Why Is Greece Hindering the Gaza Flotilla?


The updates on the flotilla grow more and more delightful. First the IHH pulled its boat, sparking a precipitous drop in the number of ships pledging to participate in the stunt. Then the Turks backed up the Israelis by flatly rejecting the claim by the flotilla organizers that the Irish boat was sabotaged by pro-Israel forces while docked in Turkish waters.

Then, the Greek Coast Guard stopped all Gaza-bound boats leaving its waters and brought them back to Greece, prompting irate sound bites from Hamas about the Greeks’ “inhumanity.” And as if all that weren’t enough, Greek authorities arrested the American skipper of the U.S. boat, “The Audacity of Hope” (which, among its other cargo, was toting a deeply confused Alice Walker. Color Purple fans, follow that link at your peril).

The Turkish turnabout in all this is interesting and important, but what about all that love Greece is sending Israel’s way? What’s all that about?

I ran that by Claire in an email. She pointed out that the financial bailout of Greece explains a lot, as indeed it does: Greece’s current position as prostrate recipient of a desperately needed cash infusion would explain any number of dramatic gestures, particularly those that might come at the express behest of the Americans (who provide a fifth of the funding of the IMF, which in turn is paying for more than a quarter of the bailout) and the EU. But is that all there is to it? 

I suspect there’s something else going on. Something that has to do with a humongous quantity of natural gas.

You’re no doubt already familiar with the massive gas finds at the Tamar and Leviathan fields off Israel’s Mediterranean coast — finds which have just been supplemented by another reported 6.5 trillion cubic feet at the Myra and Sarah fields, bringing Israel’s natural gas discovery to a staggering 31.1 tcf. Last August, PM Bibi Netanyahu suggested to Greek PM George Papandreou that a pipeline be built to transport Israeli gas to Greece, which wouldn’t object to diversifying its 70%-Russian gas imports. But supplying Greece’s gas needs is the least of it. Israel has its eye on supplying Europe, either with gas via undersea pipeline or with liquified gas transported in tankers. In either case, the logical export hubs would be either Turkey — which has queered its pitch with Israel recently — or Greece.

These solutions would be extremely expensive, but have the potential to be very lucrative for all parties. Netanyahu has gone out of his way to cultivate a friendship with Papandreou over the past year and a half that has resulted in a tangible improvement in relations, including diplomatic favors, greater intelligence communication, and — significantly, in view of Turkey’s closure of airspace to Israel last year — joint exercises between the IAF and the Greek air force. Most importantly, Netanyahu has been a vocal advocate for Greece during its financial struggle. “Netanyahu has become Greece’s lobbyist to the European Union,” an Israeli diplomat said, as quoted in Haaretz. 

Greece got its bailout, and when the flotilla showed up, Papandreou did his friend a solid. The relationship between the countries has the potential to be long, fruitful and profitable for both sides. And it leaves Turkey on the sidelines, blinking. To the Greeks, that’s gravy.

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  1. Profile Photo Member

    Greeks v. Turks. Some things will never change.

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Member

    Are there any Color Purple fans on here? I would be surprised if there were. Fans or not, surely no one would be shocked to read about Walker’s solidarity and love for the people of Gaza.

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  3. Profile Photo Inactive

    “…Myra and Sarah fields…” What no Totie?

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  4. Profile Photo Inactive

    Judith, that Alice Walker piece is hilarious! It reads like it was composed by a bunch of nine-year-olds who took turns going to the blackboard and writing one word at a time!

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  5. Profile Photo Inactive

    Reading that Alice Walker piece makes me think of those naive missionaries who would travel to the boonies to preach the Gospel to the cannibal natives. They came with such wonderful, good news and cheer. Then the natives ate them.

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  6. Profile Photo Coolidge

    It’s sad that we can’t even hope that Greece just thinks they’re a bunch of nutjobs and don’t want anything to do with them.

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  7. Profile Photo Member

    The best strategy is not to leave Turkey on the sidelines, but to make sure Greece and Turkey are always in competition for Israel’s favor. The ideal is to have Turkey build an LNG terminal for servicing Eastern Europe and have Greece build one for servicing Western Europe — and then let them continually tussle over stealing each other’s market share by offering Israel favors.

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Inactive

    I’ve only visited Athens once but definitely picked up the vibe that they don’t get along with most Europeans. They really like anyone who could remotely be called Anglo-Saxon (the US and UK and their commonwealth or former commonwealth countries), they take pride in sending their kids to UK schools and would enjoy sticking a finger in the eye of the other EU countries. So, if the EU has a problem with Israel, that sets the stage for Bibi’s gambit. Add to that Israel’s recent gas find and faster than you can say “Roll over for Macedonia”, you have a new BFF, at least for the next year. I won’t even comment on the touchy Cyprus situation, but the geopolitics are fascinating and a very fortunate strategic break for Israel.

    • #8

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