(July 9, 2019 / JNS) The World Jewish Congress on Monday welcomed the election this week of Kyriakos Mitsotakis as Greece’s prime minister.
“Prime Minister Mitsotakis is a true ally of Israel and has always demonstrated deep support and friendship for the Jewish community in Greece,” said World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder. “We look forward to working together with him in the months and years to come, and trust that he will include among his top priorities the serious need to eradicate any and all remnants of antisemitism and neo-Nazi ideology from within the country.”
“On that note, we are extremely pleased to learn that the far-right Golden Dawn Party failed to gain even 3 percent of the vote, in clear evidence that Greek society is fed up with its brand of extremist and hateful nationalism, after more than seven years in parliament,” he continued. “In 2013, the World Jewish Congress’ Executive Committee met in Thessaloniki to draw international attention to the growing expressions of anti-Semitism amid the rise of the Golden Dawn and received assurances from then-Prime Minister Antonis Samaras that such extremism would not be tolerated.”
Regarding the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party not making the electoral threshold, Lauder remarked that their party “is over.”
“There can be no place for leniency when it comes to combating violent xenophobia, neither on the streets nor in government,” he said. “A new day has come to Greece, and we wish both Prime Minister Mitsotakis and all citizens of the country the best of luck going forward.”
At the 2018 American Jewish Committee Global Forum in Jerusalem, Mitsotakis made a “personal commitment,” if elected, improve ties between Athens and Jerusalem, though his predecessor, Alexis Tsipras, was known to have a good relationship with Israel.
“When Tsipras came to power, we thought that was the end of the ties because he was considered radical-left,” former Israeli Ambassador to Greece Arye Mekel told The Jerusalem Post. “But no, he upgraded them even further.”
Mitsotakis’s father, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, served as Greek prime minister from 1990-93 and, in 1990, established complete diplomatic relations with Israel.
“As obvious as that decision seems now, that was far from the case 28 years ago because Greek public opinion at the time was staunchly pro-Arab and staunchly anti-Israel,” said the now-Greek prime minister in his speech at the 2018 AJC conference, adding that his father, who died in 2017, “did what was right and what was right for the interest of his country.”