Greece is the Hero – and Maybe the Harbinger of Better Days for Israel

[Ed. Note: They stopped another one this morning; the Greek Coast Guard and Special Forces boarded a ship leaving northeastern Crete for Gaza and towed it back to port.]

[Ed. Note: They stopped another one this morning; the Greek Coast Guard and Special Forces boarded a ship leaving northeastern Crete for Gaza and towed it back to port.]

With extraordinary economic problems and its public in a very bad mood, the Government of Greece seemed an unlikely hero in the saga of the Hamas-organized flotillas. But Greece is, indeed, the hero. While several countries – including the United States – denounced the idea of boats breaking legal Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Hamas government in Gaza, and a few – including Turkey – withdrew government support – it was left to Greece to stop the ships.

Several ships had been in Greece, awaiting the results of local inspections to be permitted to sail. The inspections themselves were carried out to the letter of Greek law, delaying the ships for more than a week. On Friday, organizers on “The Audacity of Hope” decided to sail without authorization. The boat was stopped by the Greek Coast Guard, impounded and the captain charged with “disturbing sea traffic and endangering passengers,” a felony and with “disobeying an official directive,” a misdemeanor.

According to the website

The activists… have been forced into a military dockyard surrounded with barbed wire, and report that after expelling the journalists who were on the ship, they have so far not let anyone else leave. The move was quickly followed with an announcement from the Greek government that all ships hoping to deliver aid to Gaza have been banned from leaving port to ‘prevent breach of Israel’s naval blockade.’ This has a number of aid vessels from myriad countries stuck in Greece for the foreseeable future. The Greek Hellenic Coast Guard is also said to be monitoring the sea to track other ships potentially trying to deliver goods to Gaza.

Great! Why?

Greece and Israel have become very much closer recently and some of that surely is the result of Turkey making what appears to be a strategic decision to enhance its ties with Iran and Syria over Israel and the West. Considering an international fact that disturbs them both, Greece and Israel appear to have decided to consider their options. In addition, Israel has escaped the ruinous economic problems of other countries – there is no lack in Greece of appreciation for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s economic prowess as Finance Minister and the resulting strong Israeli economy. Israel needs friends in the Mediterranean and a partner for military, search and rescue and other operations that coordinate with NATO – if Turkey can’t be the partner, Greece can.

The Greek-Israeli rapprochement is actually the result of only a strategic few people in each country over the past year looking around at the threats and problems, and deciding that Western countries have the most in common and the most to gain from cooperation.

Maybe coincidentally, maybe not, the UN has given copies of its report on the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident of 2010 and it is Turkey – not Israel – that is unhappy with the findings. Israeli government sources say the report criticizes the Turkish government and highlights the relationship between it and the IHH, and while the UN does find that Israeli commandos used “excessive force,” it also accepts Israel’s contention that they acted in self-defense.

The demise of the 2011 flotilla isn’t the end of the diplomatic crises Israel faces – but it is a welcome success engendered by willingness of the Greek government to do the right thing. A few more such successes (including the increasing international understanding that accepting “Palestine” as a UN member outside the normal channels is a bad idea) and Israel may find itself – a Western, liberal, democratic country – in the company of like-minded others, worrying about the future we all face.

During the 2011 JINSA Flag & General Officers Trip, Lieut. Gen. Benny Ganz, IDF Chief of Staff, told the participants, “Don’t forget – this is the edge of the Western world; then it becomes the East.” We are happy – and not surprised – that Greece has assimilated the message.