Photo Credit: Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Albania PM Gerisha Sali meeting in Jerusalem.

–Finally, due to the history, the Balkan countries are exceptionally wary of Turkey’s new global gambit to extend its influence. They went through this once, it lasted 500 years, and it was not a pleasant experience.

In short, Israel enjoys an historic opportunity to become a significant actor in the Balkan theater, amongst a collection of genial, friendly new potential allies on the cusp of finally joining a post-Soviet-era burst of economic and infrastructure development. I was pleased but not surprised to learn that an Israeli Ambassador has been named for Albania (not to mention a Chabad rabbi!), and to randomly meet in the streets of Tirana a former IDF brigadier general hard at work digging for unspecified opportunities, and one of Israel’s leading solar energy entrepreneurs visiting to explore “opportunities.”

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Thank goodness, Israel has astute guys like Ambassador Aryeh Mekel on the scene in Athens – canny enough to attract a thousand VIPs to a Yom Ha’atzmaut party in Athens. What he is doing in one locale should be replicated systematically throughout the Balkans. In a few scant years, Israel’s standing in the region can be significantly strengthened. As Turkish noises inevitably grow more vociferous regarding – for example, their “claims” to Mediterranean gas supplies being developed by Israel, it will be much more advantageous to face this challenge with the backing of friends in the neighborhood than having to go it alone.

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