Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drawing a red line on an illustration
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu illustrating the 'red line' for Iran’s nuclear capacity, at the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 27, 2012. Photo by Reuters
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By showing a childish drawing of a bomb on the podium of the United Nations General Assembly in New York and drawing a red line across it, the prime minister drew the audience's attention to the part of his address that dealt with Iran. Benjamin Netanyahu ignored Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' call, from the same podium, for a peace agreement based on the Arab initiative. That proposal includes Arab recognition of Israel according to the Green Line border, and normal relations with all Arab states. The prime minister did not even mention the Palestinian leader's warning of the possible collapse of the Palestinian Authority and elimination of the chance to achieve a two-state solution. But Netanyahu did say, in reference to the Abbas speech, "We won't solve our conflict with libelous speeches at the UN."

As a counterweight to the Iranian regime, which he named as a branch of "the medieval forces of radical Islam," and to Abbas' "libelous speech," Netanyahu presented Israel as a proud member of the forces of modernity, a society in which Judaism, Christianity and Islam coexist in peace and mutual respect. The prime minister boasted of Israel's achievements in the areas of science, technology and education. He bragged about the aid that Israel extends to the victims of natural disasters around the world and the country's contribution to preventing hunger in developing nations through its irrigation technology. Netanyahu even hailed Israel as a stronghold of civil rights and protection of the rights of women and minority groups.

While Netanyahu is crowing about Israel's enlightened status, its religious leaders issue rulings on matters of peace and security, rabbis deny children the right to a basic education and women are relegated to the back of public buses. Netanyahu's modern government denies liberty to another nation; deports refugees, sending them to their deaths; persecutes human-rights organizations and violates academic freedom. While Netanyahu is setting red lines for nearby states, one out of three Israeli children goes to sleep under the poverty line and one out of four Israeli scientists seeks their fortune overseas.

Israel can lay claim to many impressive accomplishments and has made a fine name for itself in the worlds of science, technology and culture. Under Netanyahu's leadership, ultranationalism and the medieval forces of radical Judaism paint a black portrait of Israel.