Op/Ed: Alexis Tsipras to visit Israel – a trip that was a year late

Op/Ed: Alexis Tsipras to visit Israel – a trip that was a year late

Athens, November 2, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Spiros Sideris

According to reliable information of IBNA, Alexis Tsipras will visit Jerusalem on November 25 and Ramallah on the 26. The visit of a Greek prime minister, will take place after almost a year, since the initial thoughts and contacts was for the visit to be made in January 2015, but due to the elections in Greece and Israel the visit had been postponed indefinitely.

The seven-month period of the first government of SYRIZA, with negotiations being dominant in the Greek policy, did not provide an opportunity to bring the two countries closer. On the negative side of an approach of the two countries, was the objections of many members of SYRIZA, as to whether a left government should be conversing with a State that does not respect human rights and the right of the Palestinians to have their own State.

These objections certainly did not discourage the Greek diplomacy and the Greek Foreign Minister Nickos Kotzias from visiting Israel and to move contacts between the two countries, which had started already from spring with his visit to the US and his substantive contacts with the US Jewish organisations. These contacts “broke the ice” and any mistrust from either side was cast aside. In this way Kotzias paved the way without tipping the intraparty balances between Syriza the Left Platform.

The truth is that on August 4-6 there was a scheduled trip of Alexis Tsipras to Israel, but it was postponed because of the upcoming elections in Greece on September 20 and the reactions that would have come from the Left Platform. After however, the “cleansing” within SYRIZA and the new coalition government without the “weights” of the left platform, the prospects for a cooperation with Israel opened again.

What does the triangle Greece, Cyprus Israel mean?

The discovery of hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean southeastern basin, an area where there is political instability and numerous confrontations between the States, can ignite new conflicts but can also act as a trigger for further cooperation for the common economic interest from exploitation of deposits.

Israel, isolated as it is, would not be able to benefit from the natural wealth hidden in its subsoil, neither by mining nor by distributing the gas. The only way to succeed was to create distribution outlet with one or two countries and Cyprus was such a diode. Besides, the proximity of the marine plots on which large quantities of gas have been discovered, helped in the formation of this policy of co-exploration and cooperation.

Cyprus on the other hand, having problems with Turkey and North Cyprus, would be difficult to manage the exploitation of its deposits in an insecure environment, with the fear of engagement with Turkey affecting both the companies which would like to participate in mining as well as the distribution of the gas. As such, cooperation between the two countries was inevitable.

Israel found a partner that will be able to sell its gas to countries that it alone could not and Cyprus would have the security protection of Israel against Turkey.

As far as Greece is involved, its participation in this partnership-alliance is important for all parties involved. Greece is becoming a hub for gas to Europe and hopes for the recognition of its EEZ, which would release it from any engagement with Turkey. Israel and Cyprus have a reliable partner that can take their product to larger markets, while at the same time, they strengthen their position towards Turkey, which wants to play its own role as the energy field grows.

To this cooperation came the addition of Egypt which attempts to attain a level of political stability and move closer to the EU. The danger has not passed for the Sisi government from the Muslim Brotherhood and extremists of ISIS. The connection of Egypt through Greece and Cyprus with the EU creates a security regime in Egypt and opened the way, following the discovery of new gas fields in the African country’s EEZ, to be a supplier to Europe, which is looking anxiously to “breaking free” of the Russian gas.

Everything seems to be in the right direction and Tsipras’ visit to Israel will feed expectations for the creation of an energy – and not only – alliance that will serve economic and geopolitical everyone involved, aiming perhaps on Turkey’s participation in the future, thus help defuse tension in the already problematic area of ​​Southeastern Mediterranean.

It is no coincidence that both Netanyahu and the Sisi, earnestly desire the rapid completion of these partnerships, leaving on the sidelines any differences separating Egypt and Israel.

Alexis Tsipras has the ability to act as a catalyst in these processes, if of course he manages to break free of leftist obsessions and decides to walk on the path of realistic diplomacy expertly paved by the left Nikos Kotzias.