"Iran can be stopped, by political means or other means," he said during a May 30 townhall-style meeting at Lower Merion High School in Ardmore. The event was organized by U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-District 6), who is currently in a re-election fight against Democrat Lois Murphy.
"Iran is not an Israel problem. It's a problem for the entire neighborhood and beyond," stated Ayalon, a onetime advisor to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon who further argued that the Persian Gulf nation governed by Islamic clerics is in economic tatters.
If the U.N. Security Council imposed harsh economic sanctions or "other means" on Iran, the country might very well give up its quest for nuclear power, he said. He did not specify if military options are currently on the table.
Two days following Ayalon's visit here, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that the United States would be willing to join in talks with Tehran if the Iranian government agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment program. America has not had diplomatic relations with the country since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The Iranian regime responded indirectly that it would not abandon its nuclear program as a precondition for talks.
Although foreign policy was the order of the day in Lower Merion, Gerlach's appearance with Ayalon - complete with American and Israeli flags in the backdrop - reflected politics of a more domestic nature. The meeting came less than a week after President George W. Bush led a Center City fundraiser netting some $450,000 for Gerlach and Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-District 8), two area incumbents facing stiff opposition in advance of the Nov. 2 elections.
While the Ayalon event was not overtly partisan, a printout highlighting Gerlach's "pro-Israel votes" was stuffed inside all the event programs, and Ayalon did refer to the congressman as "a true friend of Israel." In addition, the Republican Jewish Coalition sent out an e-mail encouraging its supporters to attend.
Murphy, the Lower Merion attorney who nearly unseated Gerlach in 2004, wasn't invited to take part in the May 30 event. Still, the Democrat got her own face time with Ayalon earlier in the day, according to Murphy spokeswoman Amy Bonitatibus.
"I shared with the ambassador my view that, if we are to make progress in securing peace and democracy in the Middle East, the bond between the United Sates and Israel must never be broken," Murphy said in a press release.
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