. But on which they are, nevertheless, reluctant to place an overly anti-Turkish gloss – hoping, no doubt, that their ties with Ankara will eventually be restored, or at least not further damaged. And it so happens that this Israeli restraint is in full consonance with the preoccupations of the Greek side. With Athens aiming at peaceful solutions to its differences with Ankara – and anxious to deprive the more hawkish elements on the other side of the Aegean of pretexts for aggressive behaviour.
This conciliatory attitude does not, however, mean the Greeks are disposed to accommodate themselves to the Pax Ottomana, that the Turkish foreign minister and geopolitician Professor Davutoglu gives at times the impression of aspiring to. Contrary to a vacillating Turkey, NATO and EU member Greece is firmly embedded in the West. As soon as she threw off the Ottoman yoke and reappeared on the world stage as a modern nation-state, she resolutely turned, at first to the advanced European countries of the time, and later to the expanded Euro-Atlantic world. In fact, her very independence and political institutions were to a large extent prepared by the Greek Diaspora in Europe, under the influence of the European values and ideas of that period – just as, it is interesting to note, it happened, mutatis mutandis, a century later, in the case of the Jews and of their national home.
For the rest, Greece has no alternative to its Western orientation; nor – with the exception of the small, isolated, and sclerotic Communist Party, and of a fringe of pseudo-nationalist paranoid dreamers – does she seek one. She is in a very real sense a frontline state of the Western world. As to this also, there is a similarity of destiny between Greeks and Israelis, which, with time, will probably inspire a growing sense of kinship between the two nations.

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