A Greek-Israeli alliance? Maybe not.
In addition to the upwards of 10 deaths as a result of Monday’s botched raid on a Turkish ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza in defiance of an Israeli blockade, Jerusalem appears to have suffered another casualty: its nascent security alliance with Greece, Turkey’s historical rival. Over the last few years, as Ankara has increasingly ...
In addition to the upwards of 10 deaths as a result of Monday’s botched raid on a Turkish ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza in defiance of an Israeli blockade, Jerusalem appears to have suffered another casualty: its nascent security alliance with Greece, Turkey’s historical rival.
Over the last few years, as Ankara has increasingly distanced itself from Jerusalem and sought to improve relations with its Arab neighbors as well as Iran, Israel has responded with half-hearted attempts to win back its longtime ally. The assessment in Israeli military and intelligence circles seemed to be that there was little Israel could do as Turkey’s Islamist government reoriented the country’s foreign policy away from the West, but that Turkey’s interests would keep it from straying too far.
Then, last year, in a little-noticed development, Israel conducted its first war games with Greece. Until Monday’s events, the two countries were in the midst of joint Air Force exercises that were scheduled to go through June 3. The Greek Foreign Ministry announced the postponement those exercises today, issuing a harsh statement condemning Israel’s actions on the Miva Marmara.
As this analysis by a Greek security institute suggests, each side has a lot to offer the other. Geographically speaking, Greece is a "natural bridge" to Europe. And as a member of NATO, Greece could be a valuable market for Israeli defense contractors. Greece spends about 2.8 percent of its GDP on its military, well above the EU average (the U.S. spends about 4 percent). And, though the authors don’t say so explicitly, Greece could benefit from Israel’s help in resolving the Cyprus conflict to Athens’s satisfaction — or at least preventing Turkey from ever joining the European Union unless it makes concessions over the disputed island.
Last December, according to some reports, a top Greek admiral visited Israel and quietly toured Israeli naval facilities. Was he there to explore how the two countries might stengthen their ties, presumably at Turkey’s expense? If so, whatever enhanced cooperation is being contemplated seems at risk now.
As for the Turks, they’re reaping an enormous public relations bonanza in the Arab world from this incident. Turn on Al Jazeera right now, and you’ll see images of angry demonstrators from Tunisia to Yemen holding up images of Tayyip Erdogan. Palestians are waving Turkish flags on the streets of Gaza. A year ago, what percentage of Arabs would have even been able to pick Turkey’s prime minister out of a lineup? Now, he’s seen as a regional hero for standing up to Israel.