NEW YORK – AJC Executive Director David Harris recently issued the following statement on the 25th anniversary of enhanced Greek-Israeli relations.
“In 1990, Greece and Israel upgraded their diplomatic relations to full ambassadorial ties. Today, May 21, marks exactly 25 years since that milestone occasion, and we celebrate all that has been achieved in the past quarter-century.
“Indeed, the trajectory has been quite remarkable since Greek Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis, joined by Foreign Minister Antonis Samaras, laudably initiated the move, overcoming more than four decades of lower-level ties and a decidedly chilly atmosphere in the relationship.
“Greece, it should be recalled, voted in 1947 against UN General Assembly Resolution 181 recommending the creation of Jewish and Arab states in Mandatory Palestine. It was the only European nation to do so. Moreover, it was the last of the then 12 members of the European Community (now the 28-member EU) to establish full de jure ties with Israel, while all along maintaining close relations with many Arab nations.
“In recent years, the bilateral links between Greece and Israel have increased impressively, as the two nations develop closer cooperation in many fields – from culture to tourism, from energy to research and development, from joint military exercises to counter-terrorism. Being in the turbulent eastern Mediterranean, it has become increasingly clear that these two democracies, joined by a third, Cyprus, have much to gain from deepening and widening their links. And the United States, with considerable interests in this part of the world, is also a direct beneficiary of the growing partnership.
“AJC was there at the beginning, indeed years before. In the early 1980s, together with our Greek-American friends, we started to focus intensively on the anomaly of lower-level ties between Greece and Israel. Inspired by Andrew Athens, a prominent Greek-American businessman, and Maynard Wishner, long-time AJC national leader, these two friends from Chicago spearheaded the effort. They were joined by many others in the Hellenic-American community, including U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes and Andrew Manatos, and AJC’s lay and staff members. There were frequent trips to Athens, and many meetings with Greek officials in the United States, as well as with representatives of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS).
“As we mark this 25th anniversary, we recall with gratitude the role played by the late Andy Athens and Maynard Wishner in helping write a new chapter in the history of Greece and Israel, indeed of the Greek and Jewish peoples. And we are proud that AJC’s role has been cited by many top Greek officials, then and now, as being instrumental in helping to advance the relationship.
“We believe that the next 25 years will shine even more brightly, as these nations, linked by common democratic values, aspirations, and concerns, continue to develop their potential. And, as always, we will do our part at AJC, believing, as the legendary Winston Churchill said, that ‘No two cities have counted more with mankind than Athens and Jerusalem. Their messages in religion, philosophy, and art have been the main guiding lights of modern faith and culture.’”