Greek opposition leader Antonis Samaras, who polls show is poised to win
Greece’s election tentatively scheduled for February, said one of the few
policies of ex-premier George Papandreou that his party supported was its
strengthening of ties with Israel.
Samaras, who played a key role in
November in unseating Papandreou amid the Greek financial crisis, arrived here
early Tuesday for a two-day visit. In an exclusive e-mail interview with The
Jerusalem Post, Samaras said his party would continue the pro-Israel policies of
the Papandreou government.
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Papandreou spearheaded a dramatic shift in
Greece’s orientation towards Israel, moving Greece – in a period of about two
years – from being one of Israel’s harshest critics in the EU, to one of its
Samaras pointed out that when he served as foreign
minister in 1990, he was actually the Greek official who signed the document
officially recognizing Israel.
“For decades, my party, Nea Demokratia,
has been supporting a more balanced approach towards the Middle
Indeed, Papandreou himself, last year, switched to the approach we
have always been advocating.
“Establishing stronger ties with Israel is
one of the very few initiatives by the ex-prime minister that we, as an
opposition party, full-heartedly supported. As a matter of fact we
encouraged him publicly in the parliament to do so. And when he did, we stood by
him on the issue.”
Samaras said Israel and Greece have much in common,
and “future historians will have a hard time explaining why we hesitated for so
long to make the most out of our common interests.”
Samaras said Israel,
Greece and Cyprus have “common interests in stability and growth” during a time
of unprecedented economic crisis in Greece, the debt crisis in Europe that is
“currently reshaping the European Union,” and the Arab Spring “redefining” North
Africa and the Middle East.
He said Greece and Cyprus can provide Israel
with a “vital connection” to the West in general and to Europe in particular,
and that Israel could make