Israel, Greece, AJC discussed on People of the Pod
The weeds headlines and what they all mean for Israel and the Jewish people. I'm your host Seffi Cogan in addition to being a longtime friend of AJC see Andy's Amanita is the Chicago based Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council and thank you so much for joining us. Hey great to be here. I think the first first thing that many American Jews think about when they hear about Greeks and Jews probably a pie or some other Jewish fraternity or worse. Maybe maybe the Hanukkah story or something like that but actually they're strong ties between the Hellenic American community and the American Jewish community ties that you've been instrumental in strengthening. What's the background there. Well you know prior to me too. I mean I I'm very proud of our partnership with AJC and what we've done but we do stand on the the shoulders of giants and you know sometimes. It's it's easy to forget where we came from. It wasn't too long ago was certainly in my lifetime to Greece and Israel were not that close and in nineteen eighties. He didn't enjoy full diplomatic relations and so you know you're Chicago. Oh crowd will love this. Maybe the rest of you but the whole Greek Jewish relationship been even at the state level has ties in Chicago 'cause. AJC's then president president maynard listener and the lay leader who we affectionately called the Patriarch of the Greek Community Andrew Athens endeavored decided together they were going to get Israel in Greece to upgrade to full diplomatic relations now tying it to today the then prime minister who is the father of the recently elected Prime Minister so Curios Mitsotakis his father Constantine Mitsotakis was elected prime minister and and AJC with their partners into Greek American community undertook to get this full diplomatic upgrade done any any got done so I I would say that's kind of the origin story so just this week actually we saw some of the fruits of that burgeoning relationship the inaugural east Mediterranean Energy the summit kicked off in Greece senior leaders from Greece and Cyprus from Israel the US from other countries met to discuss significant energy cooperation Grecian why are these kinds of US backed partnerships in the region significant well because the East Med. I tell the people that swear civilizations. We know it started you know another. Greek Jewish tie Winston Churchill's famous quote that no two cities counted for humanity the way Jerusalem and Athens and and the US you know for Americans. Let's remember we have a navy today. A Marine Corps right because of piracy in the Mediterranean Right Retina the Marine Corps theme from the halls of Montezuma to the Shorjah Tripoli and they met in Tripoli Libya naturally the landlocked city in Greece. We face some of the greatest threats right. you know the Arab uprisings at turn into who in Islam like winter Syria Hamas and Hezbollah presence and Islamic state at presences on the Mediterranean Libya s still a mess Turkey has become a revanchist a state. The one piece of good news in the last ten years is the spirit of cooperation that really started with Israel Greece and Cyprus and now has expanded and I it wasn't inaugural this week actually inaugural wasn't February in Cairo the East Smith Gas Forum but it's something that AJC and how have been working on from the establishment of the Congressional Hellenic Israel Alliance Caucus where we said we got to help help create a regional infrastructure that just like the European Union started because of an energy source and still trying that that natural gas and renewables by the way can play a similar role and when you sit there and see Egypt and Greece and and Cyprus and Israel and Jordan and Italy and the Palestinians all sitting down working on joint communiques now you have the French ambassador under saying we want to be part of this. I we're GONNA frontlines a history here. It's really an amazing thing to think about you know the sky's the limit with a project like that right yeah the Mediterranean right by definition right the word in Greek means the middle C. or middle of the earth right. It's been a great connector her and at a time where people argue that nationalism or tribalism is the most important or the most powerful force in the world they have people connected to have the EU connected with the Levant to have Eastern Orthodoxy in Western Orthodoxy tied directly in working cooperatively with with Judaism and Islam and to be connected especially because of law the C. issues these are borders right and you look at the Mediterranean in you know that it's Israel's only friendly border truly friendly border is its it's border. It's it's exclusive economic zone with touching exclusive economic zone of Cyprus and this is not a theoretical issue you know people may may forget this but when Moore she came to power for sing he said he was going to do is cut off our energy. to Israel and immediately Israel Greece recent Cyprus came to a deal to lay the world's longest emerged power cable that you early Asia interconnector which which took another step forward again the last couple of weeks and this is one that one will make sure Israel's never cut off from electricity because it's going to connect Israel directly right to Europe's `electricity grin but it's also a two way if Israel produces excess electricity it can help power Europe which then makes yes Europe more energy independent from countries like Russia right so what's going on here is going to change geopolitics a moment ago you mentioned the Congressional Hellenic Israel Alliance or or Chia which your organization and mine helped to get off the ground Chia am and specifically. I think Congressman Ted had Deutch who longtime listeners of AJC passport will remember as an engaging guest she is urging the passage of legislation in Congress to provide formal US support for the burgeoning alliance between or among rather Israel Cyprus and Greece I'll just add that if people are interested in earning more or or supporting that they can head to AJC DOT Org Slash Eastern Med to write to their representatives and ask them to sign on while people are are navigating over to that link Andy. I I understand why the relationship is important for Israel and I understand why it's important for Greece and Cyprus and by extension. I understand why it's important for me and why it's important for you andy but why is it important important for America because the U S you know what we've learned and especially with the forever wars the US can't be everywhere and the US does not avenue endless supply of blood and treasure and at the same time the US can't withdraw from the world we see every place a US withdraws from becomes. It's more dangerous so the US needs reliable allies reliable strategic partners unfortunately in this region Indus region for a long time there was an and the region being eastern Mediterranean there was kind of a dual pillar that the US could rely on Israel and the US could rely on Turkey Turkey has proven to be not reliable and in fact doesn't even work with the other pillar Israel while anymore so if we are going to have an arc of stability in what has become a sea of instability basing a new US or a re conceived US strategy on the three democracies in the region and this is only a value this is one of those rare moments where your values and your interests can work quite well. Greece host the southern most NATO base Sabet right which is a hard asset that is incredibly important and it happens to be the only military base equidistant from the eastern front against the Islamic state and a western front ends directly across from the Sinai Desert. We know Cyprus a host three percent of Cyprus as a result of the decolonization. I has remained sovereign British bases so they are very important military installations installations and Cyprus the French and the Germans conduct operations against the Islamic state or against Assad from Cyprus and you look at it. It's like a permanent from an aircraft carrier in the middle of the sea so besides value reasons they're hard reasons intelligence sharing maritime Cyprus and Greece two of the most prominent merchant marines not only in the region book into world are part of anti piracy and anti proliferation initiatives which which allow us to make sure weapons to terrorists weapons of mass destruction are not they're not being transported by CS and finally they're very important because if we're gonNA do stuff from whether it's designating Hezbollah's terrorist group enforcing sanctions ends against rogue states and terrorist states. We need people who are. GonNa lead to charge in Brussels in Greece and Cyprus have been doing that a few weeks ago you you travel to Greece with AJC CEO David Harris while they're David met with the newly elected Prime Minister Qiriako Smith's Otoka's who you mentioned before I say newly elected but I'm I'm not sure that quite does it justice within the first twenty four hours after Prime Minister Talk is assumed office that he and David Matt back in twenty eighteen gene when you were with us in Jerusalem the JC Global Forum Prime Minister Mitsuo Takas who then was the leader of the New Democracy party but not yet prime minister addressed our Global Forum Forum and he promised to strengthen his country's already robust ties with Israel fast forward now to just this weekend the Greek foreign minister WHO's only been in office. I guess for about about Gen three weeks was in Israel and he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Foreign Minister Israel Katz President Reuven Rivlin Do you expect prime instruments with us to keep this promise to you. See someone who's who's really going to strengthen these ties with Israel serious way absolutely first of all they're strong in historical ties even from the meat so donkeys family like I said it was his father upgraded to full diplomatic relations. Prime Minister Show me today keys people forget he was in the previous the New Democracy government he was a minister with then prime minister some Ross another very strong friend of Israel's and of the Jaycees and the upgrade that we're seeing right now that we're enjoying is rooted in that government went to so he has the policy background. He has a personal tie and right before he came to global forum actually just days before war he was the first meeting from Athens to Jerusalem delegation that AGC access and how leadership twenty thirty km so there's there's a constant line of communication several of his ministers Foreign Minister Dan Diaz served as Defense Minister in some Saas government minister of Health Galea's. is a longtime friend of AJC has spoken at joint hockey event spoke ended ended the Chia Conference. there are a host of officials in this government who have been pro. Israel pro American Jewish but at the very top of it the prime minister. I think we're looking as someone who's hit the ground running on day. One very impressive start committee said I don't need a break. He's told his parliament and his party forget about August. Recess gave a detailed plan every ministry a six month plan he said I don't WanNa breakout Hawaii one hundred days. I want results immediately which is very critical because we are looking at a time in the region that it's even more unstable you know the s four hundred purchased by Turkey Turkey deciding. We're not gonNA let Israel in Greece and Cyprus Egypt. Go along and set the rules on on energy so I think having him ready to go. He means it. I I expect very good things especially because does being pro Israel right now and pro. US is a matter of bipartisan consensus this series government which series are means actually literally the Party of the radical left anything but in terms of that geopolitical orientation are very good friends of Israel very good friends of the EU very good friends of the US I think we have a moment in time which is unique in Greece at you have the two major parties and everybody everybody else is kind of a minor but if you look at the breakdown of the parliament when you look at the top three parties the control well over eighty percent of the seats and they are all on this consensus in terms of geopolitics may be on a specific issue changes but we are not going to go back anytime soon the days in Greece that you thought one parties in their pro-western another parties in they may be you know anti Zionists or anti NATO or that's not we. We are in a very good spot. Uh where we can use these years to launch an even better relationship and in the last election we actually saw golden dawn the Neo Nazi party voted out how Harlem Element out completely out completely out not only out of the parliament but they also have no longer having their political base having other essential problems they were..