Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fmr. Spanish President Forms Pro-Israel Group

by Erick Stakelbeck

When Israeli commandoes boarded a ship full of anti-Israel activists and Islamic terrorists earlier this year, the world erupted in protest.

Not against the ship's radical occupants or the Turkish government that sponsored them - but against Israel.

It was the same story in 2009, when Israel struck back against Hamas terrorists in Gaza who'd been firing rockets into Israeli communities in southern Israel for years. The United Nations issued a report soon after condemning Israel's actions.

It's clear that Israel could use a few friends on the world stage -- and Jose Maria Aznar, the president of Spain from 1996 to 2004, has answered the call.

"The guilty one is Israel. Always the guilty one is Israel," Aznar told CBN News, shaking his head. "It's not true."

Aznar has launched an international initiative called "Friends of Israel" to defend the country's right to exist. Supporters include former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, human rights activist and former Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel and John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.

"If Israel goes down, we all go down," Aznar told CBN News.

"Israel is not just a Middle Eastern country," he continued. "It's a Western country in the Middle East. So if Israel is a part of the Western world and is eliminated as part of the Western world, this is a problem for all of us, not only for Israel."

"It would be a great victory for the enemies of democracy, for the enemies of freedom," he said.

Aznar said that, in addition to sharing a common foe in radical Islam, Israel and the West also share common values.

CBN News asked Aznar his thoughts on what Israel and the Jewish people have meant historically to Western civilization.

"I cannot explain Europe, I cannot explain my country, I cannot explain myself without referring to this heritage," he responded. "They share with us the same values: freedom, democracy, tolerance, pluralism, human rights."

As a former European head of state, Aznar is in a unique position to counter the anti-Israel sentiment often seen in the U.N. and Europe.

"The world is complicated," he said. "It is necessary to understand this and say, 'To delegitimize Israel is not a good policy. Trying to isolate Israel is not a good policy. And to demonize Israel is not a good policy.' Enough is enough."

Several U.S. lawmakers recently endorsed the Friends of Israel Initiative on Capitol Hill. Aznar expects the group to continue to grow. The threat posed to Israel by nuclear Iran is at the forefront of the Friends of Israel agenda.

"We have wasted a lot of time," Aznar said of the West's response to Iran's nuclear weapons program. "But we still have the opportunity to recover time, make the right decisions, and avoid a very difficult situation for the future."

Erick Stakelbeck

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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