Today, February 16, 2012, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was welcomed by the Cypriot president, Dimitris Christofias in what has already been defined in Israel as an historic visit. During the event, which followed a dramatic announcement regarding newly found gas in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, a surprising agreement was signed, and several others announced. After the rupture of the Israel-Turkey alliance last year, Israel is aiming to create a new regional axis, based on an alternative energy market.
The agreement signed today refers to mutual Search and Rescue operations. It allows the IDF to enter Cyprus, and the Cypriot army to enter Israel in the case of disasters. The allowed entrance is exclusive to the disaster point, in order to provide humanitarian help. Until last year, Israel and Turkey had such an agreement. Just a few days ago, in NATO-Israel Joint Drill, I commented on a Search and Rescue drill to be held in October 2012 by Israel. NATO has been invited to participate in the event. It seems Israel is seriously preparing for the worst. Despite official talks about preparations against earthquakes, the Israeli administration is probably more worried about the results of a massive missile attack.
Netanyahu and Christofias
Cyprus – Aiming at Turkey
However, that wasn’t all. Since 2009 large amounts of gas had been found by Israel in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, in the area between Israel, Lebanon and Cyprus. The new fields could transform Israel into being independent in terms of energy for decades. A field found in February 2012 included oil below the gas, and that may signify also small amounts of uranium contained in oil shale. In November 2011, Cyprus announced it would explore its undersea natural gas wells in cooperation with Israel (see Gas, Oil … Uranium). This was the trigger for the agreements announced these days.
Israeli officials have commented that Netanyahu would discuss during his meeting with the Cypriot president the possibility of placing Israeli fighter planes in the military airport near the city of Paphos. The Israeli request was first issued last September, when it became clear the relations between Israel and Turkey were beyond repair. This is a dramatic move. Turkey had announced recently that it wouldn’t allow underwater drills in Cypriot waters, clearly citing military preventative actions. The Turkish intervention is the result of Cyprus being divided between the Republic of Cyprus in the south and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Turkey is the only country to recognize the latter, and claims it owns any gas field to be discovered in its waters. By converting the Cypriot Papandreou Military Airbase in Paphos to a home base, the Israeli armed forces would in fact have enclosed the area containing the gas fields, making their defense easier. This agreement between Cyprus and Israel is clearly military and aggressive. It may hint at a possible future military conflict in which Israel and Cyprus would confront Turkey and Lebanon on the ownership of the gas fields.
In parallel, Israel’s Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, announced a joint military exercise, to be held between the IDF and the Cypriot army. Turkey had already protested, claiming the event is an aggression toward Turkey.
Cyprus | the white spots are UK Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia
Marriage of Countries
Civilian weddings weren’t recognized under Israeli law. All weddings must be performed by a recognized religious organization, or abroad and then recognized by another state prior to recognition by Israel. The problem Dalia and I faced was my refusal to wed in a Jewish ceremony and my fear to begin the process of being recognized as a Christian by the state, a lengthy process which would have led nowhere, since mixed families were not encouraged. Religious organizations were by nature reluctant to approve mixed weddings and the state would create problems later for their ill-defined children, to the extent that their future studies and normal life in the state as regular citizens would be affected. A Jew and a Christian willing to wed and create a family together faced a Herculean task. Arie, my former classmate at the Tel Aviv University, had a brother who married a Russian immigrant. Upon her arrival in Israel, she wasn’t recognized as a Jew, which happened to around ten percent of this million strong immigration movement. As a result, they couldn’t marry at a synagogue. He—a Jew—could marry a Christian in a church, but the ceremony wouldn’t be recognized by the state. His children would be bastards and denied many rights. There were no civil ceremonies and every citizen must marry in the temple belonging to the religion indicated on the internal passport. Then the religion field in the document is filled by the Ministry of Interior according to their internal lists. They traveled to Cyprus and obtained the desired document at Larnaca’s local municipality, which was accustomed to such sights and enjoyed the earnings of this unusual industry. The trip was done in a standard package sold by many tourism agencies, which sends couples to Cyprus then brings them back to Israel within the same day. (excerpt from The Cross of Bethlehem)
The excerpt brought here discloses a sad reality; the Cypriot town of Larnaka owns much of its prosperity to the discriminatory practices of the State of Israel. Nowadays, following the rupture of its relations with Turkey, Israel is reinforcing its unholy marriage to Cyprus. Paphos would probably hosts IAF fighter planes and Israeli companies would be involved in the development of gas fields adjacent to Cyprus. These would be secured mainly by the IDF. I won’t mention the numbers here, but Cyprus is a tiny island, and is divided in two countries by an armed conflict. The combined population of both countries is barely above one million. This is much less than Gush Dan—Tel Aviv’s Metropolitan Area—and barely above Jerusalem. The local economy already relies to some extent on the marriage-tourism brought by Israel; if the announced agreements materialize, there is no doubt that Israel had in fact bought Cyprus.