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The Terminator star, who has visited the Holy Land on several occasions, said he regretted the loss of innocent life on both sides but added that there was “no doubt that Israel has the right to take all appropriate steps to keep its people safe”.
The rally, which was organised by the Jewish Federation Council of Los Angeles, attracted a number of local politicians and Jewish community leaders.
But the star of the show was Schwarzenegger, a man introduced by Rabbi Marvin Heir, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center as “a great friend of the Jewish Community” who had made his first official foreign visit to Israel during the height of the intifida.
And the Governor did not disappoint. Standing before a sea of blue and white, he said: “I have been to Israel many times.
“I started in the ’70s as a body-building champion. I went back in the ’80s as the Terminator. I went back in the ’90s to open my Planet Hollywood restaurant, and Israel was the first country that I visited after I became governor of the great state of California.”
He concluded: “There is nothing Israel wants more than to live in peace that is why I am happy to be here to be supportive of that today …Am Israel Chai…I’ll be back.”
There was anger in Spain, meanwhile, after Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero strongly condemned Israel at a rally last week. Hurt over Zapatero’s comments was felt even more keenly when the Prime Minister was photographed after the rally posing with students and wearing a kafiyeh emblazoned with a Palestinian flag. The pictures were carried by most of Spain’s leading newspapers.
Israel’s Ambassador to Spain Victor Harel accused the PM of unbalanced criticism that could affect attempts at diplomacy. He added that relations between the two countries were “not in their best moment”.
But Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos reacted angrily to an accusation made by former leader of the country’s Jewish community at a conference in Madrid that Zapatero was anti-semitic.
Zapatero’s comments were also condemned by Abraham Foxman, of the Anti-Defamation League, as “consistent with his government’s determination to pin the blame on Israel for the current conflict, despite the fact that Israel is responding to unprovoked terrorist attacks”.Arnie Pledges Israel Support by Alex Sholem