(Communicated by the Communications Department - Office of President Shimon Peres)
A delegation of senior leaders from the "Friends of Israel Initiative" met with President Shimon Peres at Beit HaNassi in Jerusalem. The delegation was led by former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Aznar and included former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, and Noble Peace Prize laureate Lord David Trimble. The President held a working meeting with them and presented an overview of the situation in Israel and the region. The delegation briefed the President on their efforts especially their campaign to stop any unilateral moves by the Palestinians in the United Nations.
At the start of the meeting former Prime Minister Aznar said to President Peres: "We are here to express our support for the State of Israel in the face of the relentless campaign of delegitimization. We are here to show to Israel and to the world that Israel is not alone and that Israel is a Western democracy in the Middle East. We are here to express our support for Israel and to express our rejection of any unilateral action that takes away from the negotiating table, particularly now that we are confronted by the Palestinians looking for recognition from the United Nations in September. It is our belief that nothing positive can be achieved without honest conversations and discussion between the parties. If we want to see a lasting peace than unilateralism is not the way."
President Peres responded by saying: "I am grateful for your efforts on behalf of Israel, and for your courage and moral integrity to speak loudly and clearly on this issue by saying that a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state will cause great damage to the Palestinians, and increase instability and tension in the region. In all my meetings with Palestinian leaders I call upon them to return to the negotiating table. I know for certain that the gaps between the sides are small. There is no substitute for direct negotiations." The President also added that he is optimistic after the recent meeting of the Quartet.
The President added: "Israel faces a difficult international community with a built in majority against us in the United Nations. I said during a very difficult meeting I had with the UN Secretary General, that the United Nations cannot bury its head in the sand while there are very serious threats in the region including the weapons build-up of the Iranians and the call of Ahmadinejad to destroy Israel and turn Gaza into one of their satellites.
At the end of the meeting former Prime Minister Aznar said: "We will continue to work diligently and enthusiastically for Israel everywhere and with every leader."
The Friends of Israel Initiative was founded in 2010 to fight the deligitimization campaign against Israel and to promote Israel's right to peace and security alongside its neighbors. Alejandro Toledo, the former President of Peru, and Vaclav Havel the former Prime Minister of the Czech Republic are active members of the initiative.