By Micah Halpern*
The author in the following analysis is unfolding the new realities of a changing international diplomatic environment, especially in the currently extremely volatile region of S.E. Mediterranean, considering the deepening bonds between Greece and Israel as one of the best examples.
Greece and Israel are advancing a series of mutual defense agreements.
Those agreements include weapons, training and services. The agreement was approved by the Greek Parliament’s Standing Committee on National Defense and Foreign Affairs on Weds. July 2, 2020.
National Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos explained it this way: “the strategic relationship between Greece and Israel is a major priority for our country, mainly due to the common challenges but also the common interests that unite the two countries . . . We believe that cooperation with Israel strengthens a pillar of stability in the eastern Mediterranean.”
As the agreement was reached, Greek’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had a telephone conversation with U.S. Sen. Robert “Bob” Menendez, D-N.J.
Sen. Menendez is a leading member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. More than that, the New Jersey senator is a strong critic of Turkey.
He has been critical of Turkey for wandering out of the sphere of U.S. influence and into the waiting and eager arms of Russia and Iran.
Greece and Turkey have a long and ugly history of tension.
For many years Israel chose to advance their Turkish contacts and simply placate the Greeks. And whenever Israel’s relationship with Greece seemed to be warming, Turkey would grumble and express their displeasure.
Over the past five years, however, that balance has shifted almost totally.
Relations between Israel and Turkey have cooled and Greek/Israeli relations have blossomed. Israel is not alone. The same relationship, and shift in relationship, is mirrored in present day relations between the United States and Greece and the United States and Turkey.
Historically, numbers have played a role.
Greece only has a population of 10 million while Turkey’s population is 84 million.
Also, Israel and the U.S. saw Turkey as a foothold into the Muslim world.
They were hoping that Turkey would be the perfect springboard into economic opportunities and normalization.
There is good reason for the shifting relationships and agreements.
Economics plays only a small role.
More important is that, over these past few years, Turkey has turned into an irresponsible party in the region. The country has consistently lashed out at the West, especially at the United States and at Israel. Turkey has been siding with arch enemies of the West especially Russia and Iran.
Greeks and Turks have been involved in four major wars during the modern period. The modern period, of course, dates back hundreds of years and these modern tensions date back to when the Greeks achieved independence from the Ottoman Empire.
That was in 1830.
The island country of Cyprus has become a classic example of the fallout from tensions between Greece and Turkey. Beginning in the 1950’s, continuing to today, both Greece and Turkey claim Cyprus as their own. As a result, Cyprus is divided.
There is a split in the island. The city of Nicosia is divided, complete with a concrete wall and armed soldiers, part Greek, part Turkish. Nicosia today resembles Berlin of old.
For Israel, tensions between Turkey and Greece are an opportunity and Greece is very happy to partner with the Jewish State – especially because it comes at the expense of Turkey.
Israel had wanted to repair their relationship with Turkey. But Turkish leadership, especially Turkish President Erdogan, has been recalcitrant. Erdogan has been leading his country down a path that embraces ever more Islamic ideals and spews anti-Western rhetoric. Given Erdogan’s character, there is little chance for change.
And so, now the United States and Israel are searching for ways to punish Turkey because of their arrogance and their anti-Western behavior. The nature of foreign relations is that those who subscribe to shared principles are rewarded.
Those who do not are punished. It’s the carrot and stick phenomenon.
Greece is on a roll. This agreement between Israel and Greece is a sign of the future.
Greece will be rewarded with further expansions and economic adventure.
And Turkey will be pushed further and further to the sidelines.
*Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded “The Micah Report” and hosts “Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern” a weekly TV program and “My Chopp” a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern’s Reports — More Here.