An outline of Greek and Israeli strategic relations.

Two nations that have been constantly active in world’s history since antiquity are the Greek and Jewish one. Since the era of Mosses and Ulysses those two nations have inexorably been associated with all the historical developments in the Mediterranean region and with active to every worldwide event worth mentioning.  It would be interesting to illustrate that these two great nations have quite a few common elements as regarding tot heir history of national fulfillment and their aspirations in various historical periods.
 The Jewish Zionist movement that was foundered in the late 19th century by Theodor Herzl had a significant historical analogy with the then “Grand Idea” of the Greek independent state. The Greek as well as the Jewish Diaspora was split in those that promoted the inclusion of all members of each nationality into a single nation state; and to those that had great economic and social interests and firmly believed that such a move would impair their live hood. The strong Jewish community in the Ottoman Empire feared that a new born Jewish state would destroy –As it happened- centuries of constructing extensive commercial networks in an area from Danube to Egypt.

 Greek and Jewish nationalism though had made considerable gains by aligning themselves. The period between 1878- 1881 during the Berlin Congresses the British Prime Minister Disraeli –And a fervent supporter of a Jewish homeland- agreed to a partial disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, where Greece acquired the Thessaly area and expanded considerably its borders further North. This period was a turning point to the British policy of stabilizing the Ottomans and signaled the future end of the Sultans rule in the Balkans. To this point it is remarkable to add that the most supportive of the Ottoman Empire where Greek and Jewish Ottoman subjects that clearly were anxious of loosing their tremendous economic power and privileges should the Empire collapsed as it finally happened (1).

 Furthermore the Zionist movement in the aftermath of the WW1 would have to face stringent resentment from the Ottoman Jews that opposed an idea of an independent Jewish state. During the negotiations for the breakup of the Ottoman Empire in paris-1919-, The Chief Rabbi of Constantinople, Chaim Naoum who was the representative of the Jewish “Miliet” was pressuring actively against for the expansion of the Greek nation state in Minor Asia and also was against the recognition of any independent Jewish area within the area of the then great Ottoman Empire(2) . On the other hand another public figure of the Jewish Diaspora, Henry Morgenthau, who was then Secretary of State of USA, was all for the creation of a Jewish state(3) . Parallely the same official was one of the most critical against the Turkish atrocities in Minor Asia during the expulsion of the Greek populous in 1922 and chaired the committee of rehabilitation of Greek refugees. For his overall contribution to Greek causes Morgenthau was awarded as Emeritus Professor of the University of Athens and was honored by numerous Greek officials.

 After the recognition of the state of Israel -1948- and until 1991, Greece viewed Israel as an antagonist force in the Eastern Mediterranean basin and followed a more pro Arab stance, that reflected amongst others the anxiety of the dependency Greece had on import of crude oil from Arab countries which had in plenty of instances proceed in an embargo against the West. Moreover Greece had been in the 19th century the Western bulwark against the Ottoman Empire and saw the newly founded Israel replacing this role as regarding to the Middle Eastern affairs. In a nutshell Israel during the Cold War was deemed more important for the Western interests and that wasn’t easily understood by the Greek policy figures.

 The end of the East- West antagonism after 1989, completely changed the geopolitical outlook of the Eastern Mediterranean region and actually- Despite the contrarily beliefs- brought the two countries closer. Both states are the only truly democracies in the region, have a high GNP, a well educated workforce and face increasing pressure from trends ranging from immigration to rising criminality and changing societal norms(4) . There is one though difference that sets those nation in different perspective. The end of the Cold War gave the opportunity to the Greeks of expanding their influence to the Balkan hinterland and the Black Sea thus upgrading the geopolitical importance of the country as regarding to the political calculations of the Western centers. On the hand Israel is not longer seen as the sole defender of Western interest in the Middle East, since the USA has already established its forces firmly in Iraq and more importantly the main preoccupation of Western politics is to be found into acquiring influence in the energy rich states of central Asia. The main result of the developments over the past 15 years, is the anxiety of the Israeli state for its overall security in a long term and the stabilization of a new Middle Eastern order that would be beneficial for the estimations of the Israeli state.

 The aforementioned explain in a great effect the Israeli- Turkish strategic cooperation that started unfolding since 1994(5) . Israel reasserted itself-Albeit for a short period- by cooperating in a variety of sectors with the Turkish state, a development that clearly was not well received by the Greek administration. Nevertheless the dramatic events of 9/11 in combination with the upsurge of Islam in Turkey over the past few years have greatly reduced the need of a strong Israeli- Turkish axis. Moreover the Kurdish independent movement that affects the Turkish stability is well received by the USA administration and most probably the Israeli one, since it relates in solving one of the most complex issues of the New Iraq after 2003. And that is how to create a federal and peaceful Iraq by taking into consideration the local needs and beliefs; one of them to be the independent Kurdish state. In this spirit the statements made by the Israeli ambassador in Greece were he stressed the need for warm relations with Athens and the already strong ties between the two countries(6) , show that the Israeli administration is heading towards a realignment of its policy that most probably relate into keeping equal distance from the Turkish- Greek antagonism and cultivating parallel cooperatives with both.

 On overall Greek- Israeli strategic considerations for each other will always be influenced by a variety of factors that deal with structural changes in their region’s geopolitical situation. For the time being the warm relations those states are enjoying is mostly attributed to the non antagonistic interests and the similarity of their societal structure. Future will tell if the two oldest surviving nations of the Mediterranean would eventually found themselves readily enough for a closer, strategically aimed cooperation in relation to the problems arising from 21st history.
 
1)Β. Καρδάσης, ΄΄Από του ιστίου εις τον ατμό΄΄, Αθήνα, Ε.Τ.Β.Α, 1993, Σελ 47.

2)L. Evans, “United States policy and Partition of Turkey”, Baltimore, John Hopkins Institute, 1965, Page 128.

3)P. Grose, “Israel in the mind of America”, New York, Schocken Books, 1984, Page 60.

4)T. Morrison, “Dun& Bradstreet’s guide to doing business around the world”, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 1997, Page 214-15.

5)Γεώργιος Μούρτος ΄΄Τουρκία- Ισραήλ και η έκλειψη της Ελλάδος από τον φυσικό της χώρο΄΄, Αθήνα, Επικοινωνίες Εκδόσεις, 1999, Σελ. 45-6.

6)Interview of His Excellency Ram Aviram for the Institute of Defense Analysis(www.iaa.gr), May 2006. Published in Strategy magazine(www.defencenet.gr)

Ioannis Michaletos, All Rights Reserved

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