Friends of tolerance and democracy are Friends of Israel
Mounting criticism of Israel is an easy choice of European leaders. But it is the wrong one. Israel has the right to defence itself and Israeli leaders have the obligation to protect their people.
Self-defence is a right of people and nations that is enshrined in Article 51 of the UN Charter. The war we are witnessing right now over Gaza was not initiated by Israel but by Hamas, well before the killing of its military commander, the well-known terrorist, Ahmed al-Jaabari.
After a quiet period following Operation Cast Lead at the end of 2008, rocket attacks from Gaza have been steadily reassumed with increasing ferocity: 150 rockets hit Israel in 2010; 680 last year; and more than 800 were launched this year before al-Jaabari’s death. Hamas was not sending flowers to schools and homes in southern Israel, but destruction and terror.
Hamas has indeed provoked the Israeli reaction because its leadership prefers war to peace despite the suffering violence bring to its people. It may have chosen to do so for reasons we can only speculate upon — to further undermine the authority of Mahmoud Abbas as the President of the Palestinian Authority; to increase its standing in the eyes of Sunni radicals at a time when Hamas has been expelled from Damascus; or to force a rapprochement with the Muslin Brotherhood now ruling in neighbouring Egypt. The reasons really don’t matter. The fact is that Hamas has once again taken the path of confrontation over peace.
No country has like Israel sustained the continuous bombardment of its people year after year. No leader of any nation may rest quiet and passive before thousands of attacks against its citizens. The military activities we now see are just the logical counter-reaction against an unbearable situation. The ferocity reported by some is not coming from the Israeli forces which take great risks to avoid civilian casualties. This is precisely the opposite of the Palestinian rockets whose only targets are civilians — men, women and children.
The Friends of Israel Initiative stands by Israel and its right to self-defence. We deplore war but we understand that Israeli leaders have the legitimacy to act against Israel enemies. Make no mistake, Hamas is a terrorist organization whose goal is to put an end to the existence of the State of Israel and to impose a fanatical regime based upon religion. Hamas, by its nature, is the enemy of what we, democratic, open and tolerant people, are and believe in.
We want to see peace in the region, but we have to make a clear distinction between those who want to prevail through terror and those who defend themselves from terrorist attacks. We make a call that we should stand by Israel in such difficult moments.
José María Aznar is Chairman of the Friends of Israel Initiative and was Prime of Minister of Spain, 1996-2004