The news that the government is considering a request by Israel to build a pier in Cyprus for cargo ships carrying goods destined for Gaza is not a good sign. It suggests the government has not rejected Israel’s request, from which Cyprus has absolutely nothing to gain apart from becoming involved in an ongoing war that has nothing to do with us.
Israel’s defence minister Avigdor Liberman, during his meeting with his Cypriot counterpart Savvas Angelides, would have been made to understand the Cyprus government was willing to discuss his request, otherwise the story would not have been leaked to a television station. In fact, Israel’s Channel 2, which broke the story, said the principles of the plan were agreed between Liberman and Angelides at last Friday’s meeting and work would begin on a detailed plan within two weeks. The plan would reportedly be ready in three months.
Deputy government spokesman Klelia Vassiliou said on Tuesday there was no such agreement but acknowledged that a request had been made and was being considered. Given the way the Anastasiades government operates, we suspect that an initial, positive response was given, but its finalisation would depend on public reaction. If media and political parties voiced strong opposition to it, the government would not go ahead.
It will have the backing of those who support an alliance with Israel, arguing that this strengthens Cyprus’ position, but the deal does not stand up to rational scrutiny because Cyprus has nothing practical to gain from it. On the contrary, negatives are far too many. We would be surrendering a part of our sovereignty, because Israel would be monitoring the cargo on the ships arriving at the Cyprus port before it is loaded on smaller ships to be taken to Gaza. The decision of what goes to Gaza would be Israel’s and not Cyprus’ even though the cargo would be under the authority of the Republic.
Cyprus would also run the risk of becoming involved in the war between Israel and the Palestinians. When Israel decides that it wants to apply pressure on Gaza because it has captured some Israeli soldiers or fired missiles at Israel, would it order Cyprus to stop ships taking supplies? Would we be expected to enforce a blockade on Gaza whenever Israel demanded it? Worse still, Cyprus will be viewed as an Israeli satellite, from which nothing good would come.
The idea the Cyprus government would willingly become party to the Israeli-Arab dispute is beyond belief. The government should waste no time in politely turning down Israel’s request.