FII Stands With Supporters of US-Israel Relationship

Remarks for 2012 AIPAC Atlanta Community Event

Honorable members of Congress, elected officials, members of AIPAC and other distinguished guests; it is an honor to be here representing the Friends of Israel Initiative, and to be among some of the world’s most effective friends of Israel: you, members of AIPAC.

2012-01-30 by José María Aznar

Honorable members of Congress, elected officials, members of AIPAC and other distinguished guests; it is an honor to be here representing the Friends of Israel Initiative, and to be among some of the world’s most effective friends of Israel: you, members of AIPAC.

In just a few weeks many of you will go to Washington for the Policy Conference to stand in support of the US-Israel relationship. That is good news, my friends.

And though I am not American, I want you to know when you speak out in support of peace, in defense of democracy and freedom, in support of Israel, I am with you. My fellow leaders of the Friends of Israel Initiative are with you.

Our supporters all around the world are with you.

If you stand with Freedom, if you stand for Western Values – you stand with Israel.

In 1995 I went to Israel to visit for my first visit with Yitzhak Rabin.

When I entered his office, before anything else, he looked at me and said, “You expelled my people from Spain 500 years ago!”

And I replied, “Mr. Prime Minister I can promise you I didn’t take that decision!”

Rabin said, “I am sure you did not,” and I told him “well, I am sure we can now be good friends.”

After that beginning, we had a great conversation.

He told me about the threat Israel was facing from terrorism, and I shared with him my own fight against terrorism in Spain.

Unfortunately, soon after that meeting he was tragically killed, and shortly after I had my own brush with death when a terrorist tried to blow me up with a car bomb. I was lucky, but my friend Yitzak was sadly not so fortunate.

When I decided it was time to make this stand, some 18 months ago, I called upon a number of friends -- some Nobel Prize Winners, some just former Presidents like me, or my friend and hero, the late Vaclav Havel -- to establish a high-level group dedicated to fighting the growing chorus trying to isolate and delegitimize Israel.

We work to show Israel as a normal country, with all the virtues and imperfections of any democratic country in the world.

Most of us are not Jewish, but we share the strategic vision that when defending Israel we are defending the West. We are defending our way of life. Our values.

Simply put, we must defend Israel if we want to preserve the West as we know it.

Look at the changes sweeping the region. Uncertainty is the dominant factor.

And Israel is both more important to the West today – and more besieged by hostility -- than in recent memory.

Now is a time for action; that is why we are not a PR organization.

We want to have a positive influence among current decision makers, primarily in Europe, but also beyond. As in Latin America, for instance, where our effort to educate key leaders has helped stop a region-wide wave of support a Palestinian state born prematurely.

Using our natural contacts, and engaging our peers in important dialogue, we convey our views and encourage others to avoid mistaken political decisions. And we cannot let up. There is much to do.

One need only look at how the events of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ have played out to be reminded of the rightness of our cause.

What stronger case could ever be made than when between Morocco and Pakistan there is only island of stability, democracy and prosperity… and it is the State of Israel.

In these days of turbulence it is imperative that we know who our friends are and who is not with us; that our elected leaders have the moral clarity and conviction to know the difference.

We are not agnostic about the outcome of the struggle in the Middle East. These are days of real danger for our friends. Things might go in the right direction, or they could go dramatically wrong.

And we don’t have to look far to see how wrong. We’ve seen the Palestinian Authority choose “unity” with a terrorist organization that praises Osama bin Laden and condemned America for his death.

And make no mistake: Hamas is not legitimate. They are terrorists.

They seek the destruction of the West. And like their parent organization, The Muslim Brotherhood, they seek the global domination of Islam and the destruction of Israel.

For three years, the Palestinian Authority and PLO have refused peace talks with Israel. Now they threaten to resume a unilateral strategy at the United Nations designed to avoid making peace with Israel.

The only path to peace – which is the only goal – lies strictly in direct bilateral negotiations.

Those who suggest otherwise undermine the chances for peace.

We must confront the lies. And we must make sure our elected leaders know the truth.

Across the Middle East, meanwhile, Iran continues to pursue nuclear weapons and it continues to promote genocidal hatred of Jews.

Iran has used many excuses over the years to shield its intentions and run out the clock on its nuclear program. The IAEA, a notoriously careful organization, has issued multiple reports concluding that Iran’s nuclear program has a weapons component. Western intelligence agencies have concluded the same thing. No one sensible can say otherwise.

The Iranian regime is tyrannical and apocalyptic. It doesn’t fear pursuing mass murder anywhere on the globe. It doesn’t fear war. The Iranian military believes it can win a regional war because it believes the West is a paper tiger. The Iranian government is convinced that its newfound allies in Latin America and Asia will protect it from global pressure.

That’s why they were willing to commit terrorism on American soil. They sought to kill the Saudi ambassador and blow up the Israeli embassy, committing acts of war against three distinct countries, all of which are its rivals.

Everything that Iran does, and everything that Iran says, shows they are not afraid to leverage nuclear weapons. They call the Jewish State a cancer that needs to be eliminated with radiation. They have sought to erode freedoms as far away as Europe, threatening European governments during the Danish cartoon riots. They seek control over the Middle East and the world’s oil supply.

And the plot in Washington, DC reminds us that Iran is brazen. There’s more than one way to deliver a nuclear weapon.
Israel shares our values. Israel’s security is our security. Israel’s heritage is our heritage. And the threats that loom over Israel endanger us all.

We at the Friends of Israel Initiative will re-double our global efforts in defense of Israel, in support of a negotiated and consensual agreement, borne directly between the parties; a solution including borders that are truly defensible and secure.

And we all know that the ‘67 lines are neither defensible nor secure. And we will defend the right of Israel to choose the terms of any agreement.

Israel is a mature society, with strong and free institutions and a government accountable to its people. No one from the outside has more right than the Israelis themselves to decide what is best for their future -- what risks they must take with their children’s lives in pursuit of peace.

That includes keeping all options on the table against Iran, and making them meaningful. The world must remain united and sanctions must be increased. All economic options must be exhausted.

And if none of that works, we all must answer the question: how are we going to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons? This is not a rhetorical question based on groundless assumptions. It is and will be crucial for global stability.

In Europe, in Latin America, in Canada, here in Congress and in the Administration, everywhere, we meet with leaders at all levels to convey our message. And we will continue to do so.

We will defend for the State of Israel what we defend for ourselves. Nothing more; nothing less.

We will defend the State of Israel for ourselves.

And why, you might ask. Why are you doing this?

It is very simple: because all those who are involved in the Friends of Israel Initiative believe in Israel.

I believe in Israel. And I am not ashamed to say it.

I believe Israel is an integral part of the Western world. It might be in the Middle East, but it is not a Middle Eastern country.

Israel is a democracy like us.

Israel is a land of opportunities, prosperity and future,

The risks and threats that Israel faces are the same as those confronting us.

Israel is in the Middle East but it is not a Middle Eastern country. It is a Western nation.

When people are delegitimizing Israel, our roots and the values of pluralism, tolerance, innovation, liberty and human dignity are delegitimized as well.

If we accept the criticism of Israel’s right to self-defense, we allow those same forces to undermine our own defensive capabilities.

Fundamentally, my friends, we believe that if Israel falls under the weight of its enemies, we all collapse.

Without your support we could not be here.

With your support we plan to achieve much more.

We are proud to be Friends of Israel.

Thank you.

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