OP/ED: Pivotal moment in Thessaloniki for Greece, Cyprus, Israel cooperation

OP/ED: Pivotal moment in Thessaloniki for Greece, Cyprus, Israel cooperation

By Stephanos A. Mytilineos journalist

The tripartite Greece-Cyprus-Israel Summit on 15 June in Thessaloniki is considered to be the pivotal moment in the strong cooperation between the three states, in view of the start of drilling in the Cypriot EEZ in the first two weeks of July; but also as a special moment in history for Israel as it is the first time an Israeli Prime Minister will visit the capital city of Macedonia.

The Greek side, according to government sources, will place particular emphasis on economic cooperation between Greece and Israel.

Our country shows great interest in Israel’s know-how in terms of start-ups, entrepreneurship and innovation in general.

The sectors to be discussed at the tripartite meeting include: the Economy, Energy, Telecommunications, Environment, Science and Technology and the Diaspora.

The ministers holding all the above portfolios will participate in the Tripartite meeting: Giorgos Stathakis (Environment & Energy), Dimitris Papadimitriou (Economy & Development), Socrates Famelos (Environment & Energy), Nikos Pappas (Digital Policy, Telecoms & Media), Costas Fotakis (Education), Terrence Quick (Foreign Affairs) and the General Secretary for International Economic Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Giorgos Tsipras.

Greek Ministers will meet with their counterparts in Cyprus and Israel to discuss policy issues of their competence.

The Thessaloniki Tripartite meeting will also discuss coordination on dealing with disasters and emergencies, as well as deepening cooperation in the fight against terrorism and security.

On the sidelines of Tripartite meeting there will also be a bilateral meeting of Alexis Tsipras with Benjamin Netanyahu.

The proposal for the Tripartite Summit in Thessaloniki was made by the Greek government. Alexis Tsipras himself proposed it to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in early December 2016 at the previous Trilateral meeting in Jerusalem. Relations between the two prime ministers are excellent. As people with knowledge of these talks point out, “Tsipras and Netanyahu often call each other, they exchange opinions, and often their talks do not have a political agenda, they are like the conversations of two friends who want one to hear each other.”

For the theorists of the strong cooperation between Greece and Israel, this is not limited to hydrocarbons, security and the economy. “It is a relationship of a universal dimension,” they note, “since Athens and Jerusalem symbolize the two pillars of the Western world.” The Greeks gave the West Rational Speech and Jews today’s its current religion. The relationship between Athens and Jerusalem, symbolizing Logic and Revelation, has fueled the heart, the core of the political tradition of the so-called Western world. ”

Typical is what B. Netanyahu said when he welcomed Alexis Tsipras for the first time in his office in November 2015, which overlooks Temple Mount in Jerusalem. “This Alexis,” he said, “is our Acropolis.” The theorists of the strong cooperation between Greece and Israel then spoke, in closed circles, about the “alliance of the two acropolis” or “the two temples”, referring to the Parthenon and to the Solomon Temple and everything they symbolize.

Strong cooperation between Athens and Jerusalem is not limited to a bilaters relationship. The Hellenic and Jewish Diaspora meet worldwide in joint business projects, while politicians of Greek and Jewish origin “join” in their countries, organizations of the Greek and Jewish lobbies are in constant close contact. The visit of Deputy Foreign Minister Terence Quick and the head of the Secretariat for the Greek Diaspora, Michalis Kokkinos, in early March to Israel took place during the first tripartite meeting of Greece-Cyprus-Israel on issues of the Diaspora.

Of course, the main focus is the EastMed submarine pipeline that will transport the natural gas of the Eastern Mediterranean to Greece and then to European markets, which, it should be noted, was as a proposal by Benjamin Netanyahu to George Papandreou in 2010 when the alliance between Greece-Israel was “inaugurated”.

Regarding what is heard from various off-center sources at times about the impossibility or costly construction of EastMed, those with excellent knowledge of geopolitics commented that its construction is of geostrategic importance and everything else is probably said by those who have other interests, or found in economic analyses that have absolutely no weight when it comes to strategic planning that is absolutely related to security and energy supply to the West.

At this point, it should be stressed that the Tripartite in Thessaloniki, just before drilling begins in the EEZ of Cyprus, certainly sends a decisive signal to preserve peace and security in the eastern Mediterranean towards the well-known “nervous” trouble makers of the region.

Thessaloniki as a city of the Jewish diaspora

Jews have lived in Thessaloniki from the 3rd century BC. Its geographic location has made it attract the Jewish diaspora over the centuries; from the 15th century onward, Thessaloniki was in some periods a mainly Jewish city. More than 52,000 Thessaloniki Jews were killed in the Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War. This also makes Netanyahu’s visit a pilgrimage of sorts, to a city that for many centuries has been so important to the Jewish diaspora, just as New York is today./IBNA