| 04 November 2010
As it is known, the Turkish-Israeli relations are in deep crisis, as a result of the implementation of the neo-ottoman theory of the Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davoutoglu which wants Turkey to take sides with the Arab world. In actual fact, Turkey strongly condemned the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, received the leader of Hamas in Ankara, conducted common military exercises with Syria, arch-enemy of Israel, while refusing to do the same with Israel in accordance with their Treaty of Military Co-operation of 1996, supports Iran, accused of its nuclear ambitions and lastly tried to break the embargo on Gaza with the known results. The purpose of all these actions is to project Turkey as the big Islamic power which is capable of creating problems to Israel, more effectively than Iran. In doing so, Turkey asserts that she is not counting political cost and alliances.
Israel had, therefore, to deal with this situation and it was only natural to turn towards Greece and Cyprus with which it entertains excellent relations. On their part, the two countries took advantage of this opportunity, with a view to promoting the goals of their foreign policy, a diplomatic tenet under the circumstances.
The visit of Netanyahu to Athens, a month after Papandreou’s visit to Jerusalem, is the first official visit of an Israeli Prime Minister to Greece and is expression of the mutual will to bolster the ties between the two countries. The visit afforded the opportunity to exchange views on a variety of issues of bilateral co-operation. The discussion, inter alia, covered military co-operation, security, armaments, economy, tourism, energy, know-how, joint ventures, etc. As a concrete result came the decision to establish a Joint Committee with a view to identifying sectors presenting real prospects of rapid development and intensive co-operation.
Netanyahu’s visit upgraded the role of Greece in the region of the Middle East, where peace is of vital importance. In this respect, Greece’s traditional friendship with the Arab world can be of help, as it enjoys the trust of both parties. Papandreou put particular emphasis on this point by saying that Greece wants to be useful to the Israelo-Palestinian rapprochement, as well as that of the Arab world with Europe.
In view of the above, a reasonable question was put by journalists to the two Prime Ministers: Whether the relations of strategic importance between Greece and Israel are competing those with turkey. The answer of both was “no”, but the Greek P.M. stressed that Turkey has to show respect to the peoples and the countries of the region.
The Foreign Minister of Israel, Avigdor Lieberman visited Cyprus at the invitation of his Cypriot counterpart, when P.M. Netanyahu was in Washington for the direct talks with the Palestinian leader. It should be noted tha Lieberman and Kyprianou met several times this year in an effort to strengthen the relations of their countries. Their discussions covered a variety of issues among which prominent was the joint proposal of Greece and Cyprus for transporting humanitarian aid to Gaza. The reasoning behind this proposal is Cyprus’ proximity to the region and its excellent relations with the parties concerned. Lieberman described the proposal as very positive, adding that it is on the discussion table. In this respect the possibility is being explored of putting the project under the E.U.’s umbrella, with a view to giving more substance to its role in the region.
The relations of Israel with the E.U. was another issue which was discussed. For Israel Cyprus represents the closest gate to the E.U. Co-operation, therefore, in as many as possible fields is helping Israel’s European perspectives. In this respect, it should be mentioned that now, as compared to the past, Israel is willing to enter into dialogue with Cyprus for the delimitation of the boundaries of the Exclusive Economic Zone between the two countries. Moreover, after the deterioration of its relations with Turkey, Israel believes that Cyprus together with Greece, Bulgaria and Romania could become the bridge towards Brussels, which fits Cyprus’ ambition to become the bridge between the E.U. and the Middle East. Mention should be made that in the E.U., Israel has a strong ally, France. President Sarkozy speaking in the Knesset, in June 2008 confirmed that Israel can count on Europe for help in finding a final solution to the problem of the Middle East and that France is also committed to this goal. However, Israel is not focusing its interest only on E.U. Versus the Davutoglu doctrine, Lieberman has his own doctrine, according to which Israel should become a dominating power in the Mediterranean, member of the E.U. and NATO with influence in Africa and special relation with all those Balkan countries despising the neo-ottoman model of Turkey.
Concluding, we observe that the need to deal with the new situation created by the neo-ottoman ambitions of Turkey in the region of the Middle East, which consequently led to the deterioration of the relations between Turkey and Israel, prompted the Israeli diplomacy to seek new balances so as to secure stability in the region. In order to achieve it, Israel decided to strengthen its relations with Cyprus and Greece, taking also into account the curtailed powers of the Turkish army, champion of the alliance with Israel, after the victory of Erdogan at the 12 September 2010 referendum. If, therefore, the strengthening of these relations could be considered as creating a new triangle Athens-Nicosia-Tel Aviv, it is a matter of interpretation of the data analysed above.