Benjamin Netanyahu - Emil Salman - 10.9.2011
Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to reporters, Sept. 10, 2011. Photo by Emil Salman
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On the eve of his departure for the UN General Assembly, whose members are being asked to recognize a Palestinian state in the borders of June 4, 1967, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented his trip as an emergency mission to save Israel from a plot to destroy it.

At a well-publicized demonstration of support by his Likud Knesset faction and mayors, Netanyahu promised that in tomorrow's speech to the General Assembly, he will represent "a people under assault from those who oppose its very existence." This erroneous representation shows that even now, when Israel's leadership is required to show diplomatic initiative, the prime minister intends to use the international organization's stage for anachronistic propaganda that bears no relationship to Israel's most vital interests.

Instead of bolstering pragmatic partners like Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah of Jordan, Netanyahu prefers to throw sand in the public's eyes and terrify it.

Abbas stressed in a speech last Friday that his bid for UN recognition of a Palestinian state was not intended to replace direct negotiations on the basis of the 1967 borders. Before that, the leadership of Abbas' Fatah party adopted the formula of mutually agreed land swaps that U.S. President Barack Obama proposed in May, as well as the Arab peace initiative of 2002.

The UN General Assembly is convening in the shadow of the Arab Spring, which heralds an upheaval in the Middle Eastern balance of power. The leaders who will listen to Netanyahu's speech tomorrow are anxiously monitoring the efforts of radical groups to win the heart of the Muslim street by means of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If a Palestinian state fails to win a sufficient majority of the Security Council, or if the United States vetoes it, America's credibility among the Arab public will be eroded. And the punitive measures Israel intends to take against the Palestinians following the UN vote, combined with its disregard of the view of most the world's nations, could lead it into a regional conflict and international isolation.

The prime minister must therefore kick his addiction to sterile speeches and present a real diplomatic initiative tomorrow - one that will pave the way for negotiations on a final-status agreement with the 194th member of the United Nations.