|SATURDAY, 07 JANUARY 2012 12:08|
RIEAS participated in a workshop on Greek-Israeli Security
Relations in Tel-Aviv University on 24 November 2011.
A summary of the workshop panels is provided:
Prof. Alex Bligh: What we are facing today – mass upheavals,
Iranian threat, deteriorating relations with Turkey, issues over
natural gas, prospects of more democracy/stability in the future
Middle East. Meanwhile, we must encourage growing relations between Greece and Israel on the
economic, security, and academic levels.
Today's meeting is intentionally closed and formed as a small group, keeping in mind that a natural
goal of anyone who has worked in the government is to successfully affect decision-makers.
Prof. Ron Schleifer: We should avoid the abstract in favor of affecting policy that is mutually
beneficial [to each country]. It is essential that there's an open exchange of new perspectives,
especially on the new Middle East. Greece is currently helping unify Israel in the Mediterranean
arena; Danny Ayalon and the Minister of Energy are increasingly meeting with Greece, for example.
As far as PSYOPS is concerned, Israel can cause Turkey a "big headache" today if it chooses.
The Palestinians have employed brilliant propaganda themes with major impact, sometimes even
aimed at Greek religious affinities. Questions: What can Israel learn from this? Are we facing an
Dr. John Nomikos: In the midst of Greece's financial problems, there are many
security dilemmas, including illegal immigration as a national security threat. In the background,
we are dealing with several hundred thousands involved in illegal immigration, especially along the
Turkish border. Meanwhile, high Greek unemployment will lead to skyrocketing crime rates. There are
public squares which are turning into "ghettos".
In addition, there are two realities – one on the street and one in the government. There is ambiguity
and frustration over upcoming elections.
There are about one-million serving in public administration, in the face of eventual retirement and a
mass brain drain. "Follow-up syndrome" takes place when an administration/government changes, and
one might ask what happens to strategic direction? A systemic failure takes place in keeping quality
workers in the right places. Existing salaries are being cut, so that government workers are moving
out to private sector or abroad.
What can Israel do to assist Greece? Israel can increase dialogue and investments in infrastructure, especially military as well as collaborates closely with the Greek intelligence community – means
identifying strategic interests, especially mutual interests, and then turning it into practical strategic direction. Greece and Israel has a mutual interest to eradicate Turkish roots/influence, combat Islamic caliphate growing in Balkans. People on the streets don't necessarily mind shifting alliances on the
macro level, they just want to see the practical results. Practical coordination can start on the student/academia level, building trust and relationship. In general, private institutions should aim to help their governments, often as a hub or linchpin.
Dr. Eran Lerman: Israel and Greece relations will surely evolve, even beyond political considerations.
This "burst of Turkish aggression" is a transitory phenomenon against Israel, so Israel must recalculate alliances in the region. It must differentiate between assessing immediate conditions vs. long-term interests. Cooperation with Cyprus, for example, has economic-security implications for Israel, while also serving Greek interests. Israel is becoming a leader in water technology, so consider the
economic-security implications for all foes and alliances in the region.
Finding common ground is only the beginning, a starting point. Cultural and religious narratives of national determination overlap in the background and become another point of connection. Superpower centers across the globe are being re-defined, reconfiguring the countries that surround them. There is also a
need to establish a common framework of response to emergencies. Need for new framework to manage ongoing threats – "Arabism is dead, Islamism is deadly." Need for an organized body as a focal point for coordinating strategic relationships/direction, as well as utilization of Diaspora influences.
Dr. John Nomikos: Greek and other intelligence services should be concerned about terrorists taking advantage of illegal immigration, especially in cases where terrorist stay illegally over border for extended period of time. Albania, Bulgaria, and other Balkan countries produce a large volume of illegal immigration problems, as well as several African countries. Greece may have strategic borders, but this is a problem for all of Europe. Need to allocate more resources to struggling coastguards. Greece can only be a buffer zone for Europe for so long. Meanwhile, there are many poor Muslim immigrants who want to leave, but don't have the resources – this group is especially vulnerable to Islamization/radicalization. It can lead to looting/rioting down the road. The cost is approximately around 7,000-15,000 Euros to traffic one person into Europe from the Middle East or wider Asia. Where do they get this money? What do they have to do
to get it? The European Commission has yet to develop a solid policy on this issue.
Mr. Daniel Solomon: Israel today no longer sees itself as a mass immigration collecting country. Israeli immigration policy doesn't control "right of return," which isn't really a security issue at this point. Today's law has very little criteria aside from the mentioned points. Policies suggested from academic sources to be tough on the outside, lenient on the inside – which is technically contradictory. There is approximately 20,000 illegals in Israel today, including asylum seekers from the southern border. Regarding Palestinian immigration, it is an issue of dealing with workers or asylum seekers from enemy countries. Sudanese and Eritreans cannot be returned to their countries by Israel – most of these "asylum seekers" are really employment seekers. As such, they don't receive benefits/rights of a recognized refugee. Meanwhile, Israel is trying to work with third parties, while also considering building a physical fence at southern border. We must decrease incentives for illegals by building facilities to feed them, but make it absolutely prohibited to work and send money back to their home countries.
General Forum Discussion: Illegal immigration doesn't happen without some level of government allowance, especially from Darfur to Israel, because it's not physically possible to pass these borders without someone looking the other way, either by the local government or individuals who stand to
benefit within the government. These refugees then run into conflicts with Al-Qaeda cells and local
Bedouins who expect payment for crossing. Question: Are these people an immigration or human rights issue? In addition, walls only matter if someone is will to shoot in order to back it up. If guards aren't paid well, they're more likely to accept bribes.
Dr. John Nomikos: For Greece, ties to Israel has comprehensive economic value. Academics and businessmen on both sides benefit from close cooperation. The Greek and Israeli governments need to be active in these initiatives, uniting the high institutions (i.e. university systems) with practical government functions on the ground. Most difficult wall we may face is developing cooperation and trading valuable ideas between security communities.
A Greek intelligence academy is a necessity and Israel security professionals can assist it. The public and private industries are connected to the security community, another good reason to strengthen ties.
Military training between countries enhances strategic alliances and long-term goals. We must continue
with small, gradual steps towards closer partnership. The younger generation must be specifically targeted, as young talent coming from the universities are the future in maintaining strong ties based on shared interests.
Greece is a full NATO member, while Israel is only partially enjoying rights. Israel can always benefit from allying itself with a full NATO member. Open to suggestions of merging academic work of both countries as well.