WASHINGTON (JTA) — Former Czech President Vaclav Havel joined an initiative to defend Israel in Europe and the West.
The Friends of Israel announced the participation of Havel, a champion of human rights, on Tuesday during the group’s inaugural Washington tour. Havel was not on the tour.
Other former leaders on the initiative, founded in June, include Jose Maria Aznar, the former Spanish prime minister; David Trimble, the former Protestant leader in Northern Ireland and Nobel Peace laureate; and Alejandro Toledo, the former president of Peru.
Havel, a playwright, was a hero of the left and right in the West during his decades of dissidence against Communist rule in the former Czechoslovakia.
The Friends of Israel initiative was in Washington in part to meet with U.S. congressional leaders who are planning resolutions supporting its aims.
Aznar, in address Wednesday to the Council on Foreign Relations, said the group’s principle tenet is that Israel’s survival is in the strategic interests of the West.
"Defending Israel is ultimately defending our Western roots, the Western values that many in Europe, and some in America, seem to have forgotten," Aznar said. "They are not obsolete. And the best proof is precisely Israel and its people. Letting the delegitimation of Israel grow seems to me the best path to weaken not only the freedom of maneuver of Israel but to undermine ourselves."