While some western European countries do not understand why Israel has failed to make peace with the Palestinian Authority, those living in the Balkans “get it,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said last week, speaking at the beginning of a visit to Romania and Bulgaria.
“They have lived under tyranny, so they are more skeptical, they are much more respectful of a democracy arrayed against totalitarian forces,” he explained. He later added, “They understand what it means to be framed.”
Netanyahu expressed enthusiasm over Israel’s policy, under Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, of reaching out to areas that were largely ignored by previous administrations. “We are finding new partnerships, new alliances in places where we once invested little time, energy and resources,” he told Reuters.
Among the explanations given for warmer relations between Israel and Balkan countries is mutual problems with Turkey. Balkan countries were among the first to support Israel following the Turkish flotilla to Gaza in 2010, and Israel’s ties with Greece have warmed as its ties with Turkey deteriorate, although leaders of both countries say there is no connection.
While Balkan leaders have expressed support for a negotiated peace between Israel and the PA, Bulgaria recently refused to commit to voting against an expected unilateral declaration of statehood by the PA. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said, “Our categorical stance is that all sides should go back to the negotiating table… This will also be our position at the UN,” but when asked if his country would vote against unilateral declarations, said, “You will see when the vote comes.”
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