By Karen McDonough
DALLAS—A strong hand at the negotiating table could lead to an acceptable deal between the six world powers (including the United States) and Iran, said an Israeli diplomat who recently assumed a new post in Texas.
“There’s a possibility of a good deal with Iran, but they remain cunning negotiators,” said Eitan Levon, the new Consul General of Israel to the Southwest U.S., who succeeded Amb. Meir Shlomo in that role. “They know how to exploit weakness. If [America] shows they’re firm, [Iran] will back down.”
Speaking for the first time in Texas since arriving for his Houston-based position a few days earlier, Levon’s comments came during a speech at the Dallas Jewish Community Center on May 27. He was Israel’s representative to the U.N. Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and has been in the Israeli Foreign Ministry for two decades.
After a warm “Shalom, y’all” shout out, Levon referenced Adam Grant’s popular leadership book “Give and Take,” showing how a shrewd and powerful Iranian regime are takers striving to get the most by giving up the least.
Making the case for not lifting sanctions against Iran, which paves the way for nuclear armament, Levon pointed to Iran’s terror sponsorship in the Middle East.
On Israel’s northern border, Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based terror group, is the most important Iranian proxy that poses a “direct and serious threat to many Israeli lives,” he said. Iran has trained soldiers and provided weapons funding for decades to destabilize Lebanon and destroy Israel.
In the south, the instability of the Palestinian Authority led to the rise of the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas to governance in the Gaza Strip. Hamas and its fellow Palestinian terror group, Islamic Jihad, have launched about 20,000 rockets and mortars into Israel since the Jewish state’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Levon said.
“Iran leads the charge in defeating Israel, which will be the ultimate solution for a Palestinian state that would, according to Iran, replace the state of Israel,” he said.
Lifting sanctions against Iran, Levon warned, will only better fund Iran’s proxy wars in the region and cause Israel to face an increasing threat from all sides, in the north and south, and in the northeast in the Golan Heights.
Decades ago, Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini vowed that the Islamic revolution in Iran was only the first step in disseminating the revolution throughout the world. “So when the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ broke out,” Levon said, “Iran identified a chance to exploit the instability in the Middle East in order to expand its influence.”
The Iranian regime operates behind the scenes. “It works cunningly in the international arena to repel accusations of being the regional warmonger and dispel its despicable human rights record. This it does by creating a façade of a state which collaborates with the international institutions that attempt to stabilize the Middle East,” stated Levon. This clears the way, he said, for Iran to aid terrorist groups and minorities to undermine Arab Sunni regimes.
Providing money and weapons to its allies, Iran sends Shiite militia fighters to disrupt further the Shia-Sunni conflict. The Shiites (historically a persecuted minority in the Arab Muslim world) now have a power to create a Shiite axis stretching from Iran, through Iraq and Syria and into Lebanon.
Iran’s actions divide the region between the Shiite and Sunni Muslims and further create ethnic tensions, causing terrorist strikes from extremists on both sides, even to the point of genocide, he said. In Yemen, Iran’s support of the Houthi rebels have caused chaos in the region, adding to the threat of a regional war.
Despite the daily threats Israel faces as a democratic beacon in the unstable region, Levon pointed to its economic successes and global contributions—going back to his give and take reference—made without expecting anything in return.
“Israel shares its successes with the world and contributes to the accomplishments and stability of countries around the globe,” he said. “We do it in part due to the encouragement and support we receive from [Americans], a support which helps boost our confidence and which plays a vital role for the future and prosperity of the state of Israel.”
Israel is a member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), has hundreds of companies listed on NASDAQ, shares its expertise and technology, and provides humanitarian and military support around the world.
The world has taken notice of Israel’s booming high-tech industry, its leading efforts in seawater desalination and solar power generation, and its first-in-the world ranking for recycling and reusing wastewater for agriculture. Trying to help its Arab neighbors, Israel provides Jordan and the Palestinians with more water than is required.
Furthermore, Israeli doctors have developed life-saving treatments and drugs through independent and joint projects with the U.S. improving millions of lives around the globe.
Karen McDonough is a freelance writer and author of “A Ballerina For Our Time, Olga Pavlova.”