Greek opposition leader supports ties with Israel

"Papandreou’s support of Israel one of few achievements," says Antonis Samaras.

Antonis Samaras 311 (photo credit: Greek Press Office)
Antonis Samaras 311
(photo credit: Greek Press Office)
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.
RELATED:Greek coalition politician admits: There was a HolocaustPapandreou 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 staunchest supporters.
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 East.
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