Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes the first-ever visit by an Israeli premier to Greece as Israel’s ties with Turkey have soured after a May 31 naval commando raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla left nine Turks dead.
Netanyahu’s trip, which begins today, follows a visit to Israel last month by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou. The Israeli leader is scheduled to meet Papandreou, President Karolos Papoulias and members of the Greek Jewish community.
Netanyahu’s visit comes less than three months after the deadly flotilla incident led Turkey, once considered Israel’s strongest ally in the region, to recall its ambassador and scale back military cooperation. In the wake of the naval raid, the Israeli leader’s visit to Athens is an opportunity to strengthen ties with another country in the eastern Mediterranean.
“For many years the Greeks were a little unhappy with the intensity of Israeli-Turkish relations,” said Shlomo Avineri, a political scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a former director general of Israel’s foreign ministry. “Now, with relations with Turkey under a cloud the Greeks are a little more upfront about their relationship with Israel.”