The United Nations, the setting for my five-year service as Israel’s 17th Permanent Representative, has traditionally been an unwelcome and problematic arena for the State of Israel. Year after year, Israel has withstood many unjust accusations, declarations and resolutions.
At the same time, the U.N. is a place full of diplomatic opportunities. It’s a place that brings the countries of the world together like no other forum. It’s a place where Israel can speak in confidence with representatives from all countries, including its Arab neighbors, and exchange real views.
For many years, these covert conversations were conducted in great secrecy. I myself visited the United Arab Emirates and Morocco in the past, and conducted many such meetings, with every engagement requiring complex coordination from all sides.
At the close of each encounter, a classified cable was traditionally sent to each party’s capital city to report on the dialogue. These demanding events highlighted how far countries would go to conceal any relationship with Israel because for many nations, Israel was a friend only in private. Publicly, Israel was an enemy and the script was entirely different.
This trend has been entirely reversed with the Abraham Accords. Today, there is no need for secrecy. Israel is now able to outwardly meet in public with the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan, among many others.
Flights to and from each country are becoming the norm. The countries’ diplomats and citizens even post photos on social media and wish each other success and goodwill.
This is nothing short of a miracle. This version of reality could have been plucked out of a science-fiction movie many years ago. No one would have believed it to be true. Today, it is the region’s reality.
One affliction still remains that plagues the region, however—one main obstacle to peace, denying the Middle East’s future generations their rightful inheritance of prosperity and stability: Iran. Iran is the world’s largest exporter of terror and fear. Iran is the principal barrier to a region free from fundamentalism and oppression.
In 2020, Iran spent an estimated $7 billion on exporting its fundamentalist terrorist revolution. Iran has also continued its ballistic-missile-testing program, while secretly—and then flagrantly—enriching uranium up to 20 percent, which is mere steps away from nuclear weaponry.
Iran’s tentacles are all the more menacing because they stretch far beyond its own borders. In Yemen, Iran is deeply entrenched with the radical Houthi militia. It regularly supplies the terrorist group with weapons, from explosive drones to missiles, which are used to strike regional targets and cause havoc in the region.
Iran has built powerful military strongholds in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, and most recently, Iran’s fingerprints were found in India, where the Israeli embassy was attacked by a terrorist organization affiliated with Tehran. Lately, it was revealed that Israeli, American and Emirati embassies were scouted by Iranian agents, in an attempt to attack and cause damage and devastation. This plot was thwarted, and mercifully, the terrorists were captured and arrested with no damage caused.
Iran is the destabilizing and disruptive force that has served to align both Israel and the moderate Arab countries in the region. The region’s eyes are now wide open as to Iranian intentions when it comes to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 nuclear deal.
No longer can we disregard Iran’s deceptions and ongoing violations. The Iranian regime breached the JCPOA from the very beginning, as was noted by the deal’s signatories and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is striking the right chord with its signal that it will engage with U.S. allies prior to speaking to Iran. However, Iran must be made to cease uranium enrichment, end its ballistic missile tests and stop supporting terrorism on a global scale as part of any deal.
We must continue to impose economic sanctions on Iran, to give the regime no way out other than to change its fanatical behavior, which harms its own citizens, the wider Middle East and the international arena.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that Iran is getting perilously close to a nuclear bomb.
“The time that it would take Iran to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon is down to … a few months,” he said. “It’s a problem that could get more acute because if Iran continues to lift some of these restraints imposed by the agreement, that could get down to a matter of weeks.”
We are speeding towards a critical intersection very early in the game, and decisions will need to be taken at a faster pace than anticipated. The voices from Washington will be closely deciphered by Iran’s ayatollahs. These voices must confirm that the United States will stand by its allies and not tolerate Iranian misconduct.
Iran has repeatedly demonstrated that it will not change its behavior. It will continue to advance extremism, hatred and hostility. This reinforces that we cannot rely on it.
We must instead ensure that we take the right approach, by leveraging the huge paradigm shift that Israel and its Arab partners have accomplished, and by strengthening all those who, through dialogue and cooperation, will promote peace and stability in the region. We must do the right thing by the world, by the region and, most importantly, by the Iranian citizens, who should not be held hostage by their extremist regime.
When dealing with a duplicitous Iran, there is no room for error.
Ambassador Danny Danon, chairman of World Likud, served as Israel’s 17th Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Minister of Science and Technology and Deputy Minister of Defense.