Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Israeli Traffic Cop

Greece, stop!

"In his speech Thursday night for the Israel Air Force Flight School graduation ceremony, Netanyahu discussed diplomatic efforts being made to prevent the Gaza flotilla from setting sail. The only leader that Netanyahu mentioned by name in his address was Greece's George Papendreou. Just a day earlier, the prime minister spoke with his Greek counterpart, imploring him to issue an order preventing ships from disembarking from Greece toward the Gaza Strip. Unlike in the past, Papendreou responded positively, and a top Israeli official involved in the talks between the Greek prime minister and Netanyahu said that Israel knew as early as Thursday afternoon that Greece was planning to block ships from leaving its ports toward the strip.

"The romance between Netantahu and Papendreou began in February of 2010, when the two met coincidentally at the 'Pushkin' restaurant in Moscow. Netanyahu took advantage of their chance encounter to speak with the Greek prime minister about Turkish extremism against Israel and the two quickly became friends. The Israeli and Greek leaders have spoken to each other at least once a week ever since they met in Moscow. The Turkish flotilla to Gaza in May of 2010 led to serious concern among the intelligence and military ranks in Greece, who began pressuring the government to strengthen diplomatic ties with Israel. Papendreou did not need much convincing. In July of 2010 he arrived in Jerusalem, the first official visit of a Greek prime minister to Israel in 30 years. A few weeks later Netanyahu travelled to Athens, spending a whole day with Papendreou and other officials on a nearby island. Israeli diplomats can attest that the budding friendship between the two countries over the course of the past year-and-a-half has been nothing short of dramatic. Intelligence communication has increased, the IAF has conducted a number of joint exercises with Greece's air force and Netanyahu has requested Papendreou's assistance in passing on several messages to Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Many of Netanyahu and Papendreou's talks in the past few months have revolved around the severe financial crisis Greece is currently suffering. Netanyahu recently decided to come to the aid of his newfound friend in a meeting of foreign ministers and European leaders, imploring them to provide Greece with financial aid. 'Netanyahu has become Greece's lobbyist to the European Union', an Israeli diplomat said. In recent weeks, as efforts to stop the impending pro-Palestinian flotilla to Gaza came to a head, Netanyahu reaped the benefits of his investment in Israel-Greece ties and his gamble on the country paid off." (Netanyahu's big fat Greek Wedding, Barak Ravid, Haaretz, 1/7/11)

Foreign airlines, stop!

"Israel has instructed foreign airlines to prevent 300 pro-Palestinian activists from boarding flights to Israel over the weekend, after Israeli security forces handed them the names of 300 people who they had blacklisted. The Transportation Ministry requested that foreign airlines report to Israeli authorities if any of the blacklisted passengers appear on their flights to Israel in the next 24 hours, stressing that these people will not be granted entry into Israel... Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists were expected to arrive in Israel for a mass protest over the weekend, as a counterpart to the Gaza-bound flotilla which had encountered numerous setbacks. Thus far, no activists were known to be prevented from boarding flights abroad, but most of the flights are only expected to depart on Thursday night." (Israel instructs foreign airlines to prevent departure of 300 pro-Palestinian activists, Zohar Blumenkrantz, Haaretz, 7/7/11)

Germany, proceed.

"The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is facing growing criticism after news of a multibillion-dollar deal for the secret sale of 200 tanks to Saudi Arabia leaked from the national security council that approved it... Members of Dr Merkel's own party have criticised the sale on human rights grounds. The deal reveals the shifting Israeli attitude towards the Saudis. Israel has notably not complained about the arms deal, and government sources said it was cleared with the Americans and the Israelis." (Merkel under fire over secret Saudi tank deal, Nicholas Kulish, New York Times/SMH, 8/7/11)

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