Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades last week, in Thessaloniki, at the third trilateral summit, signed joint statements for the continued strengthening of relations.
Prime Minister Netanyahu:
“Thank you. My dear friends, Alexis and Nicos, this is our third trilateral meeting. It’s held in a symbolically significant city in terms of Jewish history. And I want to say, since you covered all the topics, let me just emphasize three things – the past, the present and the future.
In the past, Thessaloniki was a city inhabited by Jews for 2,300, almost 2,400 years, over 2,000 years, and it was the nexus, the meeting ground of Jewish culture and Greek culture. It’s important to understand that our modern civilization sits on these two pillars. We call it Athens and Jerusalem, but it includes Thessaloniki in there, Cyprus in between.
These are the foundations of our common values, the values of human freedom, freedom of inquiry, equal rights. These are all conceptions that were bred in the meeting ground – the faith in God that all people are created in the image of God and deserve the same rights. These are revolutionary ideas that developed in the meeting ground of these two great cultures. So the past is very much evident here. And it’s also something that holds a special meaning and a personal meaning for many, many families in Israel, including one of our ministers who are here with our delegation of ministers, who happens to come from a family of Thessaloniki. We know the triumphs this city had, and we know the tragedies. We are now looking into the present and into the future.
As far as the present is concerned, I think that there is something that always amazed me when we began these connections with Greece and with Cyprus. It amazed me that having had this past, we didn’t have a relationship in the present. We did, but it was very cool and removed and I thought that it had to change because there’s a simple fact about Cyprus, Greece and Israel that brings us very close together. We’re all democracies, real democracies. And when you look in the present in our region, especially looking eastward and some other directions as well, that’s not a very common commodity. So the fact that we have democratic societies – vibrant, strong democratic societies – should be a way to bring us together, and I think this is happening in front of our very eyes. It was long overdue. It’s so natural, it’s so obvious, because there are so many similarities of culture and values that come to bear. But I would say the fact that we’re democracies, I think, is the most obvious and important one.
Looking into the future, I would say, we discussed two things. The first is energy. I don’t mean just… I mean many types of energy, including the transmission, the production possibly and the transmission of electricity, and of course the idea of the EastMed pipeline, which would be a revolution. We’ve had preliminary studies of it. It seems promising, and we’re going to look further into it, but it would connect our three countries and Italy. It’s something we’re very excited about.
So this is one type of energy, but there is another type of energy that in my opinion is equally exciting and actually holds much, much greater potential, and that’s the energy of the mind. The true wealth that is generated in the world today is generated by conceptual products. And it’s the ability to innovate and create new industries, new businesses, and generate wealth for all our citizens is based on our capacity to innovate.
In this regard, we’ve discussed and agreed to have exchanges of Greek and Cypriot students, and Israelis, to see how we can forge together the culture of innovation, which I think could change, is changing the future of our countries. Israel is well-known in its pursuit of innovation, but I was struck by the dedication of Cyprus and Greece to go in this direction as well. We are partners in the future. So from every point of view, I don’t think I’ve covered any other dimension, because it’s past, present and future. This is a natural partnership, and one that we are deeply appreciative of.
I want to say that I look forward to our next visit. I think it’s become now not an annual, but a semi-annual meeting, and… It’s not yet quarterly, but expect semi-annual. It’s wonderful.
Yes, the Prime Minister said to me, ‘Do you think there is a problem with the humidity?’ And I said I’m not too impressed by the physical climate. I’m more impressed with the climate of friendship.”
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem/Photo Credit: Amos Ben-Gershom, GPO)