Former spanish pm says europe supports palestinians
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Spain's ex-PM to Israel: Ignore Europe
Herb Keinon, THE JERUSALEM POST Jun. 6, 2005
Israel need not pay much attention to Europe, which is using its Middle East policy to separate itself from the US, has a tendency toward appeasement and is largely pro-Palestinian, former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar told The Jerusalem Post Monday.
"Europe likes appeasement very much; this is one of the most important differences between us and the States," Aznar said in an interview on the Bar-Ilan University campus. "Europeans don't like any problems. They prefer appeasement."
The strongly pro-American Aznar, who bucked public sentiment in Spain and backed US President George W. Bush's war in Iraq, served as prime minister from 1996-2004. He is currently in the country for Bar-Ilan's jubilee celebration, at which he will receive an honorary doctorate on Tuesday.
Aznar said Europe had no chance of independently impacting on the situation in the Middle East and would be wise to work closely with the US.
"Do we Europeans have the capacity to change the situation and influence this area? The answer is no," he said.
Aznar said that European policy was "not favorable to Israel," and that different political leaders in Europe used the Middle East question as a way to establish a different identity from the US.
"In Europe, Israel is not very popular, not only this government, all governments," he said. "Most Europeans support the Palestinian cause. Europeans sincerely wish for a peace agreement and support the peace process, but the reality is that the peace process is closed. At this moment I think that Europe should work closely with the States, because that is the only opportunity to change the region."
Asked if Israel should, as a result, pay attention to the US, but not necessarily to Europe, Aznar succinctly replied: "Certainly." He said that the French and Dutch rejection of the EU constitution last week provided the EU a good opportunity to reform its polices and move away from the isolationist, anti-Americanism that he said defined much of its foreign policy.
On the Middle East, he said, "The Europeans are of two minds. One is to work close with the States, and the other is to make many trips here, give many interviews, come up with many initiatives, but without results. The only possible way to make something work is to work closely with the US."
Aznar interpreted the French and Dutch rejection of the EU Constitution as an indication of "a lack of trust of Europeans in the current leadership of Europe." He said it was also a vote for a closer alliance with the US.
Aznar, whose Popular Party lost the elections in the spring of 2004 following the deadly Madrid train bombings, took a strong position against Hamas and those voices in Europe calling for a softening of the EU's position toward it.
"For me Hamas has always been a terrorist group," he said, adding that it is the Palestinian Authority's responsibility to deal with the organization.
While Aznar, when in office, was considered one of Israel's closest friends in the EU, Spanish public opinion and the Spanish media are considered by some in the Foreign Ministry as among the most unfavorable in Europe.
Asked to explain this phenomenon, Aznar said that "the situation is improving." He attributed the negative image of Israel in Spain to the fact that the countries did not establish diplomatic ties until 1986.
"It is very difficult to have a good image without diplomatic relations. It is true in general that the majority of Spain supports the Palestinians, but this position has changed over the last few years, and is not as strong as it was," he said.
"For many people in Europe, when they watch television and see the image of the democratically elected prime minister of Israel, for them the image is that of an autocrat. But when they see the image of an Islamic elected prime minister, they see someone they want to engage in dialogue."
Asked to explain the phenomenon, Aznar replied: "This is Europe."