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Greek Prime Minister Visits Jerusalem and Ramallah while Regional Tensions Flare

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is visiting Jerusalem and Ramallah as tensions flare after the Turkish downing of a Russian fighter jet over its border with Syria, and both Israel and Greece have troublesome grievances with the EU, of which Greece is a member state. Tsipras is struggling to extract Greece from an unprecedented economic collapse, and hopes to enhance economic ties with “start-up nation” Israel. For Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who visited Athens in August, 2015, the growing alliance between Athens and Jerusalem is principally strategic. Israel’s historic alliance to Turkey, Greece’s greatest rival, has not recovered since the Mavi Marmara incident of 2010, in which 9 Turkish citizens were killed during an Israeli army raid on a ship attempting to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip, opening the door to strengthened ties with Greece. Another issue in common is the European Union: Greece is demanding greater and more prolonged support for its tottering economy, whereas Israel is lobbying each currently member state to refuse to abide by Brussels’ decision to label Israeli products of the West Bank as produced under “Israeli occupation.”