As troops continued to destroy Iran-backed Hezbollah terror tunnels on Israel’s northern border during the waning days of 2018, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was busy shoring up Israel’s eastern flank on the Mediterranean. He met with the heads of Greece and Cyprus to develop cooperation strategies concerning energy, defense and technology.
“We share deep histories and rich culture,” Netanyahu told the leaders of those countries. “We are all vibrant democracies. We all value pluralism, freedom and peace, and we are all threatened by forces of terror and religious radicalism. Our alliance is an anchor of stability and prosperity in the eastern Mediterranean.”
Natural Gas as a Catalyst
The instability began in 2009 with discovery of natural gas fields in Israeli waters off the Mediterranean, asserts Dr. Efraim Inbar, president of Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, a conservative security think tank. He wrote about Israel’s eastern-front threats from Russia, Iran and Turkey in The Jerusalem Post.
“These gas riches are coveted by Iran’s allies (Syria and Hezbollah) as well as by Turkey and Russia,” Inbar explained, adding that “the importance of the eastern Mediterranean in international affairs has grown.”
Since the discovery, Russia and Iran have expanded their presence in the area. Russia has placed a naval base in Turkey and an air base in Syria. Iran, seeking a Shi’ite corridor from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean, plans air and naval bases on the Mediterranean coast. Inbar predicted that these moves will allow Iran to expand its power into the Balkans along the Mediterranean and then move farther into the growing Muslim communities of Europe.
Turkey, once an ally to Israel and the first Muslim-majority country to recognize the State of Israel, has become increasingly hardline Islamic since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took control. Diplomatic ties between Turkey and Israel have frayed.
Kurdish pastor Majeed Mohammed told CBN News in 2018, “Erdogan envisions himself as head of the ‘last caliphate of Islam’ and is bent on redrawing the map of the Middle East. He’s against stabilization in the region and sees his role as using jihadists to prove he is ‘the only one who understands, feels, acts, initiates and supports’ the Middle East – not Russia, the United States or the international community.”
Thanks to ISIS and the resulting civil war in Syria, Turkey has invaded parts of Syria and Iraq. Turkey has a long territorial dispute with Greece and has occupied the northern part of Cyprus since 1974.
The Israel-Greece-Cyprus trilateral agreement is an effort to counter-balance forces that threaten each of them from the increasing influences of Iran, Russia and Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean.
Areas of Cooperation
“Greece, Israel and Cyprus have many things we cooperate on,” Prime Minister Netanyahu noted in a press release, adding that those include environment, energy, security, emergency services and tourism.”
“Our prime focus right now is on energy," added Netanyahu.
The flagship project of the alliance is the U.S.-backed Eastern Mediterranean (EastMed) pipeline, a project of the Greek company IGI Poseidon.
The pipeline will “bring gas from the sea between Israel and Cyprus to European Union markets via Greece,” The Wall Street Journal reported, adding that it will “spell the end for an alternative pipeline route for Israeli gas via Turkey.” It would also make Europe less reliant on Russian gas or Turkey’s pipeline,” the publication noted
Creating an Economic and Technological Hub
After his fifth trilateral summit in December with Israel and Cyprus, Greek’s Prime Minister Tsipra referred to the rich Jewish history of the Greek city of Thessaloniki, the large and thriving city visited by the apostle Paul during his second missionary journey.
“That is why we intend, with the help of Israel, to set up a technological park of innovation in Thessaloniki,” Tsipra said. He said he expects this to “open new opportunities for synergies between Israeli startups and Greek startups, as well as, of course, with companies located in the other Balkan countries. Our vision is for Thessaloniki to become the economic, technological and commercial capital of the Balkans.”
This would strategically reduce the influence of Iran, Turkey and Russia in the Balkan countries (Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, and Greece). As the last section of Europe that borders the Middle East, the Balkans are a strategic pathway for each military unit hoping to reach either side.
“We are concerned by developments in Syria, which are related to both the recent U.S. decision [to pull troops from Syria] and the future role of third countries in the region, such as Turkey and Iran,” Tsipra also noted, adding, “We have agreed to strengthen our cooperation in the field of security and exchange of intelligence information, not only regarding these developments but also in general.”
Please start the New Year joining us in prayer for:
Growing strength in the security alliances between Israel, Greece and Cyprus
Safety for Israeli citizens and military against the rising threat to Israel’s eastern border
- Peace for Israel and in Jerusalem