When fires raged across central Israel last month, Greece, Croatia, Italy, Egypt, and Cyprus all sent firefighting aircraft to help put out the flames; even the Palestinian Authority (PA) sent its firefighters to pitch in. In January, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Egypt, and the PA formed an official consortium to cooperate in the extracting and exporting natural gas. These economic and civilian relationships also have diplomatic and military parallels, in the form of regular meetings and even joint military exercises. Taking stock of these developments, Eran Lerman highlights the shared goals of the emerging eastern Mediterranean alliance:
The [recent] IDF deployments to Cyprus, albeit scheduled long in advance, took place in the wake of the latest provocative acts by Turkey—prospecting in the Cypriot exclusive economic zone. This is but part of a pattern [of Ankara’s aggression against its local enemies]. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly lashed out at Israel. His agents are trying to stir trouble in Jerusalem. He speaks of re-opening discussion of the demarcation of the Greek border in the Aegean. Turkey has meddled in Libya, supporting the Sarraj government in Tripoli, associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. The Turkish military now has bases in Qatar and Sudan. . . .
For Israel as well as for Sisi’s Egypt, their [respective] tripartite dialogues [with Athens and Nicosia] are also a useful check against problematic winds blowing from Brussels. Since high-level policy decisions in the European system require a general consensus, a close alliance with two members of the EU (or more, if Italy is to be counted) is an important guarantee for both countries against those who seek to impose their own perceptions on the complexities of the Egyptian domestic situation, or on the Israel-Palestinian struggle.
To all of this one might add aspects of cultural affinity, which is being brought into focus this week at the Méditerranée festival in Israel’s port city of Ashdod, bringing performers from Morocco, Greece, and places in-between. The renewed interest in Israel in the legacy of [the Egyptian-born Israeli novelist and journalist] Jaqueline Kahanoff, who sought to elevate the “Levantine” identity into a possible template for Israel’s future, bridging east and west, is another indicator.