The head of Greece’s Jewish community welcomed the election victory Sunday of Syriza, a leftist, anti-austerity party, despite that party’s scepticism towards existing close ties between Greece and Israel.
“We congratulate Syriza, the winning party of yesterday’s elections, and convey our best wishes,” said board president Moises Contantinis, who is currently in Krakow for Tuesday’s commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz. “The Greek Jewish community, the oldest in Europe and an integral part of Greek society, has always supported the national struggles…and will continue to do so.”
Speaking to the Forward prior to his departure for Poland, Constantinis pointed out that the local Jewish community is diverse in its political affiliations with activists across the spectrum of political parties. But the community’s collective concern, he stressed, is focused on the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. “If their vote increases beyond their performance in the last European elections, we will be seriously concerned,” he commented speaking just before the election. In the event, Golden Dawn saw a slight drop in its share of the vote though it still managed to come in third with 17 seats in the new parliament. “The revival of extreme ideologies in Europe and in Greece incubates serious dangers,” said Constantinis.
On Monday it became clear that Alexis Tsipras, Syriza’s 40-year-old leader who was sworn in as prime minister late on Monday afternoon, would govern in coalition with the small Independent Greeks (ANEL) party, whose 13 seats would give him an absolute majority in parliament. ANEL is considered to be on the far right, sharing with Syriza little more than a rejection of the present EU austerity program. Last month the leader of ANEL, Panos Kammenos, a former cabinet minister, declared in a much-ridiculed TV interview that Jews in Greece do not pay taxes.
Beyond the question of relations with the EU, foreign policy played a negligible role in the latest election. Nevertheless, bilateral relations between Greece and Israel are likely to cool under a Syriza government. As links with Turkey have deteriorated, the two countries have developed closer ties, including military cooperation agreements. Syriza’s Tsipras is on record as calling for the end of this détente, though the party’s official policy is to support a two-state solution based on 1967 borders.