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OPINION – José María Aznar: If Israel goes down, we all go down

(WJC)–The following article by the former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar was published in the British newspaper ‘The Times’ on 17 June 2010:

If Israel goes down, we all go down

Anger over Gaza is a distraction. We cannot forget that Israel is the West’s best ally in a turbulent region

By José María Aznar

For far too long now it has been unfashionable in Europe to speak up for Israel. In the wake of the recent incident on board a ship full of anti-Israeli activists in the Mediterranean, it is hard to think of a more unpopular cause to champion.

In an ideal world, the assault by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara would not have ended up with nine dead and a score wounded. In an ideal world, the soldiers would have been peacefully welcomed on to the ship. In an ideal world, no state, let alone a recent ally of Israel such as Turkey, would have sponsored and organised a flotilla whose sole purpose was to create an impossible situation for Israel: making it choose between giving up its security policy and the naval blockade, or risking the wrath of the world.

In our dealings with Israel, we must blow away the red mists of anger that too often cloud our judgment. A reasonable and balanced approach should encapsulate the following realities: first, the state of Israel was created by a decision of the UN. Its legitimacy, therefore, should not be in question. Israel is a nation with deeply rooted democratic institutions. It is a dynamic and open society that has repeatedly excelled in culture, science and technology.

Second, owing to its roots, history, and values, Israel is a fully fledged Western nation. Indeed, it is a normal Western nation, but one confronted by abnormal circumstances.

Uniquely in the West, it is the only democracy whose very existence has been questioned since its inception. In the first instance, it was attacked by its neighbours using the conventional weapons of war. Then it faced terrorism culminating in wave after wave of suicide attacks. Now, at the behest of radical Islamists and their sympathisers, it faces a campaign of delegitimisation through international law and diplomacy.

Sixty-two years after its creation, Israel is still fighting for its very survival. Punished with missiles raining from north and south, threatened with destruction by an Iran aiming to acquire nuclear weapons and pressed upon by friend and foe, Israel, it seems, is never to have a moment’s peace.

For years, the focus of Western attention has understandably been on the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. But if Israel is in danger today and the whole region is slipping towards a worryingly problematic future, it is not due to the lack of understanding between the parties on how to solve this conflict. The parameters of any prospective peace agreement are clear, however difficult it may seem for the two sides to make the final push for a settlement.

The real threats to regional stability, however, are to be found in the rise of a radical Islamism which sees Israel’s destruction as the fulfilment of its religious destiny and, simultaneously in the case of Iran, as an expression of its ambitions for regional hegemony. Both phenomena are threats that affect not only Israel, but also the wider West and the world at large.

The core of the problem lies in the ambiguous and often erroneous manner in which too many Western countries are now reacting to this situation. It is easy to blame Israel for all the evils in the Middle East. Some even act and talk as if a new understanding with the Muslim world could be achieved if only we were prepared to sacrifice the Jewish state on the altar. This would be folly.

Israel is our first line of defence in a turbulent region that is constantly at risk of descending into chaos; a region vital to our energy security owing to our overdependence on Middle Eastern oil; a region that forms the front line in the fight against extremism. If Israel goes down, we all go down. To defend Israel’s right to exist in peace, within secure borders, requires a degree of moral and strategic clarity that too often seems to have disappeared in Europe. The United States shows worrying signs of heading in the same direction.

The West is going through a period of confusion over the shape of the world’s future. To a great extent, this confusion is caused by a kind of masochistic self-doubt over our own identity; by the rule of political correctness; by a multiculturalism that forces us to our knees before others; and by a secularism which, irony of ironies, blinds us even when we are confronted by jihadis promoting the most fanatical incarnation of their faith. To abandon Israel to its fate, at this moment of all moments, would merely serve to illustrate how far we have sunk and how inexorable our decline now appears.

This cannot be allowed to happen. Motivated by the need to rebuild our own Western values, expressing deep concern about the wave of aggression against Israel, and mindful that Israel’s strength is our strength and Israel’s weakness is our weakness, I have decided to promote a new Friends of Israel initiative with the help of some prominent people, including David Trimble, Andrew Roberts, John Bolton, Alejandro Toledo (the former President of Peru), Marcello Pera (philosopher and former President of the Italian Senate), Fiamma Nirenstein (the Italian author and politician), the financier Robert Agostinelli and the Catholic intellectual George Weigel.

It is not our intention to defend any specific policy or any particular Israeli government. The sponsors of this initiative are certain to disagree at times with decisions taken by Jerusalem. We are democrats, and we believe in diversity.

What binds us, however, is our unyielding support for Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself. For Western countries to side with those who question Israel’s legitimacy, for them to play games in international bodies with Israel’s vital security issues, for them to appease those who oppose Western values rather than robustly to stand up in defence of those values, is not only a grave moral mistake, but a strategic error of the first magnitude.

Israel is a fundamental part of the West. The West is what it is thanks to its Judeo-Christian roots. If the Jewish element of those roots is upturned and Israel is lost, then we are lost too. Whether we like it or not, our fate is inextricably intertwined.
José María Aznar was prime minister of Spain between 1996 and 2004.


Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

  1. March 6, 2012 at 9:24 am

    I am following with interest the present negotiations between the different powers involved with the Israeli-Palestinian question. The PM of Israel is a man of character and I admire him. I hope he will continue his general approach towards President Obama: one of firmness, prudence and permanent vigilance. Israel is a world power in every sense.
    Dr. Leo Hegel Astete, Ph.D.; Vic., Australia.

  2. January 23, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    A united Israel is the best human solution to the extant problem. Oh the land of ample Arabia ready to receive the throngs of Palestinians thus leaving in peace the eternal fatherland of blessed Israel!

  3. January 12, 2011 at 2:51 am

    It is indeed refreshing to know that the illustrious statesman Mr. Jose Maria Aznar is a democrat and a believer in diversity. In this respect he shows a common element with Israel which is also so. This nation is not at all an aparheid state, despite her enemies’ efforts to destroy her through subtle and not so subtle methods, including devious diplomacy and a faceless mask purporting martyrdom and genuine pain in the western scenarios of the globe. My opinion is that Israel faces the facts involved, fully aware that there may not be peace with the palestinian state as long as such state does deal with its own ultramilitant mentors. But is this possible?

  4. December 29, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    I re-read Mr. Aznar’s article. Indeed what he calls a process of “Israel’s delegimatisation through international law and diplomacy”, continues; not to mention other powerful inimical initiatives. This process must not go on. Through our common western values and capabilities it is imperative we stand by Israel by every means and resources on hand; lest – to be blunt – we commit global suicide. We, as common westerners and lovers of Israel, must now, more than ever, avoid hesitating in supporting her by every way of plausible attitude and action. Dr. Leo Hegel Astete. Vic., Australia.

  5. December 13, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    As a former resident in Spain I find the comment by Jeffrey Nakar most interesting and, at the same time, accurate. Palestine, a non-existing political entity, progragates the idea of a future mythical, wishful thinking – centred, as well as demential “liberation” of Andaluz for Palestine. However, both today’s Spain and Europe would never tolerate such an initiative on the part of the so called, I repeat, Palestine.

  6. December 11, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    I find the response of Eldad Kish to the article by Jose Maria Aznar repetitive and a reflection of the negative attitute of a large section of the world towards Israel.
    Indeed this nation is under attack to its survival. It is a bastion of democracy for the world at large. It has a legitimate right to defend itself against its enemies through every course of action possible. I welcome the creation of the new Friends of Israel initiative.

  7. eldad kisch
    July 5, 2010 at 4:48 am

    A response to the article by Jose Maria Aznar.

    What is the sense of invoking ‘an ideal world’, and then go only half of the way?
    In an ideal world, there would be no generations-long conflict between Israel and its neighbors.
    Then comes the premiss that Israel is a fully fledged Western, democratic nation. Israel is a special case of practically unlimited might, at times shown with brute force; with a chip on its shoulder, an unshakable distrust of the intentions of other nations, with a certain cockiness. All this is born of a deep scar in the history of the nation, to be flaunted on all possible occasions. This democracy was always partial when it came to its own Arab minority, invoking security and defense.
    On the other hand, lately an unmistakable leaning to the right of its government and population, where more democratic rights will be easily abridged and put aside for interests of the moment, without a peep from the silent majority.
    And then a niece piece of demagoguery. ‘Punished with missiles raining from north and south’; these have real nuisance value and cost deplored lives, but they are not at any moment dangerous to Israel’s survival. Accordingly, ‘Still fighting for its survival’ is an often heard mantra, yet Israel is at the moment under no existential threat, due to the deterrence of its secret arms and its mighty army. The only future danger comes from Iran, and this is a problem that cannot be solved by Israel alone.
    The author thinks – to my mind mistakenly – that the absence of progress in the peace process in the Middle-Eastern conflict ‘is not due to lack of understanding between the parties on how to solve this conflict’. If his assumption is correct, why can’t the sides ‘make the final push for a settlement’? Only some serious arm-twisting will bring these unwilling partners together.
    Another icon of Israel’s friends is the idea of Israel as the western bastion, vital to western security in ‘a region that is constantly at the risk of descending into chaos’. Come on now. Even if Israel were not there, this would be a messy area of the world, which will go on selling its oil to the highest bidder. I doubt the realistic strategic value of Israel for the west, but it is nice that others think so.
    ‘If Israel goes down, we all go down’ is a little excessive, isn’t it?
    Remains the very problematic and submissive attitude of the western world to Muslim extremism, for which no suitable answer is yet forthcoming. There is little that Israel can do about this, and certainly its mistaken aggressive attitude at the wrong time will not influence this ongoing process. If 9/11 did not open anybody’s eyes, nothing that our policies seem to imply will impress Europe or America.
    The ‘new Friends of Israel initiative’ is to be welcomed, if it is intended to safeguard the existence of the state of Israel, maintaining all critical faculties without cheering Israel’s wrongheaded political shenanigans.

    Eldad Kisch; july 2010.

  8. Marilyn Goran
    June 28, 2010 at 3:25 am

    This should be forwarded to the Pok Journal with a request to reprint on their opinon page as they seem to relish printing anti Isreal letters to the editor based on false facts and/or hatred. It would be interesting to see their reaction to the request

  9. Jeffrey Nakar
    June 21, 2010 at 5:32 am

    The former prime minister is to be congratulated. Spain seems to be the next target. Let us not forget Farfur Mouse (the Mickey Mouse rip-off on Gaza televison) “once we have liberated Palestine we must not forget our beloved Andaluz.” Let us hope Europe wakes up before it is too late.

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