JERUSALEM (Mar. 18)
There is a slow but perceptible improvement in relations between Greece and Israel, according to Israeli government sources.
A high-level Greek delegation which attended the opening in Jerusalem last week of Hellenic House on the Hebrew University campus was an indicator, according to the sources, of the thaw in the long-frosty relationship between Athens and Jerusalem.
The Greek party was not here in an official capacity, but rather as guests of the university to attend the dedication of the project which is funded by the Jewish community of Salonika.
A delegation of more than 100 Greek personalities, headed by the country’s former President, Constantine Tsatsos, came for the event. Among them were Salonika Mayor Theoharis Manevis; well known newspaper publisher Helen Vlachou; the head of the Cultural Treaties Department of the Ministry of Science and Culture, Constantine Coroulis; Secretary-General of the Ministry of Science and Culture, Constantine Alavanos; and the chairman of the Hellas-Israel League, Dimitri Nikolaidis.
The building, on Mount Scopus, is dedicated to the memory of the more than 65,000 Salonika Jews slain by the Nazis.
BASIS FOR THE ANOMALOUS RELATIONSHIP
Greece, alone among the European Economic Community (EEC) members, does not have full diplomatic ties with Israel; the envoys in the two countries are designated “diplomatic representatives” rather than “ambassadors plenipotentiary.”
This anomalous relationship stemmed from Greece’s close links to the Arab world, especially in the early years of the State of Israel when there were still large Greek communities in several key Middle Eastern cities, such as Alexandria.
Some Israeli experts had predicted a worsening of relations when the leftist Pasok Party took power in Athens, and indeed the Papandreou government has extended diplomatic status to an office of the PLO in Athens.
But despite this, the relationship with Israel seems to be slowly improving. Recently the Director General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, David Kimche, held political talks in Athens and a return high-level official visit is expected during this year.
Observers say the Athens government is under pressure both from EEC capitals and from political circles in the United States to regularize its relationship with Israel.