Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Aug. 12, 2012.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Aug. 12, 2012. With attack rhetoric heating up, Israel’s prime minister says the threat from Iran dwarfs all others. Photo by AP
Text size
related tags

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's frequent public criticism of efforts to hold discussions with Iran, and his public skepticism of the sanctions on Tehran intensify concerns that he is determined to carry out a military attack no matter what.

On Friday Netanyahu asked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to cancel his participation in the Non-Aligned Movement summit, which is scheduled to take place in Tehran on August 26-31. The Prime Minister's Office rushed to issue a press release announcing that Netanyahu told Ban he was disappointed by his decision to travel to Iran, saying it was a major mistake because it would "grant legitimacy to a regime that is the greatest threat to world peace and security," and adding that "it is impossible to exaggerate the danger [Iran] presents to Israel."

Netanyahu also told Ban, "Mr. Secretary-General, your place is not in Tehran," as he announced both in the press release and at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.

Since the prime minister's reprimand did not prompt the secretary general of the United Nations to revise his plans, he pledged to keep trying to get Ban to do so.

It is worth reminding Netanyahu that Iran is a member of the United Nations and that its president is invited every year to give a speech before the General Assembly. The UN is a partner in diplomatic efforts to reach a compromise that is meant to avert the need for a military campaign against Iran, as well as to put an end to the bloodshed in Syria. It is not in Israel's interest to be viewed by the rest of the world as an obstacle to diplomacy or as a warmonger.

Yes, Iran is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, but so are dozens of other countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa with which Israel has normal diplomatic relations. A public dressing-down of the secretary-general of the UN because he accepted an invitation to participate in a conference in Tehran means that Netanyahu sees the leaders of all the countries that will take part as being tainted.

This is a diplomatic misstep that does not serve Israel's national interests.