President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met on Monday with Greek President Karolos Papoulias during his visit to Israel. The two leaders thanked Papoulias for his country’s recent assistance in stopping the Freedom Flotilla 2 to Gaza.
“I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the recent event in which Greece followed the instructions of the UN Secretary General,” Peres told Papoulias.
“We know that the present regime in Gaza is a regime which advocates terrorism, a regime which smuggles weapons from Iran to Gaza, and a regime which does not want peace,” continued Peres. “I saw that on the flotillas it said: ‘Free Gaza.’ If Gaza wants to be free, it must say: ‘Let Gaza be free from terror. If Gaza will be free from terror, Gaza will be free.’”
Peres added, “Greece, with its held head high, showed the United Nations that it is at its disposal. I know that things were handled in a strict and legal manner and that you were personally involved in it. This combination of respecting UN decisions along with a real approach against terror inspires respect and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Peres also emphasized the fact that Greece was the first country to assist Israel in putting out the fire on Mount Carmel last December.
“Greek firefighting planes and firefighters were among the first to stand beside us in the Carmel,” he said. “No person in Israel will forget this. Your visit today is not simply an official visit. I see in your visit the opening of a new chapter in the relationship between Greece and Israel. I say this because both nations have a very ancient past and both nations have their own philosophies - we have the prophets and you have the great philosophers – and even more so because both our nations have a great future.”
During their meeting the two leaders discussed ways of strengthening ties between Israel and Greece, especially politically and economically. President Papoulias told President Peres: “Greece supports the development of Israel’s relations with the EU, and I am personally working on a developing a Greek, Cypriot and Israeli triangle of cooperation on many issues and especially energy, research and science as well as a variety of political and economic subjects. I come to Israel with great joy and it is a great honor to meet you.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu also thanked Papoulias for Greece’s great help during the Carmel wildfire and in stopping the flotilla. The Prime Minister noted the deep friendship between Greece and Israel and added that bilateral economic and tourism cooperation should be strengthened and enhanced.
“I just had the opportunity to speak with the president not just about the relations between Greece and Israel but also about the president’s personal history,” Netanyahu later said. “He fought against the Nazis at the age of 15. I think that it’s an incredible story and I think that the Jewish people and the world should know what Greece did.”