A group of respected former world leaders and academic figures came together in Paris earlier this month to establish the Friends of Israel initiative to combat what they called the "delegitimation of the State of Israel."
The group was led by former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar and included Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former First Minister of Northern Ireland David Trimble, former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo, Italian philosopher Marcelo Pear, British historian Andrew Roberts and former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton.
In a press release prior to the Paris event, the group expressed its outrage over the "unprecedented delegitimation campaign against Israel, driven by the enemies of the Jewish state and perversely assumed by numerous international authorities."
The Friends of Israel initiative differs from and compliments other pro-Israel movements because it "is promoted by people who are not Jewish and whose motivations are based on the deep conviction that Israel is part of the Western world. In fact, today Israel is a fundamental actor for the future of the West."
Aznar, Trimble, Bolton and the rest said that while they view the Israeli-Arab peace process as important, they believe disproportionate attention is being focused on it, while Islamic terror and a nuclear Iran are far greater threats to world peace and stability.
At the inaugural event in the French capital, the group stressed that it is not wrong to disagree with Israel, but that such disagreements over policy should never "be used as an excuse to question Israel's right to exist, its legitimacy or its national rights."
They concluded by declaring that "there is no West without Israel."
News of the initiative's launch was severely muted as it took place less than a day after Israel's raid on the Free Gaza "humanitarian aid" flotilla that was trying to break Israel's blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
David Trimble has since been named as one of two foreign observers on Israel's panel of inquiry into the flotilla raid.
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