The year to rev up engines in Greek-Israeli relations

By Charles J. Mouratides

Exec. Director, CHI

As turmoil lashes Eastern Mediterranean basin’s eight countries, and we cross into an uncertain 2014, the necessity increases for a deeper alliance between Hellas and Israel.

An area-wide bird’s eye view of military, political and social conditions substantiate this assertion:  Hellas’s mammoth eastern neighbor, Turkey, is feeling tremors in transitioning from a secular, Western, Kemalist orientation, to Erdogan’s Islamist values and social practices. Internationally, Turkey has abandoned what was once considered a “perfect” alliance with Israel, and is turning towards the Muslim countries of the region, with the ambition to lead them.

Turkey’s reorientation is important to Greece. Will Erdogan seek an external scapegoat in order to diffuse domestic upheaval and, therefore, become more intransigent on issues involving Greece and Cyprus?

Syria’s unending civil war has spilled into Lebanon and has embroiled Russia, the U.S. and EU countries. Egypt is still searching for an elusive democratic scheme, and Libya is run by tribal clans. Cyprus and Hellas are suffocating in EU’s economic straightjacket. Israel lives under the constant shadow of Jihadists in Gaza and Judea/Samaria, and a near-nuclear enemy, Iran, sworn to destroy it.

Finally, the Eastern Mediterranean is feeling pressures for the establishment of a new country. Kurdistan, about 30 million, is certain to emerge in the adjoining lands of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and, probably, Iran.

In this chaotic environment, Hellas has fundamental reasons to deepen its ties with Israel, Middle East’s super-power, a country that harbors no conflicts with Hellas.

The apparent benefits in the military and energy sectors, including numerous (more than 15) top level ministerial-diplomatic mission exchanges between Greece and Israel have yet to fulfill their promise in practical terms.

Surely, a great deal has happened in the past five years. But today, when Hellas undertakes the presidency of the European Union, it is offered an excellent opportunity to energize its ties with Israel, to their mutual benefit and to its own moral uplifting.

At this time of organized campaigns by Arab entities to isolate and de-legitimatize Israel and its institutions internationally, Greece can lead the charge in Europe to help maintain the international profile of a country that is a leader in all important fields of human endeavor.

It is a cruel joke on the rest of the world that Israeli universities and scientists are suffering systematic attacks on their legitimacy. These are spurious, self-serving attacks from international proxies of autocratic societies with dismal educational and human rights records — especially on women — that wallow in the mire of pre-medieval attitudes.

A related area where Greece can lead Europe in social uplifting is the re-emerging scourge of anti-Semitism as exhibited by Greece’s Golden Dawn political party. When did it become a feature of democracy to embrace in its Parliament hate mongers who aim to destroy democracy and tolerance?

A third area, vital to its economy, is for Greece to begin implementing project proposals where Israel is a world leader: Agro-technology, energy, desalinization, nanotechnology, technology transfer from research-to-commercial use, and others.

Greece, through its universities, has the basics to help create start-up companies — the modern mechanism to revive an economy and place it on a development pattern. It is missing, however, the culture; a tradition of organization and entrepreneurial risk that thrives in Israel. With 7.5 million people, Israel incubates successfully more start-ups than the largest European countries. This culture is not a patch to paste on a country. It is an infusion that comes through a process, a sincere embracing of each other. It is something to keep in mind when Greece is considering companies for its privatization program and in development of energy resources where Israel is the successful, secure pioneer in the Eastern Mediterranean basin.