Greeks boost mil­i­tary ties with Is­rael

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY ANSHEL PF­EF­FER

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’

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