Sunday, July 26, 2015

Greece and Israel sign status of forces agreement

Greece and Israel signed a status of forces agreement in Tel Aviv that offers legal defense to the forces of each country while training in the other's country.
The accord was signed by Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos and Moshe Ya'alon, his Israeli counterpart. The only other country with which Israel has signed such an accord is the U.S. The two also discussed continuing defense ties between Israel and Greece. Ya'alon said:“We very much appreciate your visit here during a difficult period for Greece. This underlines the importance of relations between the countries. We wish the Greek people and Greece itself success in its effort to overcome the economic challenge. We pray for that since we believe Greece is a very important country, with a history and a contribution to the history of humanity.”
Ya'alon also praised the joint training exercises between the Israel Defennse Force(IDF) and the Greek armed forces within Greece. The Israeli air force held joint military exercises with the Greek air force last April. The exercises took place in Greek airspace and lasted for several days.
Ya'alon also brought up the topic of the nuclear agreement with Iran: “We perceive Iran as a generator and central catalyst to regional insecurity through its support to terrorist elements in the Middle East, particularly Shi’ite terrorism, though not only Shi’ite. And of course, the Iranian ambition for regional hegemony leads the regime in Tehran to undermine the stability of [other] regimes, which creates a challenge for all of us."
Kammenos, a member of the Independent Greeks a right-wing nationalist party that is part of the Syrza-led coalition, said the “Greek people are very close to the people in Israel” and that military relations between the two countries are good. He also mentioned Iran as a threat: “If one Iranian missile makes its way to the Mediterranean, this could be the end of states in this region.". I am not aware that Iran has ever threatened Greece. That Syriza would appoint Kammenos rather than a leftist from Syriza as defense minister is rather surprising.
This close cooperation with Israel is not in keeping with parts of the Syriza platform which supports leaving NATO and not having any military relations with Israel:Disengagement from NATO, closure of NATO military bases, prevention of military cooperation with Israel, no Greek soldier in war fronts outside the country. SYRIZA Party Program Resolution, 2012.In 2012 part of Syriza's election program said the disengagement of Greece from NATO was a stable and unchanging position of the party. Yet Prime minister Tsipras said on May 15 2014: "I say, with all the strength of my voice, Greece is a country that belongs to the West, to the EU and to NATO. This is not under question."
Given actions such as these, it should not be surprising that Syriza signed a deal that went against everything that Syriza had ever stood for. There were other signs that Syriza was hardly the leftist party that it was portrayed as in the mass media, for example Syriza's attitude towards cuts in military spending: "One of the oddities of Greece’s bailout programme has been that, despite five years of punishing austerity, its military budget remains amongst the highest in the EU." Greek proposals to creditors suggested a military budget cut of 200 million euros. The creditors demanded a cut of double that but Syriza refused. What type of strange behaviour is this for a leftist party to be less willing to cut the military budget than its conservative creditors? Perhaps, Syriza wanted to defend Greece against Germany!

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