In Greece, Public Opinion on Israel May Be Following Diplomacy and Economics

Oct. 26 2017

The Greek media have a consistent history of hostility toward the Jewish state, a hostility that seems both to shape and to reflect a great deal of popular sentiment. But since 2010, as Athens and Jerusalem have formed closer economic and diplomatic ties, popular opinion seems to be improving. George Tzogopoulos writes:

Greek sympathy for the Palestinian cause is rooted in the proximity of the Arab world and the support of most Arabs [for Greece’s stance on] the Cyprus question. Anti-Semitism has also played a role. But there is another reason why Israel was constantly blamed by the Greek media, at least before 2010. It served as a useful scapegoat for all the problems in the Middle East, if not all the problems in the world. This made it easy for journalists to avoid time-consuming, in-depth research on international affairs. Jerusalem’s close cooperation with Ankara only fueled the negative perception of Israel within the Greek media. . . .

When Jerusalem decided to look for new allies in the eastern Mediterranean following the setback in its relations with Ankara [over the Mavi Marmara affair], it turned to Athens. In August 2010, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Greece, opening a new chapter in a relationship that had been marked for decades by misunderstandings and suspicion.

George Papandreou, the Greek premier at the time, saw Israel as a critical ally in an era of economic austerity and uncertainty over Greece’s potential default and exit from the Eurozone. . . . In the aftermath of the Netanyahu-Papandreou meeting, most Greek journalists began to grasp that Israel is no longer an unknown, distant neighbor. [Rather], it is a partner. This strategic partnership yields positives for Greece in terms of security and energy affairs, and also has a tangibly positive effect on the Greek economy. While 207,711 Israeli tourists came to Greece in 2012, expected arrivals from Israel are expected to be 530,712 in 2017. . . .

After 2015, an additional barrier tarnishing Israel’s image in Greece was removed. A leftist government, Syriza, came to power, bringing with it a new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras. Though he had participated in pro-Palestinian demonstrations in the past, his tune changed when he assumed his new position. In contrast to his pre-election stance, Tsipras treats Israel as an ally, and his foreign policy is reflected in media coverage on both left and right. . . . The improving image of Israel in Greece could theoretically go hand in hand with a reduction in anti-Semitism. . . .

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Anti-Semitism, Greece, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Natural Gas, Turkey

What Israel Can Offer Africa

Last week, the Israeli analyst Yechiel Leiter addressed a group of scholars and diplomats gathered in Addis Ababa to discuss security issues facing the Horn of Africa. Herewith, some excerpts from his speech:

Since the advent of Zionism and the birth of modern Israel, there has been a strong ideological connection between Israel and the African continent. . . . For decades, [however], the notion that the absence of peace in the Middle East was due the absence of Palestinian statehood prevented a full and strategic partnership with African countries. . . . The visits to Africa by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—in 2016 to East Africa and in 2017 to West Africa—reenergized the natural partnership that was initiated by Israel’s Foreign Minister Golda Meir in the 1960s.

There is much we share, many places where our interests converge. And I don’t mean another military base in Djibouti. . . . One such area involves the safety of waterways in and around the Red Sea. Curtailing contraband, drugs, arms smuggling, and other forms of serious corruption are all vital for us. . . . But the one critical area of cooperation I’d like to put the spotlight on is in the realm of food security, or rather food insecurity.

Imagine Ethiopia’s cows producing 30 or 40 liters of milk a day instead of the two or three that they produce today. Imagine an exponential rise in (organic) meat exports to Middle Eastern and even European countries, the result of increased processing, storage, and transportation possibilities. Cows today can have a microscopic chip behind their ears that sends messages to the farmer’s computer or mobile phone that tracks what the cow ate, what its temperature is, and what care it might need. Imagine a dramatic expansion of the wheat yield that can make Ethiopia a net exporter of wheat—to Egypt, perhaps in the context of negotiations over the waters of the Nile.

Israel has proven technology in all of these agricultural areas and we’re here; we’re neighbors. We are linked to Africa, particularly the Horn of Africa, in so many ways.

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Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Africa, Ethiopia, Israel diplomacy, Israeli agriculture, Israeli technology