Greece govt says it is pro-Palestine, but can it affect change?

- Experts say Syriza party is pro-Palestine, but with economic and other hurdles to surmount, exercising solidarity may be a challenge.

By Ossama Elshamy

ANKARA (AA) - As Greece seeks to forge a new future after the Syriza party's decisive election victory, reactions from Palestine and Israel have been poles apart.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sent a message of congratulations to the new government and the Greek people, hoping for a return of close relations. 

Gaza’s Hamas government congratulated Tsipras for his party’s victory and for standing up to “Israeli crimes, aggression, and siege on Gaza”.

Also, the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine sent a message of congratulations to the Greek people.

The reaction in Israel, however, was quite different where a number of pro-Israel publications criticized the changes in Greece’s political sphere.

The Jerusalem Post said in an analysis piece: "The victory of Syriza in Greece is bad news for Israel." 

- Military collaboration

The Times of Israel also ran a recent article citing a 2005 incident in which an Australian radio station accused Greece’s new finance minister for "harboring anti-Semitic views and expressing empathy for Palestinian suicide bombers".

"It is interesting to see the fear that is dominating the pro-Zionist press after Syriza’s rise to power," Ahmed Fayez, a Palestinian media analyst told Anadolu Agency.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said throughout his political career and on the campaign trail that he would terminate his country’s military collaboration with Israel and recognize Palestine with regard to 1967 borders - a promise written in the 38th clause of his party's governmental program.

He also criticized Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, saying Greece cannot remain passive to Israel’s transgressions.

“The world should make every possible effort so that Israel ends its criminal attack and brutality against Palestinians,’’ Tsipras said in Athens at a protest against Israel's actions during its invasion of Gaza last year - an offensive which left more than 2,000 people dead, mostly civilians.

But although Greece has historically been a major supporter of Palestinian rights, in the past few years, its actions have suggested otherwise.

- Blunt criticism

The former New Democracy party in Greece increased the country's military cooperation with Israel and, in 2011, the country prevented a Turkish flotilla delivering humanitarian assistance to Gaza from shipping out of its ports. 

“As a Palestinian, it is interesting to see the shift in Greek politics,” Lily Habash, a former adviser to several Palestinian prime ministers, told The Anadolu Agency.

“From a moral point of view, it is nice to think that we can see high political actors explicitly express their support to our cause and also be able to bluntly criticize Israel.”

Habash, however, said that the Greek government's support for Palestine will be limited.

"I do not think they will launch a war on Israel, or provide financial or even technical assistance to the Palestinians," Habash added.

- Struggling economy

And investigative journalist Asa Winstanley said in an article on The Electronic Intifada website that, although Syriza party calls for the recognition of a Palestinian state with the 1967 borders, its policies seem defective.

“(There is) nothing said at all about the rights of Palestinians within the 1948 borders .. or of the millions of Palestinian refugees who are blocked from the country altogether,” Winstanley wrote.

Experts say the first and most probable contribution Greece can make to the Palestinian cause would to recognize the state of Palestine.

If that happens, Greece would be only the second West-European EU state to do so, after Sweden.

With a struggling economy, however, experts say Tsipras and his party already have a lot on their plates, so it may be unlikely for the Palestinian issue to be on top of their agenda at this time. 

“We will still have to wait and see if their stated policy will bring change to the Palestinian cause or it will remain an emotional and moral stance without much leverage in the real politic world,” Habash said. 

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