Ambassador Daniel Ayalon said the U.S. invasion of Iraq (news - web sites) and
overthrow of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) helped create great
opportunities for Israel but it was "not enough."
"It has to follow through. We still have great threats of
that magnitude coming from Syria, coming from Iran," he told a
conference of the pro-Israeli Anti-Defamation League.
Ayalon said he did not advocate or foresee the invasion of
Syria and Iran. "I certainly do not see any aggressive military
campaign. I don't think that would be the right thing. Nobody
is suggesting that," he said.
But he added: "There are other means that can be exhausted
... The way to deal with Iran for instance is to delegitimize
its regime and the way to do that is applying political
pressure ... and to really apply economic sanctions."
Governments should not allow visits by Iranian leaders such
as President Mohammad Khatami (news - web sites) and Foreign Minister Kamal
Kharrazi and foreign leaders should not visit Iran, he said.
He criticized the European Union (news - web sites) for encouraging commercial
relations with Iran. "I don't think this is the way to deal
with them, because the more the regime is isolated, the shorter
its days and, as I mentioned, there is fertile ground in Iran
to have a regime change there," he said.
"Seventy percent of the population (of Iran) are really
ready for regime change. They have tasted, they have been
experiencing before democracy and Western cultures and they are
yearning for it," he added.
He was apparently referring to the authoritarian and
undemocratic rule of the Shah of Iran, who was overthrown in
1979 by a popular revolution in the name of Islam.
Ayalon spoke less about Syria, which held peace
negotiations with Israel until 2000, but to most of his
comments on Iran he added that the same applied to Syria.
"The important thing is to show (international) political
unity and this is the key element to pressure the Iranians into
a regime change and the same case is with the Syrians. So this
is the direction -- a lot of psychological pressure.
Ayalon complained of Syria and Iranian support for Lebanese
and Palestinians guerrilla groups which attack Israelis and
said that Iran had accelerated its quest for nuclear weapons.
"If we thought a few years ago that they are five or six
years shy from a nuclear device, now it's being very sharply
reduced, the time that they can achieve that," he said.
On the Middle East peace plan which the United States is
expected to release this week, the ambassador said that for
peace talks to succeed the new Palestinian prime minister will
have to create new security organizations and dismantle the
infrastructure of groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
The prime minister-designate, Mahmoud Abbas or Abu Mazen,
is expected to win a vote of confidence from the Palestinian
legislature this week, clearing the way for serious talks on
the peace plan, also known as the road map.
Ayalon said: "We are not going to put (this) as conditional
for starting the process but certainly the process cannot go
forward if terror continues. There cannot be a situation where
we negotiate during the day and get killed at night.
"Any progress, any program will be driven by performance
and we will not move from any stage to the next until specific
benchmarks have been fulfilled."
Answering American-Jewish mistrust of the European Union
and the United Nations (news - web sites), which are joint authors of the road map
with the United States, Burns said that there was no substitute
for "strong American leadership."