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

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Video: José María Aznar

José María Aznar was the prime minister of Spain from 1996 to 2004. He recently founded a group called the Friends of Israel Initiative, which he says will fight the global campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state.

Aznar spoke last month at AIPAC National Summit in South Florida. Watch the full speech, in Spanish with English subtitles, by clicking “play” on the box to the right.

Below are some excerpts from his speech:

What unites us and inspires our efforts is the defense of Israel and that it is regarded as just one more country. We don’t aspire nor do we pretend to become spokespersons for a specific government. We don’t defend nor do we justify specific policies of the current government in Jerusalem, nor do we promote the particular interests of any political party. What we aspire to defend is the state of Israel, its right to exist peacefully and be treated with fairness—nothing more, nothing less.

In the same fashion, we don’t wish to become a kind of rapid-response corps that must intervene every time a crisis afflicts Israel. Not only do we think that it would be detrimental to our final objective, but I’m afraid we wouldn’t have a moment’s rest. We act and we’ll act consistently, but at our own pace. We believe in sowing the seeds with patience and dedication. We are not firefighters.

In fact, we think that the moment has come to explain certain things plainly and unabashedly. For example:

  • Israel has the right to exist as just one more nation; it is not fair to question its very existence.
  • Israel is a state as legitimate as any other, and it is not judicious to call its legitimacy into question.
  • Israel is an integral part of the Western world; it’s not wise on our part to weaken Israel.
  • Israel is a democracy comparable to ours; it’s neither fair nor reasonable to point out only its shortcomings.
  • Israel shares the same values we do: it’s illogical not to defend what is ours.
  • The enemies of Israel are our enemies too; it’s unreasonable to leave Israel aside in our quest to avoid risk.
  • Israel is a land of opportunity and it has a future: it’s not reasonable to portray Israel solely as a land of conflict, instability and wars.
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I firmly believe that if we encourage Israel to give up, we would all sink along with her. If Israel were to fall under the pressure of its enemies, the West, as we know it today, would stop being what it is.

For all those reasons, since it’s politically unfair, morally reprehensible, and strategically dangerous, we must strive for Israel’s legitimization and defend the principle that Israel is a regular country just as any other one, a liberal democracy and integral part West, in spite of the fact that Israel is nestled in the heart of the Middle East and its neighbors are not our neighbors.

That is the strategic vision shared by those of us who are part of the Friends of Israel Initiative, and what we advocate. Because we think it’s necessary to do it. We do not share the complacent vision stating that everything is okay or that everything will necessarily improve.

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However, Israel's image problem in the world isn’t simply a matter of public diplomacy or something that will be easily solved with a good PR campaign.

And why not? Because the image has to do with the big picture. They aren’t isolated issues. Israel, unfortunately, is still at war, not in an exercise of free will, but because its enemies want it to be that way.

It is not a conventional war like in 1948, 1956, 1967 or 1973. Nor is it terrorism as we suffered in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and after 2000. We’re dealing with a new kind of attack against Israel, against the legitimacy of the Jewish state, against Israel’s right to exist. It’s a new war, a “soft war” in which the enemies of Israel used legal tricks, exploit multilateral bodies and use dubious NGOs to portray Israel as an illegal state, a barbaric state, one that must be isolated and turned into a pariah state.

It's a war not against IDF forces, but against the idea of Israel.

Precisely for that reason, we decided to say, enough is enough. Stop blaming Israel for all the bad things that happen in the world. Stop allowing the effort to delegitimize Israel and to deny its right to exist. That's why we created the Friends of Israel Initiative.

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I am convinced that the moment has come to bring Christianity and Judaism closer together since they both share the good and the bad—the values of human dignity, pluralism, initiative and freedom, as well as the enemies. If we get closer together, we’ll reinforce our mutual strengths.

Israel is at stake, yet Israel is the West’s first line of defense. BACK TO TOP