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GREECE – ISRAEL: 25 YEARS SINCE THE DE JURE RECOGNITION OF ISRAEL Print E-mail
Monday, 04 May 2015 12:12
An interview of the Greek PM at the time, Constantine Mitsotakis, to Victor Isaac Eliezer for “The Jewish Chronicle” (May 1, 2015):
 
When the UN General Assembly voted to recognise the newly born Jewish state on November 29, 1947, Greece abstained.
Greek governments continued with this policy until 1990. During this time, the Israeli envoy in Athens held the title of "Diplomatic Representative" - not "Ambassador".
In 1990 - 25 years ago - Constantine Mitsotakis was elected as Greece's prime minister. His first foreign policy decision was to recognise Israel.
Explaining his decision, Mr Mitsotakis, 97, said: "Non-recognition was a weakness of Greek foreign policy. The very good relations we had with the Arabs and the Palestinians surely did not prevent the recognition of the Jewish state.
"It was madness, an absurdity, and yet, under the effect of a certain kind of psychology and atmosphere, Greek politicians did not dare to face reality and take the appropriate decisions.
"Egypt had recognised Israel and yet Greece insisted on not doing so. I had always been decisive and I decided that this should change, and so it was done," Mr Mitsotakis said.
From 1981, then Greek prime minister Andreas Papandreou developed very close ties with PLO leader Yasser Arafat and never missed an opportunity to blame Israel for Palestinian suffering.

On the climate in Greece under Mr Papandreou, Mr Mitsotakis said: "There was indeed a strong tendency to favour the Palestinians… My personal position was that Greece should recognise Israel as almost all countries had already done. I must tell you that the outcome was extremely rewarding. None of the fears previously expressed came true and our relations with the Palestinians were not disturbed in any way."
Mr Mitsotakis said that because Greece has forged strong links with both Israel and the Palestinians, the country could play a role in facilitating talks between the two sides. "Greece can play a mediator role because both the Israelis and the Palestinians can actually trust us. As an undoubted friend of Israel, I have the courage to say that the proper solution cannot be other than coexistence with the Arabs. I wish my Israeli friends all the best. I wish them to show courage and to know that the stable solution cannot be other than a compromise."

On current relations between Greece and Israel, Mr Mitsotakis said: "The friendship between Greece and Israel is, and must remain, a key pillar of Greek foreign policy."
Mr Mitsotakis also recalled his relations with the Jews of his home city: "I come from the city of Chania in Crete. The community there was annihilated by the Nazis, and almost nobody survived. We had friendly and family relations with the Jewish families and nothing separated us."
 
In the recent election, Golden Dawn, the country's biggest neo-Nazi party, won 6.5 per cent of the vote. "This is a nasty phenomenon; the Greek Republic should and can deal with it politically
As his parting shot, Mr Mitsotakis said: "I do not know if I will be able to attend this year's events to celebrate Israel's national day because of my health. This is why I chose to speak to you - to address my Israeli and Jewish friends».
 

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