Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the UN General Assembly on Monday was misleading propaganda devoid of any vision for peace, Palestinian officials charged.
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Referring to Netanyahu’s statement that he is ready for a historic compromise with the Palestinians, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said any such compromise must be based on the international community’s decisions, the Arab Peace Initiative and the General Assembly’s decision in November 2012 to recognize Palestine as a nonmember observer state. It also requires an immediate halt to settlement construction and to attacks on holy sites, he said.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said, “There’s a saying that if you don’t stop a man who is lying after 24 hours, the lies turn into facts. That’s what happened to Netanyahu.”
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, said that Netanyahu spoke arrogantly, acting as if world leaders were stupid and unaware of the occupation or of what happened in Gaza during this summer’s war. She termed the speech pure propaganda that completely ignored the occupation and the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. It was also Islamophobic, she charged, because it lumped together all the different strains of Islam.
“I believe the world won’t buy this merchandise again,” Ashrawi added. “Netanyahu’s attempt to talk with the Arab states before the Palestinians is ludicrous; he’s trying to skip over the main issue – which is the Palestinian issue. Netanyahu didn’t offer any vision; he is continuing his policy of playing for time in order to survive politically and continue building in the settlements.”
Within Israel, Netanyahu’s speech predictably elicited mixed reactions. MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) said the speech was “Islamophobic, empty of diplomatic content and included a brutal, lying, personal attack on Abu Mazen,” Abbas’ nickname. Describing Abbas as a Holocaust denier was the act of a political hack, not a responsible leader, Tibi continued, while the claim that Abbas wants “a judenrein Palestine with no Jews is dishonest and cynical. The Palestinians want a Palestine without settlers, and there’s nothing more just than that.”
In contrast, coalition chairman MK Yariv Levin (Likud) praised Netanyahu, saying, “His speech tore the mask off Abu Mazen’s face and proved that he’s a partner for Hamas, not a partner for peace.” Moreover, Levin added, “The mirror the prime minister held up to the world with regard to Iran, radical Islam and the Palestinians’ ongoing rejectionism reflects a courageous, sober policy that the leaders of every party in Israel would do well to stand behind.”
Opposition leader and Labor Party chairman MK Isaac Herzog said that “Netanyahu knows how to speak, and I agreed with more than a little of what he said, but the problem is that the world no longer listens to him.” In addition, he charged, “It’s not clear which Netanyahu we’re supposed to believe” – the one who spoke yet again about a diplomatic compromise, or the one who, during his five years in office, did absolutely nothing to advance a diplomatic initiative.
“We’ve had it already with speeches that remain on paper,” Herzog continued. “The world is demanding that Netanyahu provide diplomatic payment in exchange for his important demands regarding Israel’s security, and he isn’t providing it.”