As a chill continues to blow through Israel’s ties with Ankara, those with
Athens are warming considerably, as evidenced by Wednesday’s visit by Greek
Prime Minister George Papandreou.
RELATED:Report: Israel holds captured flotilla shipsHamas to seek Greece-Gaza shipping
This will be the first visit to Israel
by a Greek prime minister since Konstantinos Mitsotakis came in
Papandreou, whose father, Andreas, served as prime minister of
Greece twice (1981 to 1989, and 1993 to 1996) and was known for pro-Palestinian,
anti-Israeli leanings, has chartered a more moderate policy toward Israel than
his predecessors since taking office last October.
grandfather, George senior, was also prime minister.
among the harshest critics of Israel inside the EU, along with countries
Ireland, Sweden, Portugal and Belgium, Greece is no longer in that
diplomatic official said.
Papandreou, whose 36- hour visit will be rich
in symbolic gestures, is scheduled to arrive on Wednesday afternoon and
immediately to a meeting with President Shimon Peres, whom he knows from
Papandreou has been president of that body since
Papandreou will then visit Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos
III in the Old City, followed by a meeting with Greek Holocaust
On Thursday, his day will start with a wreath-laying ceremony
at Herzl’s tomb, followed by a visit to Yad Vashem.
He is then scheduled
to hold a working lunch with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and back
meetings with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and opposition head
He will then go to Ramallah for a meeting with Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam
Papandreou met Netanyahu coincidentally at a restaurant in Moscow
in February, and – according to diplomatic officials – they hit it off.
have strong American roots, as Papandreou was born in St.
Minnesota, in 1952, when his father was a professor there.
“They have a
good personal chemistry,” one official said.
He noted that the two
leaders spoke a number of times in the past few months, since some of
trying to break the blockade of Gaza, including the recent
set sail from Greek ports.Tensions with Turkey lead to warming relationship with Greece
People in government said there was no doubt
that the recent tension with Turkey has led to a warming of the
between Israel and some of Turkey’s historic rivals, such as Greece,
Bulgaria. The Cypriot and Bulgarian foreign ministers paid visits to
earlier this year.
According to one diplomatic official, the Greeks –
looking at the Israeli-Turkish, and Turkish-US tensions – are realizing
strategic alliances in the region are changing, and that this might be a
time to get closer to Israel as a way of warming ties with
When Israel had a close strategic alliance with Turkey, the
official said, Athens gave up any thought of forging such an alliance
But now the situation with Ankara has changed, and Athens is
seeing more opportunities with Israel.
Diplomatic officials also said
that Greece’s economic difficulties also had something to do with the
ties, with Athens working on the assumption that if it raised its
profile, and started to be seen as a significant player in the region,
might help it convince the international community to give it the
assistance it seeks.
Ankara, meanwhile, has continued strengthening its
relations with Hamas, with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu
Hamas chief Khalad Mashaal in Damascus on Monday.
According to the
Turkish daily Hürriyet
Davutoglu and Mashaal discussed the Hamas-Fatah
division, and “reviewed the efforts to revive peace talks between
The paper quoted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as
saying Hamas was not a terrorist organization, but rather “a resistance
defending [its] territory.”
Davutoglu was in Damascus for half a day,
during which he met Syrian President Bashar Assad and visiting Lebanese
Minister Saad Hariri.