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


Benjamin Netanyahu Is a Successful Leader, Not a Magician

Sept. 20 2019

Following the inconclusive results of Tuesday’s election, weeks may elapse before a prime minister is chosen, and there is a chance that Benjamin Netanyahu’s political career isn’t over yet. Perusing the headlines about Netanyahu over the past year, Ruthie Blum notes how many have referred to him as a political “magician,” or some variant thereof. But this cliché misses the point:

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Election 2019, Israeli politics