THE BLOG
01/29/2016 06:06 pm ET Updated Jan 29, 2017

On Interests and Ideology -- Alexis Tsipras and Bibi Netanyahu in Action

One picture is worth a thousand words, what a cliche, but one which is ''even'' right on occasions. Alexis Tsipras, Greece's extreme left-wing PM, Nicos Anastasiades , the Cypriot center-right president and Benjamin Netanyahu, the right-wing Israeli PM were broadly smiling after signing a document, which by all accounts is a strategic alliance. Who would have believed that Tsipras, the vociferous anti-Israel agitator of just two years back, is fast becoming a household feature in the TV screens of the amused Israelis. Well, it can be explained, and to a large extent, but not only, it has to do with the elephant in room, namely Turkey under Tayyip Erdogan, but not only. It is about the common concern about Turkey, but also about the natural gas resource, water , tourism and economic development. It is about the bread and butter of people, as well as national strategic interests.

Three democratically-elected leaders give an interesting example to their peoples and their immediate neighbors, as to what diplomacy can achieve, when ideology is seconded in importance, and interest is elevated on its expense. No, this is NOT a piece about political naivete, and NO, this blogger does not live in la la land. Israel's Defense Minister had an important visit in Greece where he made a highly significant statement about Turkey's REAL cooperation with ISIS despite the official rhetoric of Ankara, and that may signal that the Israeli defense establishment finally gave up on Turkey, turning instead to Greece , and this may be a common interest of both Israel and Greece. Greece and Cyprus need Israeli natural gas, and this is also a vital interest, and other common projects declared by the three leaders are of the same mold.

Yet, this emerging alliance is a source of fascination for me, at least, because of the unbelievable acrobatic diplomacy of Tsipras. Just weeks ago he hosted Chairman Abbas in Athens, where the Greek parliament recognized Palestinian statehood. Not a word from Jerusalem. As if Tsipras blinked to his new friend Netanyahu, whispering something about "give them their moment of pride, and now to OUR big business." So, if Tsipras is capable of this diplomatic acting, he may be capable of doing it on other fields, and possibly Greece has the leader which it deserves. But then, if Tsipras is the new Diplomatic Houdini, what about his new Israeli friend, BB Netanyahu? What did he think about his Greek counterpart ability to put ideology aside? Did he refer only to a desperate need on the part of the Greek leader, or did he say to himself, that it may be time also for him, to start the painful process of soul searching focused on the question of cost and benefit. In the case of Israel, it is the question of "are we trying to move ahead with the Palestinians, despite the horrendous current terror campaign, or are we indulging in a ritual of self-righteousness and let things take their course?"

Netanyahu is highly intelligent and he should know that his new Greek friend is eager to know the answer. Greece does business with Israel, but the recognition of Palestinian statehood reflected their true sympathies. The Cypriots may feel the same, and surely so President Al-Sisi of Egypt and other Arab leaders, who want to warm up their relationships with Israel, clearly an utmost Israeli interest. It is mainly Iran which is their concern, and what seems to be a confused, disoriented American policy, but they need and want Israel to do "something" about the Palestinians. It is the case, that there may be NOTHING, that Netanyahu can do which will really make a difference, if the Palestinians think that they can achieve their goals by stabbings innocent Israelis and with the UN Secretary General issuing moronic anti Israel statements. Especially if that is the case, no huge risk for Netanyahu to use the heavy stick against the terrorists , but also the carrot. More economic incentives to the Palestinians, NO talk about new settlements which are NOT going to be built, and other steps.

This is where PM Tsipras come again to the picture. Maybe he could give Netanyahu a little private, friendly sermon about realpolitik, about rhetoric versus action, or ideology versus actual national interests. I, for one, will like to be the fly on the wall.