Alexis Papachelas ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

Benefits of a strategic relationship

COMMENT

TAGS: Diplomacy, Politics

Those who are concerned about the maturity of Greece’s political system should take a look at the current partisan consensus as regards the country’s strategic relationship with Israel as a sign of comfort.

There is in fact a huge chasm between the positions of SYRIZA when it was a minor party of the opposition and its official line as government today. The participation of two of its deputies in the 2012 Gaza flotilla seems like a distant memory from the ruling party’s activist past. The two countries are now conducting joint military drills on a regular basis and they are cooperating closely on the security level. The Jewish lobby in Washington is acting to set up meetings between Greek officials and the Trump administration and is lobbying in favor of Greece. It all very different compared to the days when Israel and Turkey acted in unison while keeping a joint stance vis-a-vis the United States.

Sure, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have taken steps to normalize relations between the two states. However, it’s hard to believe that the deep rupture in bilateral ties and the mutual distrust can be overcome. Too many significant developments have taken place, many of them behind the scenes, which have seriously undermined trust between the two sides.

On the other hand, the major economic interests at stake – also involving the development and transport of natural gas in the wider region – could help to bring the two countries closer together. But their relationship, experts insist, will never be the same again.

The Greek political system has adopted a dogma of close strategic cooperation with Israel and appears to be sticking to it regardless of what government is in power. The strategy has been upheld by three successive administrations, while the current one is taking the whole thing a step forward.

We have a lot to gain from Israel besides security. The two peoples have a lot in common, but we also differ in two key respects: Greeks are not as good at working together as a group; also, we do not have the professionalism and the drive that is inspired in the Israelis by their fight for survival. We could learn a lot from them in agricultural economy, the startups sector and other areas. Despite some progress, most efforts here still run into the same old Greek obstacles.

Nevertheless, we should focus on the positive side of things: Realpolitik is gaining ground. Maintaining close ties to Israel is now a national dogma.

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