The National Herald
Constantine S. Sirigos - TNH Staff
NEW YORK - Prime Minster Antonis Samaras told guests and members
of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) at a breakfast meeting on Sept. 30 that
relations are getting closer with Israel and the battered Greek economy is on
the way to recovery.
The event was hosted by Stan and Marion Bergman in their home, a
high-rise apartment with spectacular vistas that impressed Samaras, whom Stan
Bergman, the President of the AJC, called “A visionary we are proud to call our
Bergman set the tone for the meeting by quoting Winston Churchill
on the commonalities between Greek and Jewish culture and their contributions
to Western Civilization.
He also provided an overview of the decades-long ties between the
AJC and the Greek and Cypriot-American community, and the evolution of
relations between their homeland into to an “enduring and very strong
The morning’s highlight was Samaras’ description of his trip next
week to Israel, which he noted will have an historic government to government
dimension, with high-level meetings including discussion between minsters of
the two countries.
David Harris, the Executive Director of the AJC, who also
addressed the gathering, seconded the historic and important nature of the
Samaras said it is the next step in building a “comprehensive and
strategic partnership” with great scope for cooperation in fields such as
energy, a topic which was touched upon during the Q & A period that
followed his speech.
Samaras said the deepening relationship of Greece and Cyprus will
become a “beacon of freedom and hope” in the region, while also fostering
stability and security, justice and
He began his speech with references to the common suffering of
the Christians and Jews of Greece during the Nazi occupation – 10 percent of
the Christian population and virtually the entire Jewish community perished -
and the efforts of the people and leadership of Greece to protect their
neighbors from the holocaust.
The history of Greek and Jews fighting for human dignity
constitute “blood ties,” Samaras said, and he also emphasized the “long and
strong” historic ties between Greek and Jews. He also acknowledged, “There is
still a long way to go.”
Focusing on current events of concern to Greeks and Jews alike,
Samaras said, “There is no room for Neo-nazism in any part of the world,” a reference
to the extreme-right Golden Dawn party in Greece whose leaders were rounded up
and charged with heading a criminal gang.
Although there is a personal dimension to the issue – Samaras
said that when his grandmother learned the Swastika was flying above the
acropolis, she committed suicide – when he spoke about the recent arrests of
Golden Dawn, he noted that they will be given fair trials as is proper for a
democracy, and was confident the justice system will successfully handle the
Samaras also highlighted the progress of the country’s economic
restructuring, especially the creation of an attractive investment climate.
He said he was especially pleased to report that by year end
Greece will have achieved its first primary surplus in 10 years, much sooner
than expected, which he said will stimulate investment that will create vital
“My office is open” Samara said, noting he has already had
promising and productive meetings with the heads of corporations such as IBM.
“You can help,” he said, referring to the guests and the Greek-American
community, “by seeing what we are actually doing.”
This year brought a record-breaking amount of tourists to Greece
- 18 million - he said, and he shared the story of a meeting he had two years
ago with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who promised him 300,000
Israeli tourists. Samaras said he then turned to a colleague and wondered how
his counterpart could do that. In fact, Samaras told the guests, 400,000
visited then, and this year there were 500,000 from Israel.
Among the areas where synergies he said exist between the two
countries for economic development is agriculture. Israeli is renowned for
boosting the productivity of farmland.
When Jason Isaacson, AJC Director of Government and International
Affairs, brought up relations with Turkey, Samaras emphasized that
Greece-Turkey relations are progressing based on a mutual interest in peace and
stability as necessary for tourism and investment, but he also asserted that
the deepening of Greece-Israel ties are independent of the status of
Turkey-Israel relations. “Israel is not a friend because it is the enemy of my
enemy,” he said.
Andy Manatos, the President of the Coordinated Efforts of
Hellenes, was also invited by Bergman to speak. He worked with the late Andrew
Athens of Chicago to bring the Greek and Jewish-American communities together
on the basis of common values and mutual interests.
Among their endeavors was the push for Greece to establish full
diplomatic relations with Israel, which was accomplishing by former Prime
Minster Constantine Mitsotakis when Samaras was Foreign Minister.
Harris also acknowledged the work of Manatos and other Hellenes
such as Cyprus Federation of America Panicos Papanicolaou in the effort to
“establish the logical triangle of Israel-Greece-Cyprus.”
He noted that during the 40 year chill in Greece-Israel
relations, especially during the tenure of former premier, the late Andreas
Papandreou, they were pleased to be able to find in Greece people such as
Samaras, and now that he is Prime Minister, “full diplomatic relations will be
realized not only in name but in promise.”