EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: In July 2010, then Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou visited Jerusalem and met his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu. A few weeks later Netanyahu traveled to Athens and held discussions with Papandreou. The long-term significance of those visits could not be acknowledged at that time. But almost eight years later, it is now clear that those talks were a catalyst for the rapprochement that has occurred between two countries that have had a difficult relationship for decades. Greece and Israel are growing ever closer by establishing a strategic partnership and exploring ways to further deepen it.
The deterioration of relations between Israel and Turkey that began at the end of 2008 led the Israeli leadership to look for alternative alliances in the Eastern Mediterranean. A rapprochement with Greece, traditionally at odds with Turkey, made theoretical sense but was practically difficult due to the Greek sympathy with the Arabs and the Palestinian cause. Careful diplomacy was thus required.
While some discussions on the matter began in Athens in the spring of 2009, the turning point occurred in 2010. Prime Ministers George Papandreou and Benjamin Netanyahu opened a new chapter in the bilateral relationship by meeting in Moscow in February of that year. Two important visits soon followed: one by Papandreou to Jerusalem in July and one by Netanyahu to Athens in August.