November 1, 2012
By Michael McNutt
An Israeli ambassador met Thursday with Gov. Mary Fallin to discuss how Oklahoma energy companies could help develop its natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea and to thank her for her pro-Israel votes while she was in Congress.
“We would like to have some major companies in Oklahoma come and take part in that and maybe explore some new possibilities, maybe try to get a little bit of knowledge because we are new in the energy business,” Meir Shlomo, consul general of Israel to the Southwest, said after meeting with the governor. “What a better place to learn energy than Oklahoma.”
Israel has been dependent on external suppliers to meet its energy needs since its formation in 1948. After the Yom Kippur War and the Arab oil embargo in the 1970s, the country began seriously looking at energy self sufficiency.
‘Friend to Oklahoma'
The governor, who has traveled to Israel, said she has seen its people work to preserve liberty and democracy “in a part of the world where both can be hard to come by.”
“Israel is a friend to Oklahoma and to all of the United States, and as Ambassador Shlomo and I discussed today, we have many common interests,” she said. “I am particularly excited by the opportunity for Oklahoma's energy companies — which possess unique expertise and world class personnel — to aid the Israelis in developing their oil and gas resources.”
Shlomo said he also thanked Fallin for her votes supporting his country during the four years she served in Congress before being elected governor in 2010.
They also talked about political events in the Mideast and next week's presidential election, he said.
He shied away from commenting on whether Israel would fare better if President Barack Obama, a Democrat, or Republican Mitt Romney wins.
“We are always interested to see what's happening in the United States — it's our major ally in the world,” Shlomo said. “We are merely keenly interested observers. ... We don't take any sides.”
Shlomo, whose post covers Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and New Mexico, said Israel remains an “island of stability” in the Mideast, with the country extremely concerned about Iran's pledge to back Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Israeli officials had expressed concerns about Assad for years, which mostly went ignored, Shlomo said.
“A lot of countries thought he would be a moderate,” he said. “Unfortunately what's happening is proving our point. It's a real tragedy, this ongoing slaughter of civilians.”
At least 36,000 people have been killed in Syria since March 2011, and the last 19 months have seen the Assad regime's crackdown on opposition attempts to develop into a full-scale civil war.
“Iran is the big gorilla in the room,” Shlomo said. “If it would go nuclear, the next thing you're going to see is a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. And if you have a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, imagine how easy it would be for terrorists to access a nuclear weapon.
“Iran has really the potential to destabilize the whole world,” he said. “The world would be a better place without the Iranian regime. It's not about the Iranian people; it's about the Iranian ayatollah regime.”