A delegation of distinguished past world leaders and senior government advisors led by ex-Spanish Prime Minister Jose Aznar, ex-US UN Ambassador John Bolton, Nobel Prize Laureate Lord David Trimble of North Ireland, member of Israel's official flotilla inquiry commission and Robert Agostinelli, French entrepreneur and a founding member of the Friends of Israel Initiative, , , met with President Shimon Peres in his office Thursday morning.
The group arrived in Israel this week for a series of meetings with Israeli political and public leaders aimed at highlighting global support for the country. They also met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon, Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.
They held a work meeting with the president and updated Peres on their pro-Israel activities, primarily on their efforts to prevent a unilateral declaration of a PA state in the UN.
At the beginning of the meeting, Aznar said to Peres, “We have come to declare our support of Israel in the face of the recent attempts to de-legitimize it. Israel is not alone, and as the only democracy in the Middle East, must have international support.
“Our visit clearly shows that there are many in the international community who remain committed to preserving Israel’s legitimate rights as a nation-state and recognize that the planned Palestinian actions will lead to a deterioration of the security situation without benefiting their cause to create a secure and peaceful state.”
Aznar added that the delegation is in favor of direct negotiations with the PA. “Isolation of Israel will not help the peace process. We intend to appear before many international forums, such as the Durban Convention and other UN events. We will meet with European leaders and make a point of Israel’s rightful position, and of the importance of the promotion of the peace process through negotiation", he said.
David Trimble also described the thorough work the delegation carried out, battling to achieve the positive opinions of European leaders and the public.
President Peres said at the meeting, “You have my heartfelt gratitude. Your activity is invaluable to Israel. It takes courage and integrity to come out and say that a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state will do great damage to the Palestinians, and will destabilize the region. I keep urging the Palestinian leaders to negotiate. The gap between the sides is very small. There is no substitute for direct negotiations. If you read between the lines of the Quartet’s meetings, it is clear that there is room for optimism.”
He urged them to present Israel's positive contributions to the world, saying "“Israel is a true example of a country without either land or water resources that has been able to build a sustainable economy and directly contribute to the world on a global scale.”
Peres added, “Israel is in a difficult international situation. Most of the UN is against us. I spoke harshly to the secretary-general of the UN. I told him that the UN cannot ignore the regional threats like the Iranian nuclear program, or Ahmadinijad’s calls to destroy Israel, or how Gaza is becoming a heavily-armed branch of Iran.”
At the end of the meeting the delegation thanked the president, and Aznar concluded, “We will continue to work hard for Israel, anywhere we can, standing up to all the leaders.”
The ‘Friends of Israel’ organization delegation initiative started in 2010, designed to contend with the de-legitimization of Israel, making a clear statement that Israel has the right to exist in peace and security. Among organization members are ex-President of Peru Alejandro Toledo and ex-Slovakian President Vaclav Havel.
In recent months, the members of the Initiative have traveled to numerous national capitals to meet with world leaders with the specific goal of expressing concern over a possible unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood in September. According to Mr. Aznar, the visit this week is designed to rally international support for Israel’s leaders at a time of heightened diplomatic and public criticism of the Jewish State.