OPINION

The president of Israel visits Greece

The president of Israel visits Greece

Greek-Israeli ties are at a very mature point, to the benefit of both countries. A gradual deepening should have started many decades ago, but it is no good to dwell on the past.

Presidents, prime ministers and governments come and go, but a strategic relationship is built with steady steps from both sides.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog is coming to Athens today and will be traveling to Nicosia next week. The choice to meet with the Greek and Cypriot leadership before his planned talks with Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara is deliberate.

The son of a former president, Herzog is a very experienced politician. He has held several ministerial posts and was head of the opposition for five years.

I met him in Athens two years ago and we spoke at length. He understands the Greek sensibilities and is in favor of further strengthening bilateral and trilateral relations with Cyprus. Back then, he headed the Jewish Agency, the organization that coordinates cooperation with the mighty Jewish diaspora.

“Our peoples share many things in common. Both our nations have glorious histories and both of our Mediterranean nations have strong diaspora communities that maintain close ties with their homelands. We have so much to learn from one another and I’m delighted to see our ties strengthening all the time,” he noted at some point, adding, “There is a lot of love and appreciation between the two nations, and of course tremendous respect for the wonderful history and culture of the Greek people.”

The Greek-Israeli cooperation is also backed by the US, which considers it – beyond certain isolated moves and unfortunate non-papers that cause damage – key to Eastern Mediterranean stability at the strategic level.

As for the possibility that some improvement in the Turkish-Israeli relationship might emerge from the first visit to Ankara by an Israeli president in many years, Athens has stressed since the start that its strategic partnership with Jerusalem is not aimed against any third country.

After all, if Turkey stops making threats and chooses the path of well-intentioned dialogue and cooperation, Athens will be first to support Ankara’s closest possible relationship with the European Union and its equal participation in regional schemes of cooperation.

But this is obviously not possible with Turkey’s threat of war against Greece in force, and daily statements from Ankara challenging the sovereignty of numerous Greek islands.

Getting back to today’s visit by the president of Israel, Athens views it as yet another step toward deepening this special relationship between the two mature democracies in the region and pillars of Western civilization, and it is eager to continue working with its strategic partner Israel to enhance regional stability.