Having attended the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which took place in Washington DC a few days ago, I can draw two conclusions.
The first concerns the Israeli lobby in the United States and the confirmation that it remains extremely powerful, wielding a tremendous amount of influence in both the Republican and Democratic parties. The sheer size of the event was awe-inspiring, and the roster of high-caliber politicians in attendance and the content of their speeches, left little doubt of that influence.
The second concerns the Greeks. As a result of the previous point, it confirmed the importance of the decision to strengthen ties between Greece and Israel, both on a bilateral level and in the context of the trilateral partnership with Cyprus.
Plans for the creation of a regional arrangement that will be centered on but not limited to security, and which will include Egypt, Jordan and possibly other nations, are seen in the same positive light. The recently launched Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum is one of the building blocks of this new regional architecture.
The next stage will concern managing this extremely promising multilateral structure. The signs are already upbeat. The appearance by Cyprus Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides at the AIPAC conference was well organized. Mindful of the audience’s concerns and attuned to their priorities, he was careful to stress the security dimension of the partnership.
Moreover, as there are conflicting views on the means of transportation of any natural gas found within the exclusive economic zones of Cyprus, Israel and Egypt, Christodoulides spoke of the creation of an “Eastern Mediterranean corridor,” without being more specific, and leaving open the final choice.
Nicosia favors the creation of a liquefied natural gas terminal on Cyprus, a position that seems to have the backing of the United States as well. Nevertheless, all options are still on the table, while much will also depend on the quantities of natural gas that are ultimately discovered in the broader region.
To return to the core issue here, which is ties with Israel, there are understandably personal sensitivities, as well as party preferences, and calls to create partnerships with other players in the region, and there are ways for those to be expressed, but at the end of the day the choices that serve Greece’s strategic interests are clear.