Greek forces to train in Israel as Syriza-led government deepens alliance

An image posted by the Israeli air force shows an Israeli pilot embracing a Greek colleague. The Israeli’s face is obscured in the original.

Greek, along with Italian, military forces are soon to train in Israel.

This is the latest indicator of the deepening military alliance being forged between Israel and Greece’s government led by the leftist Syriza party.

Last month, Israeli helicopter pilots completed an unprecedented 11-day combat training exercise near Greece’s Mount Olympus.

In May, the Syriza-led government also signed a military accord with Israel, matched only by a similar one between Israel and the US, granting legal immunities to each other’s military personnel while training in the other’s territory.

The military deal was signed on behalf of the government by Panagiotis Kammenos, the defense minister from Independent Greeks, Syriza’s rightwing, junior coalition partner. But there is no doubt that Syriza is giving its full backing: in July, the Syriza-nominated Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias traveled to Jerusalem for high-level talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries.”

Earlier this year Israeli warplanes carried out extensive training missions in Greece, experience that will undoubtedly be used to attack the Gaza Strip in future Israeli military assaults.

Israeli helicopters in Greece

According to an Israeli air force press release, “Israeli-Greek cooperation is gaining momentum over the last years and in light of the success of recent deployments, the mutual flights will probably continue in 2016.”

“We understand the great importance of the joint activity with the State of Israel, which contributes to the security of both countries,” Greece’s Colonel Dormitis Stephzanki, the commander of Larissa Airbase where the Israeli helicopters were based during the exercises, is quoted as saying.

“Over the past few days we have been working together in a special way,” Dormitis added. “The common language, the deep friendship and the things we’ve learnt together have contributed to the enhancement of cooperation between the forces.”

Dormitis said he believes that the training in Greece had improved the Israelis’ “capability to deal with flying wherever needed.”

An image posted by the Israeli air force shows Israeli warplanes at the Larissa Airbase in Greece.

“We flew over mountainous areas that do not exist in Israel and practiced long-distance flights from the airbase in Israel to Greece,” Israel’s Lt. Col. Matan, a commander of a squadron of US-built Apache helicopters said. (Israeli forces only supply first names, likely to protect personnel from potential war crimes charges.)

The Apache – named after Native American peoples targeted by genocidal colonial expansion in North America – has been extensively used by Israel to carry out extrajudicial executions of Palestinians.

It was used during massacres of civilians in Gaza last summer.

Col. Y, a commander of an Israeli reconnaissance unit, described Israel’s participation in the exercise as “historic,” adding that “it was the first time the intelligence-gathering aircraft had worked with foreign aircraft in challenging, unknown terrain.”

Supporting war crimes

According to The Jerusalem Post, Greek helicopter pilots will train in Israel in coming months.

Greek fighter jets “will also arrive as part of the multinational Blue Flag exercise, to be held over southern Israel,” the newspaper reports.

A report in Haaretz in June reveals that Italian, Greek and US air forces will take part in the exercise.

The military cooperation between Israel, Italy and Greece continues despite the fact that a recently published independent inquiry commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council found massive evidence of war crimes by Israel during its attack on Gaza last summer that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians.

Amnesty International last month published its own inquiry into Israel’s attack on the southern Gaza town of Rafah – again concluding that hundreds of civilians were killed as Israel committed grave war crimes.

“Public statements by Israeli army commanders and soldiers after the conflict provide compelling reasons to conclude that some attacks that killed civilians and destroyed homes and property were intentionally carried out and motivated by a desire for revenge – to teach a lesson to, or punish, the population of Rafah,” Amnesty found.

Inam Ouda Ayed bin Hammad, quoted in the Amnesty report, recalled the shelling and bombing that took place near her home in the al-Tannur neighborhood of Rafah: “The minute I left the house, an Apache … started shooting at us.”

Perhaps some of the same Apaches and their pilots were sharing moments of camaraderie in Greece.

The UN report and Amnesty called for accountability for the war crimes committed in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

Instead, Greece’s and Italy’s ostensibly left-wing governments, and of course the US administration of President Barack Obama, only offer Israel complicity and rewards.

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It's interesting: Syriza's election platform committed to "Abolition of military cooperation with Israel. Support for creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders."

http://links.org.au/node/2888

There is only one logical way to explain this: Syriza has obviously decided that enhanced military collaboration with Israel is in Greece's national interests. It may have sounded rhetorically inspiring to profess support for the Palestinian cause, but the Palestinians can do absolutely nothing for Greece; Israel can. Israel is quite friendly with the NATO powers and is conveniently sitting on natural gas that can be exported to Greece once some anti-trust kinks are worked out.

It's easy to bluster before you get elected; once in office, you have a country to run and real business to deal with.

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Please don't confuse Syriza with Greece, the Land and its People. Syriza is a government party that happens to form a plurality right now. It is just as anti-democratic as Stephen Harper's government or any other so called 'democratic ' country. Harper's government in no way reflects the opinions of Canadians, despite the fearmongering. Your comments about 'practicality' are along the lines of Star Trek's Borg, "You are about to be assimilated: resistance is futile." Resistance by definition is never futile. Wait and see.

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German police and military training in Israel - I read one article about participation in 'tunnel-warfare'.

Germans, Greeks and Italians should question whether they want their police and military receiving instruction from a country using excessively violent tactics against a civilian population.

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Is there any form of capitulation and collaboration the current Greek government won't embrace? Syriza is now a hollowed-out spectre, incapable of resisting neoliberalism and resigned to its fate as an instrument of imperial war policies.

And as indicated in the article, the joint military exercise with Israel was held over mountainous terrain. Israel's landscape is unsuitable for such training, and it's clear that what's envisioned is not a defensive war but one of aggression against Israel's neighbours, principally, Lebanon, Syria and Iran. For Syriza to offer Greek territory in the preparation of such crimes is a new low for the party that betrayed its supporters after the referendum. Putrid stuff.

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I'm increasingly skeptical of the honesty Syriza's leadership. It's like they've made a 180 degree turn-around from everything they promised before they were elected. I get the feeling they're intentionally deceiving the Greek people who elected them, offering what the Greeks overwhelmingly want and then giving them the exact opposite. They're making a mockery of democracy.

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The problem is that, as far as Greece is concerned, people don't really understand how serious this issue is because it doesn't affect them directly and, secondly, they don't really know what is happening. Yes, maybe they learned about the bombings last year (because they were shown on tv) but they - most likely - don't even remember it. Even if they knew about the joint training they would say "So what?".
As far as the left part of Syriza is concerned, the main idea that we all get, as the time goes by, is that the "Left Platform" (the only reason Syriza is still called a left-wing party) is completely excluded from all serious forms of governance. And I am sure, not completely of course, that if they were really taking into account the word of the Left Platform, such things possibly wouldn't happen. But still greek society is a very individualist and an ignorant one - it still wouldn't really matter to the majority.
I don't really know many things concerning the other states that were mentioned here (and a simple google research won't really help me right now) but I have the idea that something like that was more expected from their side (maybe not so from Italy, but still I am not so sure). The problem with the greek government is that the "biggest" partner (Syriza) was mainly supported by people that they were also pro-Palestine. And that makes it even more obvious that we cannot be talking about democracy here anymore but for a liberal oligarchy. If we understand this, as soon as possible, we might be able to change things and avert decisions like this.
I am not saying that to blame only the greek people, that goes to everyone especially to all of us that have the possibility and the privilege to even learn about such things.
For the time being, I can only say that all of us in solidarity with all the oppressed of the world, we will keep on trying to make the rest of the people aware of such events and support each other.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.