Throughout the last decade, the Middle-East has gone through severe changes. Those changes effected the entire region and some major countries who are involved in it – new alliances were formed, some derived from military reasons such as the Israel-Egypt and Israel-India alliances. Others were from economic interests, such as the foundation for the Israel-China system of extensive relations. And some are made from a combination of interests that include- security and military training, energy and politics. This is the Israel-Cyprus-Greece alliance, and that alliance is providing each country what it need in order to fulfill it interests.
From a political perspective Israel got a lot to gain from the ongoing alliance that it shares with Greece and Cyprus.
Both Greece and the Cyprus republic are members in the European Union. The relations between Israel and the EU can definitely be defined as complicated – on one hand Israel and Europe cooperate in many fields, ranging from trades and scientific studies to culture. On the other hand the European Union is criticizing Israel over the way it is dealing with the conflicts between them and the Palestinians. The State of Israel criticizes the EU for being biased and disproportional when addressing Israel and the topic of the Middle-Eastern conflict – in the past the EU publicly acknowledged a Palestinian state, and labeled Israeli products which were created at the settlements in what might as well have been an indirect boycott.
Israel sees great interest, and is in need for allies within the EU, and the alliance between Israel, Cyprus and Greece provides Israel exactly that. The EU foreign policy is shaped by the policies of its members. Having two allies who are members in the EU fits Israel political interests and strengthen the relations between Israel and Europe
The Israeli Ambassador, Arie Mekel, said that Greece is ready to assist Israel within the EU. Greece was in the lead of the opposition to the EU’s decision of labeling settlement products from Israel. By crafting this alliance Israel is getting two allies with the ability to vote within the EU institutions and effect the EU policies, mostly towards it.
It may not be at the same priority as the other benefits but the strengthening relations between Israel and Greece serve Greece’s religious interest in the orthodox patriarchate of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem has been known to be one of the world’s center of religion, and Greece views it in a very similar way.
The new relations between Israel Cyprus and Greece raised the hope that Israeli tourism could help Greece economic system, which is currently suffering from crisis. However, the strong alliance and shared interests between the countries wasn’t enough to affect the choice of the Israeli citizens. The people of Israel preferred to spend their Passover vacations in Northern Cyprus, which is currently under Turkish control.
To Greece’s delight, on the other hand, tourism is not the only economic benefit that it aspires to get from the alliance axis – If the pipeline project goes as planned, Greece could find itself as one of the few countries that provides energy to the entire European continent.
Probably the biggest gain for all sides of the alliance is the gas triangle planning.
It was agreed upon that Greece will serve as the hub for the gas exported from Israel and Cyprus to Europe. The alliance raised huge expectations toward the future of European energy supplies. The Israeli Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy, and Water, Yuval Steinitz said that the Israel-Europe Pipeline will “allow Israeli gas to reach every single house in Europe.” Never before were there such an ambitious Infrastructure project in Israel.
Recently Israel, Cyprus, Greece and Italy signed on the pipeline agreement and agreed that all four countries will start to lay the pipeline simultaneously. The pipeline’s approximated length is between 1300 to 2000 kilometers, and it will begin in Israel, cross through the territories of Cyprus, Crete and Greece only eventually to end in Italy.
The gas exportation from Israel and Cyprus to Europe will lessen the European dependence in Russia, which recently received the EU’s approval to lay two new pipelines which will transfer gas from Russia to Europe, and reduce its leverage over it.
There is a proposition for another energy cooperation between the three members of the alliance, this time in the aspect of an undersea electricity line between Israel, Cyprus and Greece. The current problem which created the need for this solution is that Cyprus and Israel are both isolated in terms of electricity. Israel got only one Electricity Company in Israel that provides electricity to the entire country.
The plan for an underwater electricity line that will allow Israel to import and export electricity could break the monopoly of the power company over the electric energy in Israel. However, there is no guarantee that such thing will surely happen at all. It is also possible that the plan will be cooperation between the companies without competition. Either way, the proposal is to increase the counties energy security, and if it will come to Foyle it will probably be the resolute.
Israel, Cyprus and Greece share their concerns about the rise of Islamic terror threats and the ambitiousness of Turkey.
Turkey’s President, Erdogan, recently gained more power after the Turkish people voted for expanding the authority of the Turkish President in the Turkey Referendum. He is leading turkey to an interventionist policy, in hopes of taking it back into the glory days of the Othman Empire. He was even willing to endanger his relations with Russia, when they had different goals in their involvement in the Syrian Civil War. So it is understandable that Cyprus will be concerned by Turkey’s ambition to become an energy bridge to Europe while using Cyprus’ gas.
Turkey is already holding the Northern part of Cyprus, and it has already started to lay the foundations for the pipelines which will lead gas from Cyprus to Turkey. In addition, the Turkish population of Cyprus supports said move, while objecting to the deal proposed in the Israel-Greece-Cyprus alliance.
Should Turkey’s ambitions be fulfilled, Europe’s energy sector will depend mostly on Turkey and Russia, leading to a strong disadvantage in future disputes derived from economic needs and strings. Those conditions made it very important that the alliance signs the deal as fast as they could.
Other than opposing the Turkish takeover, it is very important to protect the gas fields of Israel and Cyprus from terrorist organizations and rivaling nations who wish to sabotage or take over the gas fields. Israel recently improved its naval defenses capabilities with the purchase of submarines from Germany. A military cooperation between the naval forces of Israel, Cyprus and Greece, in the maritime environment, will most likely leave the gas fields safe from any kind of hostility by outside sources.
Israel-Greece Military Coordination goes much farther than the protection of the gas field. Apart from the US, Greece had more military exercises and cooperation with the IDF than any other country. Exercises such as “Nobel Dina”, a multinational joint air and sea exercise with Israel and the United State. Greece also cooperated with Israel on the topic of intercepting and preventing the departure of ships from Greek ports to Gaza. By proceeding in said line of cooperation, Greece and Israel seek to prevent a second Marmara scenario.
In March 2014, Israel opened a new Military Attaché office in Greece, signifying the tightening relations between the two states. As of today, Israel and Greece share powerful ties in the field of security, focusing on the Maritime aspect to strengthen their alliance.
The deepening security ties contribute to the powerful Israel-Greece-Cyprus alliance, which is surely bound to lead the three states to more astounding achievements, both in the near and the far future.