Daily Israel Report

Israel, Greece Draw Closer, Bibi Visits Athens

Shortly after Greek PM's visit, Netanyahu flies to Athens, a sign that Israel and Greece continue to seek tighter ties after fallout with Turkey.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 8/16/2010, 10:42 AM / Last Update: 8/16/2010, 12:51 PM

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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu traveled to Greece today, making him the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit the country. His trip follows Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou's visit to Israel in July.

In July, Netanyahu said Israel and Greece would undergo “a major upgrade in relations” that would include closer ties in finance, tourism and technology.

During this latest meeting, Netanyahu and Papandreou will the possibility of forging defense ties, officials said.

Israel's tighter ties with Greece come on the heels of a crisis in Israeli ties with Turkey, which has been increasingly critical of Israeli policy under the Erdogan administration. In late May several members of the pro-terror Turkish group IHH were killed in a shootout with Israeli soldiers as they attempted to break through the naval blockade on Gaza. The incident led Ankara to recall its ambassador.

Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev said the prime minister's visit reflected a “new dynamism in Israel-Greek relations.”

Many have attributed the “new dynamism” to the breakdown of ties with Turkey, saying that Israel is seeking new Mediterranean allies. Greece, which has historically had a hostile relationship with Turkey, apparently also sees an advantage in drawing a traditional Turkish ally closer.

Former Foreign Ministry Director Alon Liel gave a more simple explanation for Netanyahu's trip. Speaking to Bloomberg.com, Liel said, “Israel is not so popular these days, so if you're invited to go visit a full member of the European Union like Greece, why not?”