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Iran Must Be Stopped

Daniel Ayalon, the former ambassador who took early retirement to help encourage Jewish immigration to Israel.
by Claude Salhani
UPI International Editor
Washington DC (UPI) Jan 15, 2007
While optimistic about the future of the Middle East, Israel's former ambassador to the United States believes Iran will have to be stopped, possibly by military force. Speaking to United Press International, Daniel Ayalon, the former ambassador who took early retirement to help encourage Jewish immigration to Israel, said the region was at a "crucial point in history."

"Iran will have to be stopped, no doubt about it," the former ambassador told UPI. Asked if this meant using military might, Ayalon replied: "If nothing else works, absolutely. They have to be stopped, period."

The former diplomat sees a nuclear Iran "with the irresponsible and radical ideology, with their active support of terrorism" capable of changing the world order for the entire world.

"Just think they can equip terror organizations with nuclear stuff. Just think they can become the de facto controller of oil supply from the Middle East with a nuclear umbrella, or in the least, dictate oil prices. This is a problem for the international community," said Ayalon.

On the one hand Iran is "not only on the march with its relentless nuclear activity, but also with its political influence, military and terrorism. We see it in Iraq, we saw it in Lebanon just in the last war, in Syria and also in the Palestinian territories. It's happening with Hamas and all the other extreme terrorist organizations," Ayalon said.

The former ambassador believes "Iran is trying everything it can to foil any future for a political process." He sees Iran benefiting from the conflict "to expand their influence," while continuing to develop their nuclear capabilities.

"Their aim is to become a hegemony. Their aim is to drive the United States out (of the Middle East) and replace it. If they become a nuclear power it can start a nuclear arms race with Turkey and others. I don't think that the U.S. and the West can allow such a thing," Ayalon said.

On the other hand, the former Israeli diplomat sees the old lines of division along national borders changing into radical and moderates.

"I think there is now a unique convergence of interests between Israel and Arab countries -- Saudi Arabia, the Gulf and Egypt -- in stopping Iran. And also mostly the Palestinians.

"I see a clear window of opportunity (for peace in the Middle East). It is not going to be easy because of the complexity in the Palestinian territories (being) on the verge of civil war and Hamas, unfortunately, is still too strong, challenging Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) and the moderates.

"But overall I believe that the direction will be towards moderation, towards some kind of a settlement. I think a settlement is possible," the former diplomat said.

Iran's rise to nuclear status is also worrying Iran's Arab neighbors to the point where, according to Ambassador Ayalon, "there is an ongoing dialogue" between Israel and certain Arab countries.

But since taking early retirement from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ayalon has taken on a new challenge: fighting -- and he hopes, winning -- the battle for demographic superiority in Israel. In his new career as co-chairman of Nefesh B'Nefesh, a Jerusalem-based not-for-profit organization promoting and encouraging aliyah, or immigration to Israel, Ayalon wants more American Jews to make Israel their home.

"The Israeli Arab population is reproducing at a much faster rate than is its Jewish population. If the numbers are not dramatically turned around in the short term, it is predicted that within the next 50 years, Jews could become a minority in Israel, and the Knesset could be run by Arabs," said a press release sent to UPI on behalf of the former ambassador.

However, Ayalon believes the gap may be closing, but encouraging Jews to live in Israel remains vital in winning the demographic struggle.

"I do believe that aliyah is in a singular way, I would say the most meaningful and important means to secure Israel's future for the Jewish people," he said.

Asked if he believed demographics posed a real threat for Israel, Ayalon replied, "Not really," then added, "In general, yes, but it will all depend on the political solution."

Most Israelis have resigned themselves to the fact that there's going to be a partition in terms of a two-state solution, said the former ambassador. "There is going to be a physical separation with the Palestinians and also a political separation, and then I'm not so much worried."

Meanwhile, Ayalon hopes to draw one million Jews to Israel by 2020.

"Aliyah is important in terms of bringing back Jews to their homes. First and foremost, this is the historic purpose of Israel, just to go back home. Secondly it's a shelter, and thirdly it's strengthening Israel politically and economically. And the message to friend and foe alike, is we are here to stay," said Ayalon.

"I also see a unique benefit in the North American aliyah because they (American Jews) bring with them a political culture which is sorely missed in Israel, you know, of accountability and transparency and a cleaner system."

But a report published in the Jan. 11 issue of The Economist magazine suggests the former ambassador's task may not be that simple.

While "most diaspora Jews still support Israel strongly," The Economist indicates "many are disturbed by the occupation of the Palestinian territories or more recently by images of Israeli bombing in Lebanon; some fear they give grist to anti-Semites."

The article goes on to say, "Others question the point of a safe haven that, thanks to its wars and conflicts, is now arguably the place where most Jews are killed because they are Jews."

Source: United Press International

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