On January 30, 1969, a secret telegram from the commercial attaché in Athens reached the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Yaakov Ben-Sher seemed emotional after his meeting with the junta’s Coordination Minister Nikolaos Makarezos, who had called on Israel to supply weapons systems and help build a nuclear reactor in Greece.
The telegram was the culmination of a particularly intense diplomatic campaign from Tel Aviv to Athens that began in the first months of the imposition of the dictatorship in our country.
After investigating documents from Israel’s state archive that came to light in 2019-2020, Israeli journalist Eitai Mak last week delivered a lengthy tribute to the close relations the two regimes developed.
As can be seen from the first telegrams, the Israeli envoys in Athens saw in the dictatorship a brilliant opportunity to get closer to a country that before Papadopoulos “preferred to establish diplomatic and economic relations with Arab countries.”
As analyst Sheir Hever explained earlier, for Israel relations with bloodthirsty regimes were more the rule than the exception. “In the 1960s and 1970s,” he explained in an earlier interview with Democracy Now, “Israel was selling arms to Rhodesia, which had an apartheid-like regime.
In South Africa it also openly broke the embargo. He still sold arms to Guatemala during the civil war and to Chile during the Pinochet dictatorship”. Tel Aviv had become a preferred arms seller for any regime that had problems acquiring arms on the international market due to international sanctions.
In fact, according to Noam Chomsky, in a number of cases Israel simply acted as an intermediary for the transfer of US arms to regimes whose exports were prohibited by Congress.
Documents in the Israeli state archive show that the head of the Tel Aviv mission in Athens, Yehoshua Nissim Sai, was fully aware of human rights abuses in Greece, while noting that the new regime is much friendlier to Tel Aviv than with previous democratic governments.
In his cables, Sai claims that the Greek Foreign Ministry was “particularly pleased with the glorious victory of the Israeli armed forces” in the Six-Day War, although he did not express this position publicly. He himself pointed out Makarezo’s admiration for the action of the Mossad with which, according to what he said, he had contacts.
Relations with the Mossad would bear fruit a few years later, when the head of the intelligence service, Yaakov Cruz, was put in charge of the Israeli mission in Athens. In fact, in his letter to the Greek Foreign Ministry, Cruz expressed his admiration for the dictatorial regime, noting that “several of the Greek exiles when they were in power were the most important opponents (of Israel) headed by Andreas Papandreou “. .
The regime’s prime minister, Konstantinos Kollias, also appears as an ardent supporter of Israel, who believed that the two countries “are fighting the common enemy, communism.”
Tel Aviv not only seemed unfazed by Kollias’s anti-Semitic outbursts, but promised to intervene to “soften” criticism leveled at the regime by various Jewish commentators in the media.
Almost a year after the coup, the first shipments of Greek soldiers arrived in Israel, with a long shopping list in their luggage. Specifically, they were interested in acquiring Uzi submachine guns, incendiary bombs, and smoke grenades, while proposing that Israel take over the maintenance of the junta’s planes and airbases.
It is obvious that Israel was once again acting as a back door into the international arms market at a time when the US Congress had succeeded in reducing US arms exports to Greece.
As the junta intensified the torture of political prisoners to international protest, several members of the Israeli mission in Athens warned Tel Aviv to tone down contacts. But the Israeli government could no longer hide its enthusiasm for its new strategic partner.
According to the journalist Eitai Mak, in January 1973 the two countries signed a secret $9 million deal to transport crude oil from the Persian Gulf to Israel’s Eilat Ashkelon pipeline and from there to the port of Piraeus. Tel Aviv even rebuked diplomat Yitzhak Azouri at the time for failing to demonstrate the secrecy required for a deal that was of strategic importance to Tel Aviv.
As can be seen from the telegrams that came to light, Israel did not regret either the massacre of the Polytechnic students or the coup in Cyprus. On the contrary, the trade and arms relations of the two countries seem to have developed in parallel with the ferocity of the regime.
A dark relationship between two regimes, which has been reignited in the last decade with the participation of everyone, including the Greek governments.