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A Mediterranean League?

Stronger than the sum of its parts.

by
David Solway

Bio

April 14, 2013 - 1:02 am
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Three democracies in the Eastern Mediterranean have come under pressure from an increasingly aggressive Turkey aiming to expand and consolidate its regional influence. Distinguished by their Western affiliations in an explosive part of the Islamic world and by a geographic proximity that may constitute an eventual advantage, these three countries are Israel, Greece, and the Republic of Cyprus.

They are also beset by political and, in two cases, critical economic problems. Greece and Cyprus, both members of the European Union, have become fiscal basket cases mired in entitlement addiction, redistributive economics, and unsustainable debt, teetering on the cusp of systemic bankruptcy. Having unwisely practiced a form of bureaucratic and fiduciary socialism, compounded by toxic banking practices, they now find themselves constantly in need of bailouts from the major European financial institutions and moneylending consortiums — the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund — for which they will have to pay in the tainted coin of unpopular austerity measures, tax clawbacks, and banking levies on depositors. Capital flight is inevitable. Political unrest is a given.

Israel, by comparison, is an economic powerhouse, one of the few Western nations that have managed to weather the economic downturn of the last years, thanks to competent leadership and a vibrant technological and entrepreneurial sector. But Israel suffers from many impairments and detriments: a fractured political system, with over a dozen parties acrimoniously contending for representation in the Knesset, leading to largely unstable political coalitions; virulent terrorist entities on its borders; a subversive leftist intelligentsia and academic fifth column; energy dependence on an avowed enemy, Egypt (in addition to the misfortune that the pipeline running through the Sinai Peninsula is regularly sabotaged by Palestinian terrorists); and an American president intent on shriveling the country to its “Auschwitz borders” — a White House map released on the eve of the president’s recent visit to Israel shows the Golan Heights as Syrian, northern Israel as part of Lebanon, and Jerusalem as part of the West Bank.

But there is good news too, in particular on the energy front, which promises economic relief, energy independence from foreign hydrocarbons, and, as a result, a more viable and resilient political situation. Two vast natural gas fields, dubbed Leviathan and Tamar, have been discovered roughly 80 miles off the coast of Israel, to be developed in collaboration with Cyprus, which stands to benefit from its own Aphrodite plot, with a view to exporting the product in combination with international companies. This project would involve Greece as well since, aside from the extraction of its own reserves in the south Aegean, one purported export route would run overland through Greece toward European markets, thus bypassing Turkey.

As Aristomenis Syngros, chairman of the Invest in Greece Agency, remarks in the Jerusalem Post, “The development of Greece-Israel relations is a cause for great satisfaction and offers the potential for wide-ranging synergies, win-win partnerships and significant bilateral advantages. The two countries, though small in size, can have a big impact on regional development.” Apart from areas for cooperation relating to “water management, organic farming, applied farm research, land improvement and aquiculture,” the new energy nexus may serve “as one of the most meaningful anchors of the Greek-Israel relationship.” Syngros concludes that “during this time of local, regional and global challenges, new strategic partnerships that harness competitive advantages … remain key priorities.”

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All Comments   (5)
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Quite a theoretical prospect. Such an alliance would be tested by Turkey, who would have no great difficulty in exploiting the virulent antisemitic sentiment in Greece and likely in Cyprus to challenge the solidity of the triangle. The tensions in this region are already high, the likeliness of hostilities likely increasing, so the latent triangle outlined in this article has one significant vulnerability, the hate towards the Jews that could render the whole thing wobbly when it comes under pressure. No doubt the Israeli are fully aware and are accounting for this in their own calculations.

After all, Turkey used to be cooperating with Israel, no so long ago!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What happened to GAZPROM's part of the deal, which would bring Russia into the protection scheme?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Russia does make or break this. Rather than be a counterweight superpower that reflexively goes against the U.S. and its Israel, it needs to become the protector of non-muslims and in doing so put aside its substantive antisemitic tendencies.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Nice idea but unrealistic. Turkey--far more powerful and influential than Greece and Cyprus--won't allow it. Neither will an Arabist American State Department institutionally committed to hobbling and suppressing Israel.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It's not just the State Department. Obama has regularly leaned to favor Turkey over Israel, and it's said Erdogan is his favorite leader in the region. I seem to recall a G-20 meeting where only one foreign leader garnered a bear hug from Obama: Erdogan. Obama leaned on Netanyahu to make that unmerited apology to Turkey, walked away satisfied, and has since done little to push Turkey to fulfill its commitment to reconcile and drop its new demands on Israel.

I agree with Guvinoff that modern day Greece - never so friendly toward Jews - is witnessing a nasty resurgence of anti-Semitism in the form of a neo-Nazi political party. (Sadly, it's often the case when a society faces economic straits their default response is to blame the Jews.)

It remains to be seen if Greece and Cyprus, given their economic problems, can hold up their end of any concord. Then again, Turkey has clearly shown it can't be relied on, and Israel would be foolish to undercut its new friendships just to get back in Turkey's good graces.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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