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Israel's new friend: Why Greece is thwarting Gaza flotilla

Since last year's flotilla debacle killed nine Turkish activists, Israel has cultivated ties with Greece, offering the debt-ridden country generous military aid.

Activists hold placards on the 'Stefano Chiarini' ship during a protest against the banning of a pro-Palestinian flotilla to depart from Greece, on the Greek island of Corfu July 4, 2011. Greece offered to ferry humanitarian aid to the Palestinian Authority on Sunday after banning a pro-Palestinian flotilla bound for Gaza from departing from its ports and arresting the captain of one of the boats.

Marko Djurica/Reuters

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An unexpected player has come to Israel's aid in thwarting this year's Gaza-bound flotilla: Greece.

It's a country Israel has been courting since a raid on last year's flotilla ended in the death of nine Turkish citizens, severely damaging relations between the Jewish state and one of its most important Mediterranean allies. Desperate for new friends in the region, Israel reached out to Greece, offering generous military assistance to the debt-ridden state.

The fruits of that emerging friendship have been on display over the past week. First, Greek bureaucrats sought to delay the departure of the ships laden with activists and some aid meant to highlight the humanitarian effect of Israel's blockade on Gaza. When the US and Canadian boats finally departed, armed Greek commandos forced them back to shore.

Now it appears the flotilla is unlikely to sail or else be very tiny – thus exerting little pressure on Israel, which has wielded diplomatic power to greater effect than the military force it displayed last year.

"There seems to be one thing that the [flotilla] organizers failed to take into account: Greece's attitude towards the flotilla, and the dramatic change that has occurred in Israeli-Greek relations in the past year," wrote Menachem Ganz in the Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot.

How Israel has cultivated ties with Greece


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