The question arises because of the deterioration of the relations between Turkey and Israel and the push given by Israel to the strengthening of its relations with Greece and Cyprus, as it is witnessed by the recent visits of P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu to Athens (August 2010) and his Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to Nicosia (September 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.
written by Dr. William Mallinson, November 06, 2010
Good analysis, Andrestino Papadopoulos. However....,whenever Turkey is friendly towards Israel, Greece turns up its nose. Whenever Turkey is unfriendly towards Israel, Greece dances with the latter, thinking that it can gain something. In fact, IMF-controlled Greece is simply doing the US's bidding, to put pressure on Turkey to keep the Israel-Jordan-Egypt-Turkey military axis in place. Note, readers, that the deep Turkish state, the Bozkurt et al., is still very much with Israel's military, whatever the temporary contractual PR-pride problems. Greece is playing a dangerous game, rather naively, as is Cyprus. Behind this whole round of pseudo-diplomatic empty back-slapping gestures lies the US's and its British foreign policy poodle's fears that Russia is slowly but ineluctably increasing its influence in the Eastern Mediterranean. Cyprus, by indulging in too much dancing, and slavishly following Greek (US) policy,is in danger of losing Russian support.
Anyhow I like the retired ambassador's analysis, as it leaves space for speculation, and is not overly rigid. Enjoy, therefore, this piece I wrote some time ago, and ask yourself if things can really move so fast... .
TURKEY AND ISRAEL: MORE THAN A MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE
The more scorned a country feels, the greater the tendency for it to seek out other scorned countries to see if it can find “common denominators”. Thus Germany, humiliated after the First World War, co-operated with the Soviet Union, first with secret military agreements, and then more openly after the Treaty of Rapallo in 1922; both countries also disliked the same country, Poland. Both were considered international pariahs at the time, whether rightly or wrongly.
Israel co-operated closely with South Africa when the latter, under its apartheid regime, was internationally blackballed, with most of the balls being black. The co-operation was largely military, overt and covert. Links between the countries’ external security services, Boss and Mossad, were close. Both countries ignored numerous UN resolutions.
The most recent example of the scorned seeking the scorned is, or course, that of Israel and Turkey, who revived a military co-operation agreement in 1996, that goes back to the late fifties. Again, both states are hardly a paragon of international virtue, supported only consistently by the USA and its strategic acolyte, Britain, although most countries are friendly towards them, for the sake of decorum, courtesy and peace. Both countries ignore numerous UN resolutions; both fear Russia; their respective security services exchange information on Syria and both have a common enemy, also Syria. Both countries occupy parts of other countries, illegally. An interesting quirk is that Syria has territorial claims on its former coloniser, Turkey: with the connivance of France, Hatay (Alexandretta) was stealthily “acquired” by Turkey in 1939, despite the fact that Syrians were in a majority.
The question is whether this is just another ephemeral unholy alliance, an alliance of pure self-interest, that works in spite of deep-seated historico-cultural differences, or something more significant. The evidence suggests that it is more than a simple marriage of convenience. Anyone who knows about the plethora of secret meetings between the two states, that has gone on for years, of the deep-seated mutual disdain between much of the Arab world and its former coloniser, Turkey, will realise that the military co-operation agreement is but the tip of an iceberg, an iceberg being pushed by hoards of American frogmen, with the avowed objective of achieving firm control over the Middle East, in the interests, naturally, of peace and security. In this way, Russian influence in the Mediterranean and the Middle East can be controlled, and Israel can be subtly inserted into the NATO fold, with Jordan perhaps being brought into the equation for good measure, to divide the “evil Arab world”, and control terrorism, just so that the Turks can continue to slaughter those awful Kurds and Israel conveniently forget some of the Oslo accords.
The US Embassy in Athens has justified Israeli Turkish co-operation with the following words: “US military co-operation with Turkey and Israel is a matter of long-standing policy and practice. As a NATO ally and friend with Turkey and as a special ally with Israel, both democracies and key regional players, the United States shares core values and mutual security and political objectives in the Eastern Mediterranean. Israel and Turkey have likewise found that they share common objectives, in part from confronting the same set of neighbours which have pursued weapons of mass destruction programmes, have been sponsors and supporters of terrorism, and which have been inimical to democracy, the rule of law and regional stability.”
These neighbours are not actually named, but are obviously Iran, Iraq and Syria, not to mention some others! There is no mention of Israeli terrorism at home and abroad (vis. Vanunu) or of the treatment of innocent and unarmed Kurdish villagers, no mention of Israel’s nuclear arsenal and chemical and biological weapons programmes, nor of its disregard for international law. How different are they from Iran, Iraq or Syria? Above all, what exactly are the core values and political objectives shared by the USA, Turkey and Israel?
Lest the reader thinks that this is an angry, unbalanced article, then consider that the essentially pro-American “Economist” has written that Syria’s concerns about Turkish-Israeli military co-operation are “fairly well grounded.” The article undoubtedly embarrassed the Pentagon and angered the Turkish and Israeli governments. It represents one of those occasional but authoritative “Economist” warnings that things have gone too far. The last time the “Economist” said anything so risqué was just after the abortive American attempt to rescue the American hostages at the US Embassy in Tehran, by printing a front-page cartoon of President Carter dressed as a cowboy, with his six-guns at the ready. Cruel stuff, and exaggerated criticism, maybe unjustified, even, yet nevertheless telling.
Turkey has in the past threatened to attack Syria. Syria may well be offering support to the Kurds in Turkey, but then other countries also support the Kurds, depending, of course, where they are. So far, the published Israeli-Turkish military co-operation involves a 1998 $ 700 million contract for Israel to upgrade 54 Turkish F4’s, a $70 million one to upgrade 48 F5’s, and joint manufacture of 1000 tanks and “some helicopters.” Israel also hopes to sell Turkey an early warning system; and also uses Turkish territory for low-flying exercises.
This may well be but the thin end of the wedge. The Arab League condemned the pact as “exposing Arab national interests to real danger and bringing the region back to the policies of axes and alliances.” Greek objections are too well known to enunciate here.
At the moment, it is unlikely that Turkey will attack Syria; nor will the USA allow it, since it is trying to solve the Israel-Palestine problem, albeit somewhat less adroitly than the Norwegians managed, with their landmark Oslo agreement. The Turkish threats are merely a testing of the waters and a flexing of the muscles; yet it is unlikely they would have been made so blatantly without the unholy alliance and American suggestiveness. The objective is to simply warn Syria, Libya, Iran and, more indirectly, Russia, that Israel is no longer alone in the region.
For Greece, the unholy alliance could become more than an irritant, because of Cyprus. However far- fetched it may sound, Turkey could easily encourage the Israeli air force and navy to train in occupied Cyprus, with the Pentagon publicly tut-tutting, but privately sniggering. It could even offer a home in northern Cyprus to would-be Jewish immigrants, as it did in the sixteenth century, to “counterbalance” the Greek-speaking Christian population. There is even a small minority of extreme Zionists in Israel that claims Cypriot territory as part of the Jewish heritage. Thus, an already overcrowded Israel could find more Lebensraum. When one looks at the extremist elements in Turkey and Israel, such plans are not beyond the bounds of possibility.
One can only hope that the mature elements of the Pentagon bury their differences with the generally less idealistic career diplomats of the State Department and turn increasingly to international law to solve disputes, rather than to dangerous policies of regional axes and international armchair tele-chess. Will the Obama factor prove to be no more than a childish dream?
Dr. William D. E. Mallinson
Athens, 14 November 2008
written by Andreas Evriviades Louca, May 19, 2011
It was inevitable that Turkey’s decision to upgrade its political status amongst the countries of the Middle East would cause repercussions from its allies in the western world, as well as in the Eurasian region. While the U.S.A simply expressed some mild annoyance among diplomatic circles in regard with Turkey’s new direction Israel’s moved in a more dynamic way.
Netanyahu’s first official visit to Greece and the various meetings with the Cypriot government angered Turkey’s political elite, its disputes and problematic relationship with these two countries have been going on for decades. Tel Aviv’s strengthening of its relations with Greece and Cyprus can be interpreted in different ways. It can either be seen as a response towards Turkey, a message that shifting its allegiance towards anti-Israeli countries such as Syria and Iran will not be tolerated. On the contrary it will be met with an identical shift of its own towards countries that Turkey is facing problems with. A different interpretation of these events, and one that both the governments of Greece and Cyprus must take under consideration, is that Israel is simply seeking a way to discipline Turkey temporarily before reenergizing their relationship as allies, sending Greece and Cyprus back to their original position as friendly states instead of strong allies and partners.
Indeed an alliance with a powerful country such as Turkey would endear many countries in Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East, also there is no doubt that Israel can benefit significantly from agreements and joint military operations with Turkey. However if there is one thing that Israel must take under consideration is that Turkey’s neo-Ottoman plans and ambitions extend beyond the measly status of a regional power in the edge of Europe. In order for Turkey to strengthen its relations with the Arabic states and eventually assume leadership over them, it must abandon its strong relations with Israel. Additionally attempts will be made to undermine Israel’s influence and power in the area of the eastern Mediterranean. A turn towards Greece and Cyprus might benefit Israel long-term in regard of security matters as well as short-term in regard with economical growth. The newly discovered deposits of natural gas in the area of Cyprus could very well bring these countries together and change the map of interests in the area