Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Energy, common threat connect Israel, Cyprus, Greece

There’s been a lot of traffic between Israel, Cyprus and Greece these last few days, with the Cypriot defence minister in Israel, the Israeli defence minister in Greece, Greece’s energy minister in Cyprus and Cyprus’ likely next president Nikos Anastasiades in Israel, meeting that country’s president, prime minister and so on.

All this toing and froing has been prompted by the vast natural gas finds recently discovered in the Israeli and Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zones, and the need this has created for greater economic and defence collusion between the two Greek states and Israel, especially given Turkey’s traditional aggression towards Greece and Cyprus has now been extended to Israel.

Indeed, one senses that it is Israel that has decided that its dramatic fallout with former ally Turkey amounts to a long-term breach and that Greece and Cyprus have been surprised by Israel’s overtures and are not sure of the implications of this burgeoning relationship.

Anyway, below is an article from UPI that provides some more detail on the deepening economic and strategic relationship between Greece, Cyprus and Israel.

Israel tightens Med defense links over gas
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has pledged to upgrade his country’s defense links with Greece and is reported to have signed a defense cooperation pact with Greek Cypriots to counter Turkish threats against joint exploration of gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean.

Israel’s emerging military ties with Athens and the Greek Cypriot government in Nicosia stem in part from the rupture of its strategic alliance with Turkey, Greece's historical foe, that climaxed in May 2010.

But the shifting relationships also reflect the common interest shared by Israel, Cyprus and Greece in exploring and exploiting the vast natural gas reserves that lie deep under the Mediterranean seabed that will transform their economies for decades to come…

Read full article here.


Hermes said...

John, what do you tink of this?

John Akritas said...

If I understood the article correctly, H, it says the Israeli government is encouraging Israelis to buy up Greek land in occupied Karpasia to increase the Jewish presence or Israeli influence on the island. Sounds far fetched to me. We do know, however, that until the breach with Turkey, Israeli businesses were heavily involved in exploiting Greek land in the occupied areas, building hotel complexes, marinas and so on, but I don't know if Israelis are still co-operating with the occupation authorities.

The story seems to come from Turkish Cypriot sources – from one Turkish Cypriot newspaper – and its purpose appears to be to stir up some anti-Israeli feeling among Turkish Cypriots, claiming their 'territory' is under threat from Israel – some TCs obviously want to join in the general Turkish paranoia about Israel. The paranoia extends to linking the crank Hasidic rabbi Haym Azimov, who claims to cater for 100 Jews who live in the occupied areas, with this purported Israeli take over of northern Cyprus.

I should add that the Turks are quite adept at putting out stories about Israelis or Russians 'buying' property in the occupied areas in order make Greek Cypriots doubt the strategic choices they are making, or to provide some kind of succour to Turks that the Greek Cypriots haven't got one over them.

Not that we should trust the Israelis, of course; but you can say that about any strategic relationship you enter into.

Hermes said...

Here is another interesting report. Again, I think this is far fetched too but we should be aware of the dangers:

John Akritas said...

Even if it's true, H, that Israel is looking to obtain a foothold in Thraki to keep an eye on the Turks – and I agree with you that it's far fetched and we are attributing superhuman, superpower attributes to the Israelis – then it would all depend on Greeks being doormats, allowing their country to be used in such a way, and I don't think we've sunk that low yet.

Anonymous said...

The disintegration of relations between Turkey and Israel is a rare bit of good news for Hellenes in the past few years. All Hellenes should be rejoicing that we at last have a near neighbour that will be a steadfast ally in resisting Turkish expansionism.
It is not just about the gas for the Israelis. They have made the informed decision that Turkey's islamists will be in control of Turkey for the forseeable future and its neo-ottoman revanchist ambitions threaten its security.

Hellenes have absolutely nothing to fear from an alliance with Israel. In fact all hellenes should be getting behind this alliance because it represents by far the best safeguard against Turkish agression available to Greece and Cyprus.
Perhaps the alliance will also be instructive in teaching our people how a small nation populated by intelligent and patriotic people can defend its sovereignity and prosper whilst encircled by nations intent on its destruction.
When was the last time the arabs violated Isreali air space? Do you think the Turks will be starting bush fires in Israel in retaliation for the marmara incident and do you think if they did Israel would be returning the captured culprits and trying to hush things up?

John Akritas said...

I don't know if an 'alliance' with Israel is a safeguard for Greeks. Only Greeks can safeguard Greece and Cyprus, just as Israelis can only safeguard Israel. But I agree that it is interesting to compare how a small country like Israel protects its interests and how another small country Greece protects its interests and confronts its enemies. Israel is a highly militarised society – some Israelis see their country as a kind of Sparta; do Greeks want to go down this route?

Anonymous said...

Alliances matter and if effective can safeguard a nation's security. This observation is surely uncontroversial as you would know in England.That is not to deny the trite observation that a nation must ultimately rely on it's own people and resources to defend itself.

It merely means it may be possible for a small country like Cyprus to exploit it's own resources because a large aggressive neighbor like Turkey may think twice about militarily preventing Cyprus from exploiting it's resources if it has to contend with not only Cyprus but Greece and

The caparison between Israel and ancient sparta is a little forced. Israel is just as democratic or undemocratic as Greece, however it has the great advantage over Greece of having retained its sovereignity. It is ruled by it's own elected government and not by an imposed representative of European finance capital.

Also let's not forget that Israelis do not choose to live in a constant state of war readiness. They do so because they are a small nation whose people know that sacrifice and eternal vigilance is the price for their freedom and without it they would be destroyed.

It is a lesson we Greeks could do well to learn from the Israelis. Small nations have no divine right to exist. We more than most peoples surely know this. Instead of hiding under the Europe's skirt whilst the Turks occupy Cyprus
and humiliate us daily, it is time we asked ourselves if we
value our freedom enough to take responsibility for it.

Surely freedom is just as precious to us as it is to the Israelis...surely?

John Akritas said...

I don't disagree with anything you say; but I simply pose the question – without answering it myself – as to whether we want Greece to go down the route of a highly militarised society, where the military way of life is embedded in the national fabric? No doubt Israel has gone down this route because of the genocide and its Muslim neighbours' determination to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. Is the Greek experience similar? Probably.

But, anyway, the reason I'm posting so much on this evolving relationship between Greece, Cyprus and Israel isn't because I'm excited by the prospect of an Israeli alliance – I'm skeptical and cautious – but because I think, like you, it's inevitable – the Turkey-Israel rupture is long-term – and we now have to see what advantages there are in it for Greece and Cyprus, rather than just being dragged along, as appears to be happening at the moment.

Anonymous said...

It must not be forgotten that until recently Greece was in fact a militarized society and in some ways continues to remain so. I agree however that if Greece is to pose an effective deterrence to Turkish revanchism it will need to psychologically and materially prepare it's people for war.

It is not something that is palatable for most Greeks who would of course prefer to live without the presence of the threat of war but what is the alternative?

Unfortunately a nation cannot choose it's neighbours. I am sure all Greeks would have preferred to have Switzerland as it's eastern neighbour rather than Turkey and in that way they would not have ever had to worry about things military but regretably no amount of wishing is going to make Turkey go away.

Greece cannot any longer harbor the illusion that it's problem with Turkey is going to be sorted out by Europe, the U.S. or the United Nations and it can otherwise ignore the problem.

What I have noticed over the last 10 years or so in my
travels to Greece is an increasing disassociation from the Turkish threat-as though membership of the E U has made Turkey a European and not a specifically Greek problem. I think this tendency is extremely worrying and needs to be challenged.

By the way I congratulate you on this excellent site. I will be letting my friends know about it.

John Akritas said...

Yes, you are correct. Greece's policy towards Turkey for the last 20 years has been based on drawing Turkey towards the EU and hoping in this way to solve Greek-Turkish issues. Essentially, the EU was supposed to civilise Turkey; except Turkey is not yet ready to be civilised and, indeed, sees itself as bringing civilisation to Europe. Greece needs to re-evaluate its επίθεσης φιλίας/friendship assault on Turkey, which has patently failed.

(And thanks for the good words about the site).