Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appears ready and willing to continue friendly relations with Israel, by no means a foregone conclusion when the leader of the leftist Syriza party took office in early 2015.
But his pro-Israel policy has proven him to be a “man of surprises, in the words of Arye Mekel, Israel’s ambassador to Greece from 2010 to 2014, The Jerusalem Post reported.
During a visit to Yerushalayim on Wednesday and Thursday, Tsipras further strengthened ties with Israel, announcing intentions for a three-way meeting of the leaders of Israel, Greece and Cyprus in January to discuss the development of energy resources in the Mediterranean. All three, plus Turkey, have significant and sometimes conflicting claims.
Israel is currently looking at its natural gas options, which include the possibility of a pipeline through Cyprus and via Greece.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu characterized his talks with Tsipras as “broad, deep and productive.”
Netanyahu said Israel and Greece have a common interest in exploring opportunities, while simulataneously fighting off the “violent religious fundamentalism” that threatens the entire region.
Tsipras said that he spoke with Netanyahu about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well, and that as a “friend of Israel” offered Greece’s help in facilitating negotiations between the two sides.
Before becoming prime minister, Syriza was harshly critical of Israel and sympathetic to the Palestinians, as Mekel pointed out.
Yet, Tsipras has maintained the relationship, which includes both economic and military ties.