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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Friends of Israel Initiative

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The Friends of Israel Initiative (FOII) is a “pro-Israel” advocacy organization founded and chaired by former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar. According to Aznar, the organization is intended to form a “strategic alliance between Jews and non-Jews.”[1]

Officially launched at a British House of Commons event hosted by the Henry Jackson Society in July 2010, FOII says it aims “to counter the growing efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and its right to live in peace within safe and defensible borders.”[2]

The group’s website has a page devoted to its “Founder Members,” who include several well known international figures, including former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, the rightist Catholic theologian George Weigel, former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, and former Czech Republic President Václav Havel.[3]

FOII emphasizes that its key concerns are “radical Islamism” and Iran. According to its website: “Although the peace process is important, the members of the Friends of Israel Initiative are even more concerned about the onslaught of radical Islamism as well as the specter of a nuclear Iran, both of which threaten the entire world.”[4]

The group’s activities include publishing “working papers” and brief “dispatches and alerts” covering topics related to Israel. It also hosts events and promotes op-eds written by its members.[5]

Although FOII is headquartered in Madrid, Spain,[6] the organization had over $1.5 million in total revenues in 2012 in the United States alone, according to its 2012 Form 990.[7]


FOII and its members have campaigned vociferously against the Obama administration’s diplomatic approach towards resolving the Iranian nuclear dispute. In a November 2012 Wall Street Journal op-ed written shortly after Iran and world powers agreed to extend the deadline to reach a comprehensive agreement to July 2015, FOII Chairman José María Aznar claimed: “In our willingness to play Iran’s game, I believe that we are marching toward signing a very bad deal with Iran.” Aznar went on: “This is not the time to make more concessions, but the time to put more pressure on the ayatollahs.”[8]

In an April 2014 “working paper,” FOII member Richard Kemp argued that demands on Iran during the nuclear talks should be broadened. “The international community should impose a price on Iran for continuing its support of terrorism against Israel. It should take full account of Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism in any decisions made on whether or not to relax sanctions and financial measures on Iran, as well as other relevant concessions, as a result of ongoing nuclear negotiations,” Kemp wrote. “It should condition further progress on these negotiations on Iran’s support for terrorism against Israel.”[9]

A July 2014 working paper claimed that Israeli settlements are not an obstacle to reaching peace with the Palestinians and that they are not illegal under international law. “Settlements have become an exaggerated issue in the diplomatic discourse over Israel,” wrote Kemp. “Settlement activity, like the construction of homes and schools, does not constitute a violation of Israel’s signed agreements with the Palestinians.”[10]

Kemp added: “The assertion that settlement activity is a violation of international law is not universally accepted, though it is frequently stated in UN debates and in the declarations of the European Union.”[11]

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[1] Josh Rogin, “Former Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar launches pro-Israel initiative,” Foreign Policy, September 15, 2010,http://foreignpolicy.com/2010/09/15/former-spanish-prime-minister-jose-maria-aznar-launches-pro-israel-initiative/.

[2] Friends of Israel Initiative, “Welcome to our new site,” http://www.friendsofisraelinitiative.org/about-wellcome.php.

[3] Friend of Israel Initiative, “Founder Members,” http://www.friendsofisraelinitiative.org/about-advisors.php.

[4] Friends of Israel, “Welcome to Our New Website,” http://www.friendsofisraelinitiative.org/about-wellcome.php.

[5] Friends of Israel, http://www.friendsofisraelinitiative.org/index.php.

[6] Friends of Israel, “José María Aznar Promotes the Friends of Israel initiative,” http://www.friendsofisraelinitiative.org/event.php?pagina=2&c=31.

[7] Guidestar.org, FOII profile, http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2013/273/480/2013-273480535-0a6aa928-9.pdf.

[8] Jose Maria Aznar, “Failed to Cut a Deal With Iran? Better Than Making a Bad One,” The Wall Street Journal, November 25, 2014,http://online.wsj.com/articles/jose-marina-aznar-failed-to-cut-a-deal-with-iran-better-than-making-a-bad-one-1416961109.

[9] Richard Kemp, Israel under Fire: The continuing threat of Iranian supported terrorist rocket attacks from Gaza, the failure of the international community, and the consequences of continued failure,” The Israel Project, April 30, 2014, http://www.friendsofisraelinitiative.org/uploads/papers/pdf/FOI_Paper20.pdf.

[10] Richard Kemp, “Understanding the Issue of Israeli Settlements and Borders,” Friends of Israel Initiative, July 2014,http://www.friendsofisraelinitiative.org/uploads/papers/pdf/FOI_Paper24.pdf.

[11] Richard Kemp, “Understanding the Issue of Israeli Settlements and Borders,” Friends of Israel Initiative, July 2014,http://www.friendsofisraelinitiative.org/uploads/papers/pdf/FOI_Paper24.pdf.

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Friends of Israel Initiative Résumé

Contact Information

Website: http://www.friendsofisraelinitiative.org/index.php.




“The goal of the Initiative is threefold: To open a space in the public arena to talk about Israel in a reasoned and sober manner. It will be the first time that a high level group in Europe formally expresses the conviction that Israel should be viewed and treated as a normal democratic country. We believe this will be very significant, particularly in the media where irrational criticism of Israel has now captured much of the mainstream. To provide a mechanism, based on personal contacts, to influence and help serving political leaders that are pro-Israel by conviction but who feel stymied by the anti-Israeli dispositions of so many inside their own administrations and the broader political and media domains beyond. To help all friends of Israel, primarily in Europe but also elsewhere, who currently find themselves isolated and disconnected to be part of a powerful and growing network of like minded people.”

Founding Members

  • José Maria Aznar

  • John R. Bolton

  • Alejandro Toledo

  • Václav Havel

  • Lord William David Trimble

  • George Weigel

  • Marcello Pera

  • Fiamma Nirenstein

  • Andrew Roberts

  • Carlos Bustelo

  • Roberto F. Agostinelli

  • Lord Weidenfeld of Chelsea

  • William Shawcross

  • Donna Shalala

  • Luis Alberto Lacalle

  • Bill Richardson

  • Carlos Alberto Montaner

  • Alexander Downer

  • Richard Kemp

  • Karel Schwarzenberg

  • Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg

  • Giulio Terzi


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