Greeks boost military ties with Israel
IT HAS a hard-left government that has a history of lambasting Israel but Greece has been quietly bolstering its military ties with the Jewish state.
A joint exercise between Israeli and Greek attack helicopter squadrons took place in the Negev Desert earlier this month, the latest in a series of practice operations involving both militaries.
The improved co-operation has dispelled warnings that the rise of Syriza, the radical-left party that recently won its second election this year, would harm the strategic ties between the two countries.
The exercise in the Negev took place at Ramon Air Force Base and involved crews from squadrons that operate the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter.
The exercise followed a much larger joint exercise in August this year. Transport and attack helicopter squadrons from both countries took part.
Such co-operation has become commonplace over the past few years as Greece has replaced — to a degree — Israel’s former regional ally, Turkey, as a military partner.
The alliance is particularly important for the Israeli Air Force, whose ability to carry out flight training is restricted due to Israel’s size and its relations with its neighbours.
Israeli officials explained that, despite the initial fears that the anti-Israel members of Syriza would change Greek’s foreign policy, the party has proved to hold diverse voices on the subject. In addition, Syriza’s coalition partners, the right-wing Independent Greeks, have had a bigger say on defence issues.
IG Party leader Panos Kammenos, the defence minister, supports strong ties with Israel. In addition, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, a former communist but also a professional diplomat, is seen as friendly to the Jewish state.
One senior Israeli diplomat said: “One of the reasons we are not overly worried about the rise of Jeremy Corbyn in Britain is that our recent experience with Syriza has shown that even far-left governments with anti-Israeli elements realise that co-operation against joint security threats trumps fashionable radicalism which was good in opposition but totally unrealistic in government”.
‘Corbyn does not worry us because the far-left eventually meets reality’