The joint military exercise this week between Cyprus and Israel – Onisilos/Gideon – went smoothly and “with absolute success” according to the Defence Ministry with the beneficiaries undoubtedly being the visiting side, not the home team.
During the three-day exercise, the Israeli Air Force deployed its F-15 and F-16 fighter jets to conduct virtual sorties on targets from medium and high altitudes.
The manoeuvres also involved Israeli F-35 combat aircraft flying over Cyprus and gave the National Guard a “first-class opportunity” to test its anti-aircraft system.
Considering that the F-35 is a ‘stealth’ fighter and the most advanced aircraft of its kind in evasion tactics, what is it that our air defence systems were testing?
What’s the point of having joint exercises of disproportional measures when Cyprus does not have advanced defence systems in the first place?
Does anybody live under the illusion that at the slightest Turkish offensive, any neighbour or EU member state will intervene?
Ankara knows that very well, which is why it put on a military display of its own days earlier with its fighter jets painting a crescent over Cyprus skies, clearly indicating Erdogan’s ambitions.
What Cyprus needs, but cannot afford, is an armed force or at least the technology that could adequately resist any provocation on Turkey’s part.
It proved to be the case when Ankara tested the limits and challenged Greece and Egypt, even the French navy off Libya while downing the occasional Russian fighter jet and helicopter in Syria.
Every political science student knows that the mightier a military force only enhances the political status of that country, and armed conflict is always the last resort for any leader.
Perhaps, Israel should do the ethical thing and provide Cyprus with the same military drones it continues to supply to Azerbaijan.
It used them during recent bombardments of the Republic of Artsakh (Soviet-era Nagorno-Karabakh) that have proven accurate in decimating churches, hospitals and other civilian targets.
Surely, the knowledge that Cyprus could acquire such weapons or superior technology would make Turkey think twice of further provocation, for now.
So, where do our ties with Israel stand? Who needs whom more in this partnership?
The ‘warming of relations’ between Cyprus and Israel over two decades could be seen as a one-way business relationship, whereby Israel sells consumer goods and some technology, it hustles for a better deal over revenue sharing of energy deposits.
Israel is given a free hand in imposing security measures at Larnaca and Paphos airports when Cypriots continue to be subjected to the same exhaustive questions by trigger-happy young security recruits at Ben Gurion.
Cyprus’ energy interests have only now shown up on the radar of the powerful Jewish lobby groups in the U.S. and this only after the “cooling” of relations between Israel and Turkey, which some would want to reheat at an instance.
Cyprus continues to tolerate the settlements programme that is worsening the situation, rather than helping to reach peace with the Palestinians.
Nicosia does not say much when it comes to religious tension within Old Jerusalem where Christian sites and properties are constantly challenged.
Israel should realise that the Cypriot side of the equation in this bilateral relationship has been genuine from the beginning.
It is time to view Cyprus as an equal partner, admittedly of different proportions.
If Israel is truly in conflict with Turkey, it should raise this relationship to the next level, of mutual respect and support.
Only then will we have a sense of stability in the region, to the benefit of all sides.