Sunday, 28 October 2018

Erdogan seizes the moment

                                                                                 Video version
            Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s autocratic president, is a past-master at seizing the moment and turning it to his political advantage.  The latest example is the Jamal Khashoggi affair, which he has managed masterfully, gaining a steadily increasing advantage over his prime rivals in the Muslim world – Saudi Arabia.  But how secure is he against repercussions?

What Erdogan has sought, first and foremost, in his political career is absolute power.  This he has managed to win by outwitting his formidable political opponents, both at home and abroad.  Skilfully he managed a constitutional coup which first placed him in the presidency, and then redefined the role, function and powers of the office.

Along the way opposition centered around followers of Fethullah Gulen, an influential Turkish cleric who lives in the US. Gulen had followers at high levels in the Turkish establishment.  Early in December 2013 Erdogan was furious to discover that, for more than a year, the police had been engaged in an undercover inquiry into corruption within the government and the upper echelons of his AKP party. He declared the police investigation a plot to discredit his government ahead of local elections in March 2014.

Those elections were the key to unlocking Erdogan’s ambitions.  The AKP emerged as the strongest party, and back in office Erdogan successfully changed the constitution to permit him to remain as prime minister beyond the statutory three terms.  Still in power he stood for president in 2014, and won.  In the June 2015 general elections the AKP campaigned to enhance the presidential role to a nearly all-powerful position as head of government and head of state. The office of the prime minister would disappear, making way for a strong, executive president with the power to appoint cabinet ministers, propose budgets and appoint more than half the nation’s highest judicial body. The president would also have the power to impose states of emergency. 

The constitutional revision required endorsement by popular referendum, But popular support was evenly spread between the AKP and the Gulenists, and the result of the referendum seemed far from certain. 

Then came the events of 15 July 2016.

In a chaotic night of violence, what appears to have been an attempted coup by a group of the Turkish military left at least 290 people dead and more than 1,400 injured.  The confused sequence of events has never been fully explained.

Just before 11 pm, military jets were seen flying over Ankara, and a group of Turkish soldiers took over several institutions there and in Istanbul, where tanks rolled into the streets.  In the capital, Ankara, bombs struck the parliament building, and a helicopter stolen by rogue pilots was shot down by an F-16 jet.

Erdogan was hundreds of miles away as these events unfolded. By the time he addressed the nation hours later, the situation was under control.  On July 20 Erdogan, claiming that Gulen was behind the attempted coup, declared a state of emergency and instituted retribution of unprecedented severity. More than 110,000 people were arrested including nearly 11,000 police officers, 7,500 members of the military, and 2,500 prosecutors and judges. 179 media outlets were shut down, and some 2700 journalists dismissed. 

In April 2017 the referendum on enhanced presidential powers duly took place.  The result – a narrow 51 percent in favor and 49 percent against – confirmed the suspicions of those unconvinced about the nature of the coup the previous July.  Erdogan might well have lost the referendum, and with it his bid for supreme power. had there not been a strong reason to remove opposition voices and to rally Turkish opinion against rebels seeking to overthrow the government.

Turkey’s state of emergency was maintained for two full years, during which Erdogan was able to govern with virtually dictatorial powers, jailing some 160,000 people judged to be political opponents.  On July 8, 2018, just before the state of emergency was lifted, a new purge resulted in the sacking of a further 18,000 state workers, including soldiers, police and academics.  Another TV channel and a further three newspapers were closed.  In short, the Turkish state is as brutal and repressive a regime as one is likely to encounter anywhere in the civilized world, and a huge segment of the Turkish people is seething in resentment against it.

Erdogan has long sought to challenge Saudi Arabia as leader of the Sunni Muslim world.  He has seized the political initiative whenever possible by claiming to represent genuine Islamic interests, as against Saudi’s long alliance and friendship with the West. Erdogan seized on US President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017 as on a gift from the gods.  He convened a special meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, of which he was president. Presenting himself as the real Muslim defender of Jerusalem. he condemned Trump’s announcement and castigated the Arab world for its lacklustre response. 

Over the Khashoggi affair Erdogan has managed to inflict major damage to the global standing of his Saudi rivals.  Using the by-now fully compliant Turkish media, he has forced Saudi Arabia to retreat step by step in the face of mounting evidence of a pre-planned and brutal assassination.  In his address to the Turkish parliament on October 23 he managed to imply that the Turkish investigation would be able to reveal a good deal more in due course.

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS as he is known) is universally believed to have authorized the Khashoggi plot, and Erdogan’s master plan may be to discredit him to such an extent that his father, King Salman. would be forced to remove him from power.

However, to do so would be for the king to admit that MBS was indeed responsible for the Khashoggi affair. He is unlikely to take that course.  If he did choose to counter the relentless anti-Saudi campaign emanating from Ankara, there is plenty in Erdogan’s questionable tenure of the Turkish presidency to draw on.

Published in the Eurasia Review, 30 October 2018 as:
Erdogan is in a Glasshouse - is he safe throwing stones?

Published in the MPC Journal, 30 October 2018:

Monday, 22 October 2018

Saying it in English

                   This article appears in the edition of the "Jerusalem Report" dated 29 October 2018

News anchor Arieh O'Sullivan plays the blues in front of the Israel Broadcasting Authority's former headquarters in Jerusalem to protest the closure of the English News in 2017

          English is spoken by more of the world’s population than any other language, Chinese included. While only a small minority of Israeli citizens have English as their mother tongue, a high proportion can speak it. Why then, one might legitimately ask, does Israel’s state-supported media organization, the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation (or Kan, meaning “Here”, as they call themselves) originate not one single television programme in English, not even a newscast, and produce just one hour of radio news in English each day?

          Kan’s predecessor, the old Israel Broadcasting Authority (the IBA), traced its origins back to the days of the British Mandate, which in 1936 set up Palestine’s first radio station. In 1948 it was handed over to the newly established State of Israel, and began broadcasting as Kol Yisrael (which translates as “The Voice of Israel”, but also, by way of a pun in Hebrew, “All Israel”). In the IBA’s later years a number of investigations exposed administrative failures and an inappropriate “old-boy-network” system of management that severely shook public confidence in the organization. Eventually the government decided on drastic action. In May 2014 a Bill in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, proposed abolishing the IBA and replacing it with a new broadcasting body. The political and legislative process took three full years, and Kan went on the air on May 15, 2017.

          Whatever its administrative shortcomings, during its 48 years of operation the old IBA chalked up many successes. As Israel Media Watch (IMW) founder, Eli Pollak, points out, for many years it did fulfil its original remit – to reflect and document the life and culture of Israeli citizens, of Judaism and of the diaspora, by broadcasting both within and outside Israel. Back in the latter half of the twentieth century, when radio was dominant as the medium of mass communication, the IBA was broadcasting five daily programmes in English both to domestic audiences and, by way of shortwave transmissions, world-wide.

          English-language news and comment programmes transmitted by the old Kol Yisrael were heard across the globe, providing an account of life in Israel that was in stark contrast to the largely ill-disposed picture painted by most of the world’s media. In the darkest days of the Cold War the English broadcasts of Kol Yisrael even penetrated the Iron Curtain, sustaining and supporting the “refuseniks” who kept pressing the Soviet authorities to be allowed to emigrate to Israel.

          In short the IBA was attempting, in many respects successfully, to meet the four challenges facing a state-supported public broadcasting organization in Israel. First and foremost, it had an obligation to provide an acceptable radio and TV service to its domestic audience. Secondly, it needed to take account of the needs of the large number of immigrants who had another language as their mother tongue. Thirdly it had an obligation to the Jewish diaspora, by providing them with news from Israel and a picture of Israeli life and culture. Fourthly, there was a crying need to present the non-Jewish world with an authoritative account of how the political, economic and cultural problems of the Middle East were impacting on Israel – in short, an Israeli point of view.
                      Staff protest at the closure of English News in 2017
          Nowadays communications are global. TV stations are not confined to their country of origin. By way of on-line transmissions and their take-up by cable companies and satellite broadcasters, TV networks can enjoy an enormous global reach. It has become common practice for countries intent on conveying their slant on the news to set up 24-hour TV stations broadcasting in English. Israel’s main cable and satellite companies, just like such organizations across the globe, offer their customers English-language TV stations originating from – among other places − Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, China, Russia, France, and Germany, as well as several from the USA and Britain. From Israel’s state-sponsored broadcasting body itself, though, there is not a peep!

          As a result a world-wide audience amounting to many millions gain their impressions of Israel, its political situation, its problems and its culture, from sources that are often openly hostile. Is it any wonder that Israel has such a poor public image with so many people across the globe?

          The requirement, built into the old IBA’s remit, to present Israel to the world was not included in the charter of Kan. IMW’s Eli Pollak sees Kan, shorn as it is of all public policy concerns, as essentially a commercially orientated body. During the negotiations that led to its creation, says Pollak, it was Israel Media Watch which pressed for “Israel” to be included in the formal title of the new body. It originally wished to be known merely as the “Public Broadcasting Corporation”. IMW could not prevail against the government’s categorical refusal to mandate the new body to broadcast to the diaspora – indeed the IPBC law expressly deleted a paragraph that would have forced it to do so­­ − but as the IPBC it is at least formally identified as Israel’s public voice and, as such, could legitimately be entrusted with presenting an Israeli point of view to the world.

          In fact Michael Mero, one-time head of IBA’s external radio broadcasting, believes that Kan’s remit should be extended by the government to encompass responsibility for portraying Israel in all its aspects to a global audience. He points to the UK’s enormously prestigious BBC as an example of how much influence a public service broadcasting organization can achieve in conveying news, comment and information to the world at large. Mero would urge Ayoob Kara, the Minister of Communications, to consider how ill-represented Israel is in the world league of radio and TV broadcasters, to start convincing fellow Cabinet ministers of the urgent need for Israel’s point of view to be presented to the world, and to re-examine and revise Kan’s remit accordingly. No longer should nations hostile to Israel be allowed to dominate the world’s airwaves with a constant stream of anti-Israel propaganda with no authoritative alternative point of view being provided to the global audience.

          Nature abhors a vacuum. Well before the IBA had tottered to its demise, its English language TV and radio broadcasts reduced to a bare minimum, a couple of commercial internet-based news enterprises had begun disseminating an Israeli point of view on line.

          The earliest effort was mounted by the Moroccan-born Jewish businessman, Patrick Drahi. He launched an internet TV channel called i24news in 2013 with the specific intention of battling prejudice and ignorance about Israel. Broadcasting in English, French and Arabic, i24news spread into cable and satellite transmissions in the USA, Europe and Africa. Finally, on August 28, 2018, it started transmitting inside Israel. Its programmes in English are carried by the HOT cable provider on channel 200. Currently the station broadcasts about four hours of its English schedule from New York, and the rest from its studios in Jaffa.

          The ILTV station, funded by J Media Group, a major US advertising organization, began broadcasting online in December 2015. By then Steve Leibowitz, who had been running what was left of the IBA’s English news service as editor-in-chief, had already resigned, perhaps unwilling to be transferred to a new Israeli broadcasting body with a severely restricted remit. In November 2016 he joined ILTV, determined to bring newscasts in English back to Israel’s television screens.

          In February 2017 his efforts were crowned with success. By way of a syndication agreement with Cyprus-based Middle East Television (METV), ILTV’s newcasts are now transmitted on the METV channel on five nights a week. Since METV is carried by Israel’s cable and satellite companies, the ILTV broadcasts are available to the whole Israeli audience. Announcing the partnership Jess Dolgin, CEO of J Media Global, emphasized that the new arrangement would help bring news in English not only to Israeli viewers, but to an audience of some 70 million spread across Asia and Africa.

          There are also several Israel-based internet radio stations broadcasting to the world in English, such as TLV1 and Israel News Talk Radio, an affiliate of Fox News Radio.

          Yet a commercial radio or TV source cannot carry the same weight as a public service broadcasting organization. There are times and occasions for a nation to demonstrate its military might but, as Michael Mero points out, the soft power at a nation’s disposal can be highly effective in its own way. Speaking to the world in English, the generally acknowledged universal language, is just such a demonstration of soft power and is being utilized by more and more nations. Is it not time for Israel to recognize the potential it has to expand its influence while vastly increasing the number of its friends, and take the necessary steps? Perhaps the responsibility now laid on Kan to produce the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest for a world-wide audience will kick-start a more imaginative approach for the future.

Published in the Jerusalem Post, 23 October 2018:

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Hamas, Fatah and Israel - an eternal triangle

                                                                                   Video version
          Hamas, Fatah and Israel – three entities locked in an unproductive relationship. Hamas and Fatah may both consider Israel their mortal enemy, but their hatred for each other is just as bitter. Meanwhile Israel may not actively hate the warring Palestinian organizations, but it totally mistrusts both of them and looks on as they strive against each other.

          The Islamist world is fratricidal. Many groups are in bitter conflict with one another, not always along the traditional Sunni-Shia divide. One long-running feud – the continuing struggle between Hamas and Fatah – does not concern religious doctrine, nor even basic political objectives. Both bodies are Sunni Muslim; both are pledged to restore to Islamic rule the whole of Mandate Palestine, including the area currently occupied by the state of Israel. Their fundamental disagreement is over the strategy for achieving their common purpose, and their struggle is a struggle for power within the Palestinian body politic.

          At just about 10 a.m. on March 13, 2018 Rami Hamdallah, prime minister of the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, drove in a motorcade from Israel, through the Erez Crossing, into the Gaza strip. A few seconds later, some 200 meters into Gaza, his car was blasted by a roadside bomb which brought the convoy to an abrupt halt. Seven staff members were injured, but Hamdallah and his intelligence chief Majid Faraj, who was travelling with him, were unharmed, and the whole party quickly retreated to the safety of Israel.

          Within two minutes the Palestinian Authority had issued a statement accusing Hamas of responsibility for the incident, an accusation reiterated by PA President Mahmoud Abbas himself a week later. On March 20 Abbas, speaking to Palestinian leaders in Ramallah, said that if the assassination attempt had succeeded it would have "opened the way for a bloody civil war".

          The incident, he said, would "not be allowed to pass", and he announced that he had taken new “national, legal and financial measures” in retaliation. He did not specify what they were, but they would be on top of cuts ordered by Abbas in 2017 in budgets allocated to Gaza for electricity, medical services, government employees’ salaries and other purposes – steps taken by Abbas in an attempt to pressurize Hamas into ceding control of Gaza to the PA.

          Two days after Abbas’s speech, on March 22, Hamas-run security forces in Gaza announced the death in a gun battle of the main suspect in the assassination attempt. The official statement declared that the suspect, Anas Abdel Malik Abu Khousa, and two colleagues were involved in a shootout with security forces that surrounded his hideout at al-Nuseirat Camp in the center of the Gaza Strip. Two security officers were also killed,

          This incident and its aftermath produced a sharp reversal in Hamas-Fatah reconciliation efforts being diligently pursued at the time by the Egyptian government. Egypt had been trying to broker a deal under which the PA would resume administrative and security control over the two million inhabitants of the Gaza strip.

          Abbas maintained that there had been “zero progress” in the reconciliation process – scarcely surprising, since it was only the latest in at least a dozen unsuccessful attempts since 2005 to reconcile the two warring factions. Despite the suspension of talks, Fatah tried to enlist support for Abbas in the streets of Gaza ahead of his speech at the UN General Assembly on September 27. Hamas prevented this. It warned the owners of printing houses in Gaza not to publish posters supporting Abbas, while detaining dozens of Fatah operatives.

          The PA responded. Nearly 50 Hamas activists were taken into custody in the West Bank.

          Now Abbas is said to be jittery following recent statements from the Hamas leadership indicating that Hamas is seeking a new truce agreement with Israel to incorporate the lifting of sanctions.

          Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar recently told an Italian journalist that despite the continuing tensions along the Gaza­­– Israel border, Hamas is not interested in another war. A new war with Israel could well end Hamas’s rule over the Gaza Strip. Some of its top leaders are convinced that this is precisely what Abbas wants, which explains why they are prepared to accept a long-term truce with Israel under the auspices of Egypt and the UN.

          Abbas opposes the truce concept tooth and nail. He sees it as entrenching Hamas in Gaza indefinitely. What he probably hopes for is what the Hamas leadership opposes – a new Hamas-Israeli conflict which results in the total defeat of Hamas and the extension of PA rule over Gaza’s two million Palestinians.

          Netanyahu, at a press conference on October 4 with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said that over the last year Abbas “has made the situation in Gaza more difficult by choking off the flow of funds from the Palestinian Authority to Gaza.”

          And indeed, two days later, a senior Hamas official revealed that although Qatar had paid for the fuel needed to keep power plants in Gaza running, and Israel had agreed to the pumping of the fuel into the Strip, the PA was hindering the initiative.

          “The PA threatened the transportation company workers and the employees of the electricity company,” he said, “that they would be held accountable if they received the fuel and operated the power plant for more than four hours. So,” he concluded,” who is besieging you, people of Gaza?”

          Subsequently, in the light of particularly savage attacks on the Israel-Gaza border, Israel has rescinded its cooperation, while the Gaza leadership asserts that the border attacks will continue until Israel lifts its blockade on the export into the Strip of proscribed “dual-use” materials that can be used for military purposes.

          To term all this a merry-go-round is to belittle the seriousness of the issues at stake, and especially the humanitarian disaster that has overtaken the people of Gaza. They have become pawns in a struggle for power between Hamas and Fatah in which Israel, a major player, has to stand to one side till it is played out.

Published in the MPC Journal, 16 October 2018:

Published in the Eurasia Review, 24 October 2018:

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

The Friends of Israel Initiative

This article appears in the edition of the "Jerusalem Report" dated 15 October 2018
Stephen Harper, former prime minister of Canada, took over the chair of the Friends of Israel Initiative from founder José Maria Aznar as from 1 September 2018.

It is generally acknowledged that anti-semitic activity, often masquerading as anti-Zionism, has burgeoned across the Western world. Overt anti-Israel sentiment, often linked to support for Palestinian rights and sometimes for the overthrow of the Israeli state, has become increasingly acceptable in left-wing and even liberal circles. In a climate as hostile as this, who could have predicted that considerable numbers of well-respected figures, virtually all non-Jewish, from countries all around the world, would come together to defend Israel against the insidious and growing campaign to delegitimize her, waged by her enemies and supported by numerous international institutions? 

More than eight years have passed since the Friends of Israel Initiative (FoII) was launched. Pro-Israeli initiatives are far from popular, so it is perhaps unsurprising that the enterprise has received little general publicity, even in Israel, and is still not on the political map. The organization is, though, so unusual that it deserves to be better known. 

It was in May 2010 that former Prime Minister of Spain, José Maria Aznar, brought together a high level group in Paris to launch a project aimed specifically at supporting Israel as a legitimate democratic sovereign nation. A fundamental purpose of the initiative was to affirm that Israel is an integral part of the Western world and of crucial importance to its future. The group of course acknowledged that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was important, but members were even more concerned at the time about the rising tide of radical Islamism and the prospect of a nuclear Iran, both of which in their view threatened the entire world. 

Who are these people, prepared to take so unfashionable and therefore so courageous a stand? It is a glittering list of men and women (of whom there could, and should, be more) in all walks of life, almost none of them Jewish, who have reached positions of eminence in their own fields. 

The current list of members of the Friends of Israel Initiative includes three former Heads of State, four former Heads of Government, and seven former government ministers, as well as a former ambassador, State Governor, head of a national intelligence agency and military commander, together with people still active in the academic, journalist and business fields. A number of original members of the group have subsequently been appointed to official or governmental posts, and have therefore withdrawn for the time being from active involvement. Stephen Harper, former prime minister of Canada, took over the chair of the Friends of Israel from founder José Maria Aznar as from 1 September 2018. 

On its website the Initiative explains that it was founded out of a sense of deep concern about the unprecedented campaign of delegitimization against Israel waged by the enemies of the Jewish state and supported by numerous international institutions. The key aim of the Initiative is to counter the growing efforts of bodies like BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) and its followers to delegitimize the State of Israel and its right to live in peace within safe and defensible borders. In pursuit of this aim, the Initiative is committed to disseminating its members’ vision of Israel as a democratic, open, and advanced nation like any other, and to insist that it should be perceived and treated as such. 
The Initiative maintains that Israel is a sovereign democracy which like all others is, of course, capable of making mistakes. Nonetheless, it asserts, this should not be used as an excuse to question Israel’s right to exist, its legitimacy, or its basic rights as an independent state. 

The FoII, officially launched in France, the UK and the USA, concentrated in its first few years on spreading its basic message by way of a series of lectures, receptions and events. After a while. however, the group became increasingly proactive. Its major project for 2015 was to prepare a full and carefully reasoned report aimed at changing the perception that many have about Israel. 

Sometimes, as the Prologue to the report explained, ”it is because people don’t know better; sometimes it is the result of extremely biased opinions in the media. We want to introduce some rationality when talking about Israel and because of that, this report highlights the many positive aspects of a dynamic, vibrant, and promising Israel, yet without keeping silent about some controversial issues. In any case, what we want is for the reader to feel and see the positive effect of having Israel, a strong Israel, at our side. Having a secure Israel means more security for us; having a prosperous Israel enriches us all. Thinking the opposite is simply wrong as this report demonstrates with clarity and simplicity.” 

The document, entitled “Israel: A Vital Asset of the West”, was launched at a meeting in the UK’s House of Commons in November 2015. 

From this point the group began to spread its wings. In 2015 the Friends of Israel Initiative sponsored a major enterprise – the High Level Military Group (HLMG). HLMG consists of military leaders and officials from NATO and other democratic countries. Its mandate is to address the implications for western warfare of fighting enemies who disregard the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC), but exploit other nations’ adherence to it. 

Its first project was to assess the 2014 Gaza conflict against those criteria, and it followed this with a more general report about the problems facing western combat troops in general. In February 2016 the reports were presented in person to the US House of Representatives Council on Foreign Relations. 

A few months later the FoII sponsored a new High Level Home Front Group (HLHFG), made up of top intelligence, counter terrorism and police officials from the US, UK, Spain, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, and Colombia. Its remit was to evaluate the Israeli experience in preventing and stopping indiscriminate attacks in cities, as well as the recruitment of terrorists, so as to assist other nations facing similar threats. 

In June 2017 an HLHFG delegation visited Brussels to present to top EU policy-makers the findings of its landmark report into the relevance of Israel’s experience in helping other democratic nations fight terrorism. “Fighting Terror Effectively: An Assessment of Israel’s Experience on the Home Front” is a study into how Israel has built a uniquely effective apparatus to prevent and respond to domestic terror, honed by decades of bitter experience. 

The HLMG is currently in the midst of a major project aimed at assessing the threat Hezbollah poses to Israel, and how Israel is preparing to defend itself in the event of a third Lebanon war. In March 2017, the group embarked on a fact-finding mission, visiting training camps of Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF), and touring the Syrian and Lebanese borders. In its report, “Hezbollah’s Terror Army: How to Prevent a Third War in Lebanon”, the HLMG stressed the devastating level of violence that a new conflict would entail. Nevertheless, it said, IDF procedures and strategic planning showed that Israeli forces were well prepared to minimize civilian causalities and, just as in the past, to abide fully by the rules of engagement established by the Laws of Armed Conflict. 

On October 25, 2017 the report was presented to the US Congress, and was presented in a public event hosted by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Subsequently, to present the major findings and engage those responsible, the HLMG undertook a series of private and public presentations in the US and Europe. 

At the initial launch of the Friends of Israel Initiative in Washington in September 2010, José Maria Aznar explained the motivation behind the new organization. 
“Israel is under a new kind of attack,” he said. “Not conventional war as in 1948, ‘56, ‘67 or ‘73. Not terrorism as we saw in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. But a new kind of attack – an attack on Israel’s legitimacy, on her right to exist. A "soft war", where many of its adversaries are employing legal tricks, multinational bodies, and an army of dubious NGO's to present Israel internationally as an illegitimate state, as a barbarian state, a state that should be isolated and converted into a pariah state. 

“We think this is intolerable. It is unjust, morally wrong, and a strategic risk – not only for Israel and its people, but for all of us. Israel is an integral part of the West, and the weaker it is, the weaker the entire West will be perceived to be. 

“Let me be clear. We don't want in any case to defend any particular Israeli government or any particular set of policies or any particular party. Israel's institutions are mature enough to defend their choices. We want to stand up for the right of Israel to exist. Judeo-Christian values form the roots of our civilization. Delegitimising Israel undermines our identity, warps our values and put at risk what we are and who we are… 

“Is it craziness for a group of mostly Europeans and non-Jews, to say: Enough. Stop this nonsense of making Israel responsible for all the problems in the region, if not beyond? Enough of the short sightedness which refuses to see Israel as a corner stone of our Western civilization? Defending Israel today means strengthening the West...” 

These are sentiments that ought to have commanded widespread support within the Western community of nations. They combine reason with the most basic appeal of all – self-preservation. Yet Aznar’s message evoked little response at the time from opinion leaders the world over, and the real achievements of the body he founded remain generally unrecognized. 

There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Published in the Jerusalem Post, 15 October 2018: