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Ambassador Daniel Ayalon, Betsy Sheerr of Bryn Mawr, Congressional Candidate Lois Murphy, Esq. and her husband Ben Eisner, Esq. and Mark Aronchick, Esq. of Merion. (Photo: Bonnie

Ambassador Ayalon Visits Philadelphia

Lois Murphy and Jim Gerlach meet with Daniel Ayalon

His Excellency Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Daniel Ayalon, met with Lois Murphy, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Congress in the 6th district, and her supporters at the Hilton on City Avenue on Tuesday, to discuss Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's recent meeting with President Bush and Congress, the prospects for peace, and the danger posed by Iran.

Lois Murphy welcomed the Ambassador and thanked him for making the time to come to Philadelphia and meet with her emphasizing how gracious the ministry had been. Ms. Murphy pledged to "fully support America's commitment as an ally to Israel, both militarily and financially. A safe and secure Israel serves our common interests. As the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel serves as an example of freedom that we hope will be replicated throughout the region. The Israeli people have always been good friends to our nation." She indicated how greatly she values this friendship and the special relationship we share with the State of Israel." She promised that as a Member of Congress, she would be a champion for Israel's interests and well-being.

The ambassador had received an invitation six months ago from the Gerlach camp to meet with the incumbent congressman. Only recently had the embassy been made aware that the race between Gerlach and Murphy was one of the most closely watched elections — a rematch of the 2004 race in which Gerlach edged out Murphy in the narrowest Congressional race of 2004. The ambassador quickly arranged last Friday to meet with Lois Murphy in a separate event. Though at first he had not realized this would be such a hotly debated issue, in the end he was glad to be afforded the opportunity to meet with Ms. Murphy.

The Ambassador emphasized that Israel reaches out to both parties as a matter of course and appreciates the support of both Republicans and Democrats ever since President Truman recognized the State of Israel, a mere 11 minutes after the independence proclamation of Prime Minister David Ben Gurion. Ayalon introduced the Israeli Embassy's Minister for Congressional Affairs Alon Ushpiz to the audience as his "minister of bipartisanship". Several years ago when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was visiting Washington D.C., Speaker of the House Trent Lott and Minority Leader Tom Daschle both requested audiences with Sharon. Due to time constraints, the meetings were held together. The consensus was that Daschle and Lott agreed on little except for the importance of the close relations between the United States and Israel. "In the case of Israel, we are not Democrats or Republicans, but Americans."

The Ambassador noted  that for Lois Murphy, support for Israel starts at home. Her husband Ben Eisner, Esq, a member of the local Jewish community, had just returned from a trip to Israel where he and Mark Aronchick participated in Israel Ride, a bicycle marathon from Jerusalem passing near Gaza and then through the Negev to Eilat. 

The Ambassador formally invited Lois Murphy to Israel for a state visit to meet with the Prime Minister Olmert and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni, and be fully briefed on the security situation.

Ambassador Ayalon spoke passionately about Olmert's vision for Israel.  Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had always advocated the policy of "Greater Israel" exercising "full sovereignty over our land". However, Sharon and Olmert both realized that "real leaders must bridge the gap between dreams and reality. To have peace we can not keep all that is rightfully ours." He went on to say that even though we honor the settlers who have been risking their lives for generations in the defense of Israel, the Gaza withdrawal undertaken by Sharon must continue in parts of Judea and Samaria. 

Lacking a partner committed to peace, Israel will likely have to undertake a unilateral withdrawal in consolidation of her borders. Ayalon noted that while there are 270,000 Jews living in the territories, 80% live near the Green Line. Olmert proposes to pull back the remaining 20% and improve Israel's security posture while awaiting new Palestinian leadership. Israel thus hopes to create a paradigm shift, and counts on U.S. support in this endeavor. 

Ambassador Ayalon concluded by categorically rejecting the idea that withdrawal is a sign of weakness. "Israel will not sit idly by. We will always have the means to defend ourselves as your husband [Ben Eisner] has seen first hand."

At this point the floor was opened to questions: 

  • The rumor spread by the Republican Jewish Council that Ambassador Ayalon endorsed Representative Jim Gerlach was flatly rejected. 
  • Mark Aronchick, a close advisor to Gov. Ed. Rendell, expressed his appreciation for Olmert's recent address to the joint session of Congress calling it one of the most inspiring speeches before that body.
  • Ambassador Ayalon was asked if Israel was worried about Iran. He said that they are very worried about Iran, but they hope Iran can be deterred from developing a nuclear arsenal through firm economic sanctions imposed by the international community. Ayalon emphasized how dependent Iran's economy is on imports. (They even import refined oil because they do not have domestic refinery capacity.) Ayalon was hopeful this interdependence may make Iran responsive to international pressure.
  • Finally, Ambassador Ayalon was asked for his thoughts on the referendum on recognition of Israel proposed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Ayalon noted that it was a "nice try" but was skeptical that Abbas had the necessary support to accomplish this. 
Joint Action Committee Event for Lois Murphy for Congress Features Ambassador Dennis Ross

Nancy Gordon, of Haverford, hosted a JAC Event for Lois Murphy, featuring Ambassador Dennis Ross. Gordon is the Philadelphia region Joint Action Committee for Political Affairs president. JAC is the Jewish women's political action committee which supports candidates for federal office who are pro-choice, pro-Israel, and pro-separation of church and state. Murphy is a Democrat, running for the nomination for Congress, and she has been endorsed by JAC.

Seen here at the event are (left to right) State Representative Daylin Leach; candidate Lois Murphy; JAC president Nancy Gordon, of Haverford; and Ambassador Dennis Ross, who spoke about the recent Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections.

Bonnie Squires