Analysis |

Netanyahu's UN Speech Was Enriched With Iran Rhetoric, but His Stockpile Is Low

It was the type of speech that is destined to be quickly forgotten and disappear into the infinitely large ocean of YouTube clips.

Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter
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Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter

Without unnecessary delay, following the customary compulsory introduction about that ancient 4,000-old people that has returned to its homeland, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut right to the point in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly about Iran's ambitions to destroy us. No stunts and this time without props, no rabbits coming out of a hat and little in the way of a single sound bite. The prime minister opened with an onslaught of quotes, excerpts, citations, facts, threats and evidence against an Iranian president who with his dark charms has captivated a naïve world that has a short memory.

Netanyahu peddled his merchandise with the usual aplomb. His speech was factual, reasoned and with the appropriate gloom, cynical at times and devoid of gimmicks. It was the type of speech that is destined to be quickly forgotten and to disappear into that infinitely large ocean of YouTube clips. If in the past in international gatherings Bibi was a lively speaker, presenting maps and caricatures, this time he donned the prosecutor's gown, detailing point by point the charges against the accused, Iranian President Hassan Rohani.

Israelis sitting at home must have certainly been left deeply impressed and maybe also somewhat depressed. Netanyahu's ceremonious commitment that Israel would act alone against a nuclear Iran will surely in the short run reignite the public debate over the feasibility of an Israeli attack. It is highly doubtful that he has such ammunition in his knapsack and that the international community, with the United States at its head, will call a halt to things and entertain some pointed soul-searching due to Netanyahu's speech. Okay, so the Israeli prime minister issued a warning at the United Nations over Iranian deception and vowed that we will defend ourselves by ourselves. Tell us something we don't already know.

Just prior to his departure for the U.S. did Netanyahu promise to ruin the party? Ruin it he did. He really went wild, not leaving a plate unshattered. Even the world's most important newspaper, the New York Times, was spared by the skin of its teeth. Netanyahu derisively quoted from one of its editorials that praised global diplomacy for its success in removing the North Korean nuclear threat — a year before the North Koreans tested a nuclear device. Did he say he wasn't bothered by being a lone voice in the wilderness? And he sure was a lone voice.

Right-wing ministers and Knesset members who ordinarily excoriate him for daring to enter into negotiations with the Palestinians and release some long-time Palestinian prisoners will surely take to the airwaves on Wednesday and praise Netanyahu for the steadfastness that he demonstrated Tuesday night on the rostrum of the United Nations, in the face of a community of bored, stern-faced diplomats.

Netanyahu left the matter of the Palestinians for the end. He issued the usual statements about a demilitarized Palestinian state and his readiness to make painful concessions for a historic compromise, subject to the preservation of Israel's defense interests. We have already heard this ad nauseam. And surely the world was not bowled over by the familiar rhetoric.

Netanyahu could have acted somewhat to whittle away at Israel's growing isolation if he had been more daring in his choice of words, demonstrating the breaking of new ground in the quest for peace. What can we do? He has a problematic coalition and a contrarian party, and he himself has not unequivocally proven that he believes in a two-state solution.

At least he has done away with that ridiculous habit of Israeli leaders over the decades who put on a skullcap every time they read from the Bible. If the ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, had been in the current government coalition, he wouldn't have dared do what he did.

Netanyahu and Ban Ki-Moon at the UN General Assembly. October 1, 2013.Credit: AP
Netanyahu addressing the UN General Assembly. October 1, 2013.Credit: Reuters

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