NEAR EAST REPORT AIPAC'S BIWEEKLY ON AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY

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Former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar founded a new pro-Israel group. A number of other prominent former statesmen have joined the initiative.
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Friends of Israel hosted a Capitol Hill breakfast for members of Congress. Reps. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Sires (D-NJ) have introduced a bill that praises the new group.

Former Spanish PM Launches New
Pro-Israel Group

A new international group called Friends of Israel, established in Europe during the summer, is pushing back against the global campaign to delegitimize Israel. The group’s leaders are not Jewish, and their motivations are based on the firm conviction that Israel is part of the Western world.

José María Aznar, who was prime minister of Spain from 1996 to 2004, is leading the initiative. Other founding members include Václav Havel, former Czech president, playwright and anti-Communist dissident; Alejandro Toledo, former president of Peru; Lord William David Trimble, former first minister of Northern Ireland and a Nobel Peace Prize winner; Marcello Pera, former president of the Italian Senate; and Fiamma Nirenstein, Italian journalist, author and politician; among many more.

“All we want is a normal and reasonable conversation about Israel,” Aznar says on the group’s website. “Surely, that is not too much to ask.”

Earlier this month, Aznar traveled to Washington, D.C., for his organization’s American debut. While in town, he hosted a breakfast briefing for members of Congress, sat down for an afternoon video interview with Near East Report (to be published in the next edition) and delivered the keynote address at a dinner in Georgetown for Washington-area journalists.

“Israel is under a new kind of attack,” Aznar said in his speech. “Not conventional war as in 1948, ’56, ’67 or ’73. Not terrorism as we saw in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. But a new kind of attack—an attack on Israel’s legitimacy, on her right to exist. A ‘soft-war,’ where many of its adversaries are employing legal tricks, multinational bodies and an army of dubious NGOs to present internationally Israel as an illegitimate state, as a barbarian state, a state that should be isolated and converted into a pariah state.

“We think this is intolerable. It is unjust, morally wrong and a strategic risk—not only for Israel and its people—but for all of us.”

Key members of Congress have declared their support for Friends of Israel. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Albio Sires (D-NJ) have introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives that praises the new group.

The bill asserts that Congress “recognizes the formation of the Friends of Israel Initiative and affirms its founding goals, as articulated in its mission statement” and “reaffirms its enduring, bipartisan support for the alliance and friendship between the governments and peoples of the United States and Israel, for Israel’s security and right to self-defense, and for Israel’s right to exist as a democratic, Jewish state.”

Aznar will be speaking about Friends of Israel at the 2010 AIPAC National Summit in South Florida, October 24–25. BACK TO TOP